A friend of mine is a medical doctor who has held the beating heart of a living person in his hands.
That blows me away. I can’t even imagine that kind of responsibility.
But here’s the thing: every husband has his wife’s “spiritual heart” beating in his hands every day. Our wives make themselves just as vulnerable spiritually and emotionally as my friend’s patients do physically.
We’ve just gotten used to it.
Every husband has “inside” information on his wife: a health issue, something in her past, a secret fear. Sometimes, we might accidentally talk about it because we didn’t realize it’s sacred. Who knew your wife cared if others found out she used Spanx? Or it could be something more serious and heartfelt, like occasional panic attacks or losing her temper with the children.
Don’t trust yourself to know what your wife would find hurtful if it’s shared. The safest approach in marriage is not to disclose anything to anyone we haven’t heard our wives disclose first. She may feel comfortable sharing something with a friend that she doesn’t want her parents to know, or vice versa. That’s her call, not ours.
Young husbands, if you violate your wife’s trust even once, there’s going to be a natural reluctance going forward on her part to share anything intimate with you. What you say to others will largely determine what she says to you.
When a wife makes herself vulnerable to us, we have to hold what she shares as a sacred trust. When your wife shares personal information with you to elicit your support, you know enough to also harm her if you’re not tender, thoughtful and circumspect about what you share. Think of it this way: the Seattle Seahawks offensive linemen need to know if Russell Wilson has an injury that could affect his ability to pass the ball. The Green Bay Pikers don’t. Letting the other team know would be seen as an almost unforgiveable betrayal. Your wife feels like she’s on your “team” and is willing to be more open with you. Living in a sometimes cruel world, she may feel others would use that same information to ridicule or harm her.
It’s not just about sharing information, however; sometimes it’s about using it. Imagine Russell Wilson threw an interception, making a lineman so angry that he hit Wilson exactly where he knew Wilson was already wounded. Unthinkable, regardless of how angry he was over Russell’s poor decision. But that’s what a husband does when he takes something his wife has shared and spits it back in her face during an argument. You hit her where she’s most vulnerable. Marriage is supposed to be all about building your spouse back up, being a healing and redemptive presence, something you completely undercut if you use “inside information” to hurt instead of heal.
When you do blow it, out of anger or carelessness, understand that your initial response when called on it may make the situation even worse unless you immediately take responsibility: “I’m such an idiot! Of course I never should have shared that. There’s no excuse. I’m so, so sorry.” This is your response even if you’re surprised she took offense. Don’t argue with her over whether she “should” feel exposed or not. If she feels exposed, she has been exposed so she doesn’t have to justify her hurt.
In my Cherish seminar I talk about a guy whose wife has a serious issue with flatulence. She’s terribly embarrassed by it and even occasionally takes medicine to address it. Her husband knows about it because, well, he has two ears and a nose, but also because he found a medicine bottle and asked his wife what it was for. She turned fifty shades of red before finally answering, “Gas.” He’s a gregarious guy who really doesn’t care what others think about him, so whenever they’re out in public and his wife “slips,” he immediately says a loud, “Sorry! My bad!” All their friends think he has a serious issue with gas and he just laughs about it. In reality, he’s protecting one of his wife’s most vulnerable secrets. Trust me, she appreciates it and has her own ways of making it up to him (they told this to me as a couple, so he wasn’t betraying her secret on his own).
No guy I know would leave his laptop open with personal files on the screen and all his passwords on display for anybody at Starbucks to peruse while he takes a two-hour walk. Love your wife at least as much as you love yourself—respect her privacy as much as you respect your own.
P.S. There’s not a single typo in this blogpost. Any apparent one is an intentional dig against a friend’s rival team.