Meet Amy. She went way over the family budget when she purchased that new dress, her husband won’t be happy when she tells him.
Meet Ted. He’s starting to get some strange attraction vibes from Lisa at work; something he’ll definitely need to bring up with his wife at dinner.
Craziness? Why tell? Because both of these couples have agreed to engage in something quite rare these days, it’s called transparency; something absolutely essential for an intimate and successful marriage.
So what is living in a transparent marriage all about? According to Mona and Gary Shriver, co-founders of Hope and Healing (HopeandHealing.us), it simply means being honest…about everything. “Keeping everything out in the open is what takes away the power to create division,” says Mona. “Transparent honesty brings everything into the light, it takes power out of the Enemy's hand.”
In John 3:20 we read that those who do evil hate the light, and in fact refuse to come into the light, lest their deeds be exposed. But as believers we have received grace and forgiveness. We are free to live an authentic and transparent lifestyle, continuing to be molded into the likeness of Christ. This openness is available to every area of our life, including our marriage. In John 12:46 Jesus is recorded as saying, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness (NIV).”
Oftentimes couples try to keep their spouses in the dark when it comes to their mistakes, justifying that it’s not that big of a deal. Not true says Mona. “A lot of women hide financial things from their husbands. They go shopping and try to quickly pay off the bills. What you’ve done is put a wedge in your relationship, a minor one, but a wedge nonetheless. Five years later it’s not just a wedge but an entire wall. It starts a pattern.”
Gary and Mona suggest another area that isn’t often addressed with couples is sexual temptations. “We are all wired to be attracted to each other, so to think that once you put a ring on your finger it’s going to go away, it’s not,” says Gary. “When you do meet someone who gives you the ‘tingles’ it’s best to admit it to your spouse.”
“This removes the secrecy,” agrees Mona. “What happens when you are transparently honest is that it makes both of you aware. If Gary came home and said, ‘I find this person attractive’ then we’re both going to be in a preventative form of mind.”
Gary emphasized however, that there has to be an environment for safe sharing. “You might be married to someone who wouldn’t be that friendly if you came home and admitted to having an attraction to someone else. Both people have to be open to this. As a couple you need to buy into a commitment that you are going to be open about every feeling you have. It makes you so much stronger. When I do this, I know that Mona and I will be dealing with this attraction from a couple’s standpoint. It won’t be just me.”
Mona agrees that maintaining a safe environment for sharing is huge. “I don’t have to hide anything. I don’t have to be afraid. It might not be a fun time. One or both of us might crawl into being a 12-year-old for a little while, but we will not allow those things to fester and grow into something bigger.”
But what if your spouse doesn’t know about your struggles, whatever they are? What if being transparent means you might disappoint? Gary says couples might be surprised to discover how much becoming vulnerable improves a relationship. “I would respect that person even more for being honest. It says that you care so much about our relationship that you’re willing to be that open. That proves how much you love them.”
Mona agrees that perfect people just don’t exist anyway. “Isn’t the point of marriage to bring two imperfect people together in God’s perfect union? You’re goal is to help your spouse to be the best person God created him or her to be. If couples continue to hide their weaknesses and fragile parts from each other, how can they come alongside and help their spouse? You are denying your spouse the opportunity to help you with your weaknesses, whatever they may be.”
Don’t like shopping? Could care less who wins the world cup? Some couples pretend to share their spouse’s interest, while others become discouraged when a spouse can’t enter their world. “One transparency factor in marriage is recognizing that your spouse cannot be everything for you,” says Mona. “In transparent honesty, you can acknowledge, ‘I can’t help you in that area.'” Mona suggests figuring out a healthy alternative.
“For example I have two girlfriends I walk with, they call us the Ya Ya’s, and it’s a relationship that Gary can’t touch. First, it’s female, and second, Gary hates walking. I could fight with him to be that person for me, or I can find a healthy outlet for it. Walking with my lady friends makes it better for us as a couple.”
Still the Shriver’s believe that the closest relationship has to be with your spouse. “Your spouse is the person you stood before the pastor or justice of peace with and told everyone that this is the person I will be most intimate with,” says Mona. “With transparency you are going to place the time and energy into the relationship you vowed to have.”