July 11, 2019

Your Wife’s Privacy

Gary Thomas — 

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.

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13 responses to Your Wife’s Privacy

  1. Bill Tuininga July 15, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    Thank you, Gary, for this needed reminder and instruction! The other day I violated my wife by sharing something about her with friends that she gently reminded me when we got home was ‘her story to tell’. It is so true – we/I hold our/my wife’s heart, and what an incredible and beautiful trust it is!

  2. Amy from Wisconsin July 11, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Pikers, eh? Initiating WWIII, I see…

  3. Fun fact, Gary: my husband and I save up your posts, go on a date and then read and discuss them together.

    It gives such a great purpose and direction to our conversation, and we always come away nourished. I also get cheesecake as he strives to cherish me – so thanks for that, too. 😉

    Seriously, though: Thank-you for the eternal investment you make into couples you’ve never even met. You honour our Father greatly by lifting up what He designed as good and never lying about what it takes to grow… as well as rejoicing in the fruits that come from obedience to doing it God’s way.

    Keep going! 😄

  4. This is so good. I read with my husband in mind, how I apply these truths to our marriage. And how I protect my husband’s privacy in my line of work as a marriage coach and writer. Good and “ouch” reminders for me 😊

  5. What a great parallel in the beginning of this post. We truly do hold each others hearts in our hands and we should not be reckless in that responsibility.

    My wife is a very private person, much more so than I am, especially concerning our past marriage difficulties. There have been a lot of them over the years, many of them serious, but we got thru them. I find myself speaking to men fairly regularly, encouraging them in their own marriages and other difficulties, and I have to be very mindful of what, or how much I share, especially if it is someone close to both of us. I generally stick to my own behavior and my own failings, if something like that needs to be brought up at all.

    Just this last week tho, I received a huge surprise and unexpected blessing. My wife and I were at our weekly small group study, and we were going around the room for prayer requests. A couple had joined us for the very first time, and the husband asked for prayers for their marriage. He didn’t go into details, just that they were having difficulties. My wife was the first one to speak up offering encouragement, and telling them that we had major difficulties in our marriage over the years, but that we had overcome, and we were truly glad that we had stayed the course. Maybe for others, that would seem like a small thing, but I know how far she stepped outside her normal comfort zone to do that.

    I will be the first to admit that I was the cause of a lot of those difficulties, and I know the damage I did to her heart. Watching it come back to life and start to beat for me again was something I never imagined possible, and I try to be mindful not to do anything to ever hurt it again.

    • Douglas, thanks for sharing such a beautiful story. I love seeing how God turns the healed into healers!

  6. Great article Gary, years ago my H worked with his uncle and another man on a family farm, it was just the three of them. The other man who was probably late 30s would come give those two elicit stories about him and his wife sex life. My H told me one time about how he did this and I was mortified for his friends wife. I then asked if he ever disclosed anything that him and I did to them and he was very adamant that he would never. I believed him and he said it made him and his uncle uncomfortable when this guy did this but he said he felt very strange when he was around this guys wife because it was hard to shake the stuff he said about her. My husband is a a very private man and does not share much with others but I am glad I am married to a man that holds my trust in his hands and handles it well.

  7. The Green Bay Pikers. Bahaha!!!

    Thanks for this good word, Gary. The same is true for wives protecting their husband’s privacy, insecurities, etc. AND wisely handling the privacy of our children and teenagers. How many times I’ve been watching friends’ children and teenagers cringe and turn inward when their parents shared “harmless” intel about them.

    Vulnerability creates intimacy, but also the opportunity to do great damage with that very private information. What a blessing to have a spouse who is my protector!


    • Sarah, Yes!! Keeping our children’s secrets is so important to our relationship with them, especially through their teen years. This is truly a lesson for us all to take seriously.
      Thank you Gary, for sharing your heart and helping couples you will never meet heal their marriage and draw closer to our LORD. Your work is very much appreciated.

  8. Haha. Thought I saw a typo!

  9. Ha! I was surprised to find a typo in your excellent post today. You made us laugh out loud, Gary! Love the overt dig. And for those of us who are editing 24/7 whatever we’re reading, you got us as well.
    We love how you get the point across to the guys using analogies they’ll easily relate with, e.g. football and computer passwords.
    This is such a needed reminder!
    Thank you,
    Debi (and Tom who is driving as we travel)

  10. that’s worship like loyalty, we shouldn’t make men “gods” but love them with their imperfect selves graciously.

  11. Marriage-changing takeaway from this article:
    “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…. 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.”