Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Secrecy vs. Privacy

I remember the day I finally felt the straw. You know the one?  

The one that broke the camel's back?

It was a year to the day after I'd found hard evidence of my husband's affair. I was feeling especially insecure that day. I was home alone - my 4 year old and 1 year old daughters were at a friend's house.

I wanted to check, as I'd done a thousand times before, my husband's email to see if he was still communicating with her. He'd long ago changed his password and refused to give it to me. He said it only made me more suspicious and that I read into everything. Maybe he was right.

He had been trying to convince me for months that the affair was over. I paid his cell phone bill, though, and I saw the multitude of times that she was contacted each day. I had his email password and I saw that she still flirted heavily or made suggestive comments.

Every time I approached him with these things, he would deny it, have an excuse or otherwise tell me that I was "reading into things".

The trust was long gone. How on earth could we gain it back?

Surely my having access to these things would prove that it was over. Instead they only proved, to me, that it was not. So he had his cell phone bill sent to his office. He changed his password. All in the name of "saving me grief."


That day, he was traveling with a co-worker. The memory of the day a year prior, when I'd found the evidence, was eating away at my already tired brain. I'd been going insane for 12 months. I couldn't stand it any longer.

I called him and asked for his password.

"Why?" he asked, irritated that I was going there again.

"Honey I just need to know. I'm feeling very sad today and I .... just need to know that we're ok."

"Well, I'm not going to give you my password. Just... no. I'm busy right now. Can't we talk about this later?"

I was stunned. He flat out refused. My heart couldn't take it so I said it. Maybe I was testing him. Maybe I wanted to see how serious he was. I asked him....

"Do you mean to tell me that your privacy is more important than our marriage?"

When he answered "yes" I thought my entire world was torn away from me. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I could hardly form the next sentence in my brain. I was hurt. I was angry. I was spinning like a destructive force. That's when I said, "Ok, then I can't do this anymore. I want a divorce."

His flippant response told me that he was so over it, "You do what you have to do." And he hung up the phone.


My ex-husband hid many things from me during our marriage. Silly little things like cigarettes when he tried to stop smoking. And major things like credit card bills that he owed when we initially moved in together.

Some of these things I needed to know about. Others, perhaps not.

Eventually these things were trips to strip clubs (which was ridiculous because he knew that I enjoyed strip clubs too) and money that he would withdraw to gamble on business trips to Vegas. Its not like I wouldn't find out about these things. We had a joint account and I paid all the bills. He would specifically choose not to tell me, allow me to find out on my own and then, when I would get angry, use it as justification to keep even more secrets.

The affair was one secret too many.


That was 3 1/2 years ago and it is still burned in my mind.

Now that I am in the early stages of a new relationship, I wonder...

What is private and what is secretive?

I don't doubt that Gentleman Jack would allow me to see every email that he receives. When he gets phone calls, he usually puts me on the phone or makes me say hello. He talks to everyone about me. I love that he naturally trusts me and naturally wants to earn my trust.

However in order to maintain a sense of self, each of us has things that we call "mine":

My blog: He knows about it and chooses not to read it. He finds it "weird" to read about himself in the third party. (occasionally I'll share a post.) He also wonders about these "readers" and what they think of me. Do they fantasize about me because I share so much sexually?

His Facebook page: Sort of like his own blog, if you will. He puts a lot of thought into his status updates and what is on his page. He has friends there that I know and MANY that I don't know. Is there a need for me to question the hottie who looks to me to be flirting with him on his FB page?

I know that the deceptions in my past will come back to haunt me at some point. I had difficulty trusting Soldier when he came home from Iraq too. I've had trouble believing in monogamous men.

Thankfully, I'm with someone who wants to prove to me that good men do exist.

But I so don't want to overstep my bounds...

What do you consider secrecy? And how is that different than privacy?


  1. Like the new look!

    I don't think a blog or facebook page should have an expectation of privacy especially since you both gave that access to each other.

    As for personal email? In the case of your ex husband, giving you his password is the price he pays for having an affair. Otherwise yes, I would keep email private.

