A friend of mine, who is a medical doctor, has held the beating heart of a living person in his hands. I can’t even imagine that kind of responsibility. But 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. Every husband has inside information on his wife — a health issue, something from her past, a secret fear — information that could harm or humiliate her if shared indiscriminately. We must hold that vulnerability as a sacred trust.
Keeping her secrets
When your wife shares something personal with you, it’s your job to keep that information safe. Think of it this way: The offensive linemen for the Green Bay Packers need to know if quarterback Aaron Rodgers has an injury that could affect his ability to pass the ball. But telling the Steelers about it wouldn’t be in the Packers’ best interest. In the same way, your wife feels like she’s on your team, so she’s willing to be open with you. She trusts you not to share that information with people who may ridicule or harm her.
Betraying your wife’s trust isn’t just about sharing information, however; sometimes it’s about using that information against her. Imagine if Aaron Rodgers made a lineman so angry that he hit Rodgers exactly where Rodgers was wounded. That’s what a husband does when he uses his wife’s vulnerability against her during an argument.
Regaining her trust
When you blow it, out of anger or carelessness, your initial response may make the situation worse unless you immediately take responsibility: “I never should have shared that. There’s no excuse. I’m so sorry.” This should be your response even if you’re surprised your wife took offense. Don’t argue with her over whether she should feel exposed. If she feels exposed, she has been.
No guy I know would leave his laptop open with personal files on the screen and all his passwords on display at Starbucks while he takes a walk. Love your wife at least as much as you love yourself — respect her privacy as much as you respect your own.
Gary Thomas is the author of numerous books on marriage and family life, including his most recent, Cherish: The one word that changes everything for your marriage.