Living Columns & Blogs

Carolyn Hax: Does agreeing to ‘not tell anyone’ apply to spouses, too?

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: What are your thoughts on keeping from your spouse something told to you in confidence? This is an ongoing debate that my wife and I have had over the two years we have been married. She feels that if something is told to her in confidence, the duty to keep that confidence trumps everything else. I think spouses should not have secrets from each other and that nothing should be off-limits.

I don’t mean to imply that immediately upon hearing something juicy, she should run home and blab it to me. Just that if asked a direct question, the answer should never be, “I can’t tell you because X asked me not to.”

While this tends to be more of a hypothetical/intellectual debate, there have been a few times where it has caused a lot of tension.


DEAR SPOUSE: Why is it so darn important to know what your wife heard about Helen’s argument with her husband?

Maybe your wife is actually keeping things from you that I would advise her not to, but there’s also a controlly undertone to your insistence on knowing everything your wife is told.

Readers’ voices:

▪  “I stopped being friends with one of my closest friends because it got to the point where everything I told her, she repeated to her husband. He’s a good guy but he’s not my best friend, and I don’t want him in all of my personal business.”

▪  “As a general rule, I assume my friends share everything with their spouses. On rare occasions, I ask for an exception.”

▪  “ Does he think he should be able to open mail addressed to his wife, and monitor her computer history?”

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