  2. I think the balance is personal. Blogging and Facebook or any other online tool is open to the world, so why wouldn't it be open to you. In reality, neither of you should be posting private feelings (good or bad) about one another that you don't want the other to see because you are broadcasting it to the world and infringing on their privacy in relationship to everyone else.

    Each of you is allowed your private thoughts, private conversations with friends (that may actually be a private story about the friend more than about your sig other), and private moments to do whatever it is you need to do. The truth is that you can be secret about your privacy and that usually indicates something is wrong. Like your sig other can be your facebook friend, but make it clear, he's a bit embarrassed and would prefer not. Whereas the refusals, the demands, the unhealthy back and forth means somethings wrong in that relationship.

    I find that secrecy and privacy are problematic when its the norm and not the exception...if its just the facebook page, don't sweat it. If its facebook, and the cell phone, and his laptop, and secret accounts, thats where the problem comes in.

    God luck in your blossoming relationship!

  3. When Veronica found out about my cheating, one of things we did to rebuild trust was we deleted my e-mail accounts (that's how I contacted the woman) and started a new one (this hubman38 ID, actually). Ever since then, she has had my password and I wouldn't have it any other way.

    Sounds like you're better off without the ex, even if you still have some trust issues. Rascal seems like a good guy, hopefully you'll never doubt him like you did the ex. And if you do, TALK to him about it.

    Oh, and the redesign is spiffy!

  4. Terrific post! Great questions. I think the nature of the relationship determines what is secret and what is private. Parents and children keep certain things private, because it is a matter of respecting boundaries in clearcut roles.

    Lovers or spouses may choose to keep varying degrees of privacy. I've always had boundaries around certain things - in any relationship - generally things that had little or nothing to do with the other. Sometimes that was writing-related, or work-related, or related to past relationships which were not relevant. I've never felt a need to reveal every element of my life to anyone, nor do I think intimacy requires that. We're all entitled to our private spaces and places.

    Secrets tend to imply something you purposely don't want another to know about because it would cause hurt, embarrassment, or it's simply something you know "breaks a rule" between the two of you. "Secret" implies that there are lies and hiding; "private" feels like a more self-affirming choice.

    But one person's secretive is another's "private."

    (And I also love the new look!)

  5. I dig the knew look.

    I can admit to having this secret fantasy of being in a relationship where there was complete transparency, where there was such a level of closeness and intimacy, anything could be shared.

    I doubt, anymore, that that fantasy is any more possible than my one involving Allesandra Ambrosio.

    And yet. You know?

  6. Despite my escapades, I do believe men (some men at least) are perfectly capable of monogamy. But don't tell anyone I said that. ;-)

  7. LOVE the new look, too! It's so you!

    When I started thinking a while ago about the kind of relationship I'd like to be in (remember you encouraged me to write it all down?), I knew that one of my must-haves is: makes every intention to communicate honestly.

    This means that I do the same. I grew up with so much secrecy in my family that perhaps I've gone the other extreme... I sometimes wonder if your own openness is a way of saying, "I will no longer keep secrets."

  8. LOVE the new look. :)

    As for secrecy vs. privacy, I think a lot of it has to do with the INTENT of the individual. With your ex, it was for the purpose of deception. That's not a matter of privacy, that is secrecy, which was destructive to your relationship.

    I do believe that there needs to be room for a certain amount of privacy within a relationship. My ex husband and I had too much openness in some areas of our relationship...and that, in part, had something to do with the deterioration of our relationship. There are just some things that you need to share with others, and not your spouse/significant other.

    I think the difference is this. There aren't always things that I tell CBG about, just in the interests of privacy (not even always my own). BUT - if asked, these are things that I would share with him, if it were important to do so. I think someone who is being purposefully secretive wouldn't do that. Does that make sense?

