Chaplains Corner: Transparency and a healthy marriage

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Mark R. Juchter
  • Tinker Chapel
Last month, I took a moment to answer the question, "What advice do you give to couples who come seeking help with their marriage?" I mentioned that this is a complicated topic, but went on to say that lack of truly healthy two-way communication is often the biggest issue underlying other relationship trouble. The easiest solution is improving communication so that the couple can tackle other existing problems.

To continue on the same topic, another big issue that couples often need to work through is trust. This one often starts well before marriage, and is something I address in marriage preparation. Often the subject of trust is related to friendships: Can he have female friends and can she have male friends outside of the relationship? It can extend to other parts of our lives as well. Can I have hobbies that I don't share with my spouse? I don't know what he or she does on Saturday afternoons out with his or her friends, and so I wonder. He's been spending a lot of time on the phone with someone over the last few weeks, what is that all about? She blocked her "Facebook" profile from me, why would she do that? And trust begins to fall apart.

Oddly enough the solution to trust issues begins with ... You guessed it, communication! This time, however, the key is openness or transparency. We heard a lot in 2008 from political campaigns on all sides about making government more transparent, more open. Whether or not that is a good idea for our political system, it is a great idea for relationships.

Transparency starts with sharing everything. Well, OK, not absolutely everything. What you worked on at your desk this morning may have nothing to do with the relationship and, in some cases, might be classified. Which route you took to work may not be all that important, nor is what you had on your hot dog with lunch. But in most cases it also can't hurt to share on that level, especially if you are already having issues with trust.

A good rule of thumb is this: If you are tempted to, or do, something that you don't want your spouse (or significant other) to find out about, don't do it. If, for example, you send an e-mail or text message to someone and then immediately feel the need to delete it so the other doesn't find it accidentally, ask yourself why you sent it in the first place. If you spend a lot of time talking to someone on the phone or hanging out with someone after work and hope your spouse doesn't find out, that's a good sign that something isn't right. If you want to create a "Facebook" or "MySpace" page, but are thinking about excluding your partner, is that something you really want to do?

On the flip side, if you're hanging out with someone and hope their spouse doesn't find out, you could be adding to trust issues in another relationship. If someone is sharing things with you that they say they don't want to get back to their husband or wife, you might ask them to consider why, and to think about talking with the other spouse. A good spiritual wingman helps to promote trust, rather than undermining it.

Understand that there is nothing wrong with having lives independent of one another. When two people join in marriage they do not lose their separate identities, interests, friends and so on. They become something new -- something more than just two people. But, they are still individuals. The key lies not in sharing everything you do, but rather in making sure everything is out in the open.

My own faith background provides some wisdom about trust and transparency that perhaps we can all, regardless of belief, learn from: "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible" (Christian Scripture, Ephesians 5, New International Version).

Share what goes on in your lives completely, letting the light shine in all the corners, and trust won't be a problem. As a wise man once said, nothing is as freeing as the truth shared, especially between two people who love one another. The more you practice transparency, the easier it will become, as will trust, until it is as natural as breathing. And remember, as with communication you are not alone. There are many on and off base who are standing by to help you as coaches and referees, whether to practice trust in a new relationship or improve or mend it in an existing relationship. The chaplains, and others, are here to help.