Does a Committed Relationship Mean I Need to Tell You Every Little Thing?
Every night when Julie gets home from the office, Dan questions her about her day. He expects to hear about the morning commute, project meeting, lunch, phone calls and e-mails with friends. Julie has no interest in reliving her day and usually wants to cuddle and watch a funny show or go for a walk with Dan as a way of being together.
When it comes to sharing are you more like Julie or Dan? How much time and energy do you want to devote to sharing? Does your relationship allow you to have a private, inner life?
Before you get the wrong idea, let me explain that having a private, inner life does not mean hiding transgressions, infidelities, job loss or other things partners expect to share with one another. It’s not about having secret lives, another family in North Dakota, or a boy toy in Jamaica.
As you might expect, couples vary in their comfort and desire about sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. On one end of the continuum, partners want to be open and transparent. They share most, if not all of their inner and outer lives, with their mate. In the other extreme, some people erect barriers with their partners, especially about their inner lives. They want to share only if they choose and resent being prodded. They don’t want to report their comings and goings and communications. Of course, most relationships fall somewhere between these polar opposites.
A transparent relationship offers closeness and connection which are the foundation for deep intimacy. An honest and open relationship with your beloved can diminish feelings of alienation and enhance a sense of being known by your partner. Its downside can be stagnation and complacency when partners believe that they know all there is to know about each other. Their connection can lose a sense of mystery or challenge. What these relationships gain in intimacy they may lose in passion and excitement.
Less transparent relationships can be more exciting. The partners hold back a good deal and don’t share all their thoughts and feelings. This leads to a relationship being an ongoing process of discovery. These folks might keep to themselves things like jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, fantasies, misgivings, or disagreements with a close friend. They don’t feel the need to share despite their love for their partner. Maintaining a zone of privacy in a relationship can keep it fresh and fascinating. A little mystery enlivens a couple’s dynamic. But this strategy carries a downside— the risk that the couple’s bond may not be strong enough for real intimacy or tough times. And, often these couples complain of feeling lonely.
No one formula works for every person or couple. The trick is for partners to be transparent enough to talk about their feelings about sharing and privacy so they can find the right balance for them.
Relationship Transformers offers couples counseling, coaching, webinars, and weekend retreats in the seaport town, Portsmouth, NH. Check the website for details about the upcoming Couples Retreats. Jerry Duberstein, PhD is the co-author with Mary Ellen Goggin, JD of the forthcoming book, Relationship Transformation: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too .