  9. I believe there is definitely a difference between privacy and secrecy.
    Secrecy seems to imply deception.
    Privacy, I think, is necessary for one's sanity!
    I'm not afraid to share just about anything with Jon...and I'm fairly sure he feels the same. However, there are things from before our relationship that - by his own choice - he doesn't know about me. That's his choice...I would have shared...he's not bothered.
    As for as email/web based networking...I choose not to read into his or he into mine...probably because we both know that the other wouldn't be bothered if we did.
    I think if there's trust, then it will define the line between appropriate and inappropriate privacy and secrecy.

  10. I'm loving the new look. I'm a lurker :) Been lurking for a couple months now - love it!

    To answer your question - I have issues with my fiance about trust. He hides little things, like smoking and spending $. When I call him on things, he just laughs at me. I often wonder where we went wrong, when he started feeling the need to hide things from me?

    One reason we haven't set a wedding date is because I don't feel I can trust him - with women, I trust him. It's just everything else that I don't trust him with. He says "Sure, I'll take care of it!" and it never gets taken care of...

    Privacy is different on all levels. I'm guilty of reading emails, checking phone calls - as is he. Sadly, I have to say we don't have much privacy between us right now because we have issues to work out.

    Your post opened my eyes! I see myself in this post...

  11. To me there is a certain amount of transparency to privacy. You know what they're doing, just not specifics. You know they're talking to X, blogging, facebooking, etc. but you don't hear the conversations or read the posts. Secrecy is they hide the contact or activity completely. Privacy is "yes, I'm peeing, do you mind if i shut the door." Secrecy is waiting till you go to sleep or leave the house..

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  13. I think privacy is appropriate for things like...potty time and secrecy is appropriate if everything is on the up and up. If I need privacy I don't feel I am doing something wrong, but secrecy to me implies some sort of deception. It's a feeling and it's different for everyone.

  14. I think Secrecy is focused on you NOT finding out. I see it as a symptom of guilt, a symptom of wrong doing.
    Privacy, is about your boundaries as an individual. It is about where you begin and end, it is about your sense of self and identity.

    It seems you and I were going through the exact same thing 3 years ago. I was just posting about how alone all that made me feel. The only thing worse than the secrecy is what i saw behind it: the lack of respect for me and deceit.

  15. Love the new look. Sorry to hear about the affair. That sucks.

    I do think people in a couple need to keep some things private. It doesn't mean they are hiding anything. (Though in your husband's case, he very well might have been.) I never let my wife go through my wallet or my email. I would have been offended if she demanded my password. But, your situation was totally different since you found evidence of an affair a year prior. So I'm not saying there's right and wrong, just giving my opinion that some things should stay private. You can't lose your entire self in a relationship or you'll disappear.

  16. Whew. This is a tough one. I have no doubts that your past will creep up in your new relationship at some point. It's just common sense, ya know? I mean, it's logical.
    I do think that we are allowed privacy in a relationship. But I also feel like it goes out the window when trust is broken. And when trust is broken, any sense of privacy can be seen as secrecy. I'm so sorry.
    I am so glad you were strong and were able to make it through.

  17. Ah, this one hit shard for me too. I grew up around affairs and then dated someone that lied and cheated the entire 3 years we were together, so I have major trust issues. I do trust my, now, husband as much as "I" can, but it is hard.
    I do believe that there are great trustful men out there. But they will have to love us enough to be patient with our past.

    Love the new look.

  18. thank you for this. i've been separated for a year now, after my husband's third affair. recently he's been pushing for reconciliation, but i have major, major trust issues. he feels it is a complete invasion of his privacy to allow me access to his computer, email, or phone. we are living apart, and don't even speak to each other on a daily basis. he's still in contact with the most recent other woman, because they work together. he won't even agree to show me his correspondence with her.
    this post felt like such a reality check for me. i think when you violate someone's trust, you lose the privilege of some privacy. he's like your ex--his privacy is more important than my emotional wellbeing, more important than saving our relationship. that tells me all i need to know, but i hadn't really sussed that out until reading this.

    unfortunately i feel so damaged from this relationship that i don't have a good sense of anything healthy or normal anymore.


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