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Since early on in our marriage, my wife has had to deal with my tendency to avoid thinking about anything but the here and now. For instance, I often forget to tell my wife important scheduling details, and I don’t remember to take note of the ones she shares with me. So, after a few major events got double booked, it became clear to us that we needed a merged online calendar ASAP. 

This same communication issue also made our carefully planned budget pointless unless we were able to track each other’s daily spending in real time on a shared app. This trend of syncing our phone activity got us thinking about location sharing. We discussed the possibility of setting our phones to “Always” share our locations with one another for the sake of safety, convenience, and for the times when one of us is home alone with the kids and we want to calculate how long it’s going to take for the other to get back. 

My Hesitations Around Accountability

In each of these conversations, however, despite the convenience and clarity that our sharing of personal information would bring, I felt a lot of hesitation to allow all of that activity to be accessible by my wife. Certain levels of privacy are necessary and healthy in marriage, right?

If I was honest with myself, I realized that, while that may be true, for some reason, I didn’t want to admit my hesitation to share all that information with my wife. I guess I thought if I did, she might get suspicious about what I might have to hide. I knew that I had nothing to hide; well, not yet, at least.

As I began to break down why I was hesitating to give my wife unlimited access to my schedule, my location, and my spending, I realized that if I was totally honest, I just wanted to keep my options open.

What if I want to do something I didn’t want her to know about? My rationalizing mind quickly came up with circumstances where it might be necessary to hide my activity for reasons that were good rather than because I wanted to get away with something shameful or wrong. Like, what if I wanted to surprise her with a gift from her favorite store, or…that was pretty much it.  I really couldn’t come up with anything else, and I knew that even the surprise gift thing was a weak excuse. 

I realized that I was just having a hard time letting go of the option to do something selfish or less than morally acceptable without her knowing should the opportunity arise. Not that I wanted to do anything that would hurt her, but removing the option to keep it a secret, should I decide to do something in the future, was harder than I expected it to be. I was relatively proud of my track record as a good husband, so struggling to want to be totally transparent with my wife was humbling.

Accountability Brings Companionship

We did decide to share a calendar, a budget app, and our location (“Always”) without much discussion, mostly because I didn’t want to admit my hesitation and couldn’t come up with a good enough reason for not doing it. 

I have to say, it has been one of our better decisions. The feelings of unity and companionship that come from having total access to my wife’s information and from knowing that she has total access to mine have been greater than I could have expected. 

Not only are we thinking about each other more throughout the day and making decisions with the other in mind, but we know more about each other’s day. It not only makes for more effective teamwork, but it allows us to feel closer and more involved in each other’s worlds. More than anything we want to truly belong to each other, and so the experience of dropping the privacy “walls” has been so much better than the secrecy (or even the potential for secrecy) that kept us more isolated.

As our kids are growing, they are using the computer more and are figuring out ways to mess around on our phones, so we didn’t waste too much time getting internet filtering and accountability installed on all the devices in our home using Covenant Eyes. I set it up so that I would get reports showing me the internet activity on our computer and on my wife’s phone. But, when it came time to decide who would receive the reports for the internet activity on my phone, I hesitated. I was tempted to just put my own email address and receive my own reports.

But, that same inner conversation that I had earlier around location sharing came back to me. What do I have to hide? What could I possibly need to hide from my wife? Again, the rationalization engine started chugging, but it could only produce the same weak excuses.

I had to face the fact that something in me strongly wanted to just keep my options open. For years I’ve been winning the battle to avoid content that would mess with my head and breach my fidelity with my wife, but what if I fall? I probably won’t, but what if, in some unforeseen circumstance, I did fall? I would hate for my wife to be affected by that, and I would be so humiliated if she saw something shameful in my report. And, how bad is it, really, if no one ever knows?  

This last excuse, I realized, was the heart of the matter. 

Accountability Brings Freedom

How much of our inner thoughts consist of immature and pointless imaginings because we know that no one will ever know? How often are we willing to entertain selfish and shameful thoughts because we know we’ll never “get caught”?

Our habit of wasting time and brain activity on self-gratification often keeps us from believing that God could truly love us. We don’t want to be faced with the fact that he knows every little thought that goes through our mind, so we avoid thinking about that, and we often avoid even spending much time with Him in prayer because of it. Our faith suffers and our relationship with God atrophies. These same dynamics are often at work in our relationships with our spouses, as well.

We spend a large amount of time and energy on the internet, so much so that our identity is often tied up in what we do online. Without the type of transparency that internet accountability brings, we will likely have trouble truly experiencing the freedom of belonging that our hearts so deeply desire.

Secrecy requires isolation, which is too big a price to pay for “keeping our options open.” In marriage, isolation leads to division, and demons lurk in secrecy and division. Bringing the truth into the light allows God to heal division and give us the freedom to belong to one another in a unity that needs no walls.

Now that I’ve overcome my excuses and set up my phone to send my wife regular reports of my internet activity, I don’t have to think about it anymore. She is with me throughout the day, even in the details, which is exactly where I want her to be.  

Resource
Marriage Brochure

Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Brochure

Description

This brochure explains how pornography use affects everyone, with a particular focus on engaged and married couples, and what can be done to protect the most intimate of relationships: marriage. This is a good resource for marriage preparation, marriage enrichment, chastity courses, and RCIA classes.

David Dawson, Jr. is the Director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  He has been married to Kate for 11 years and they have seven beautiful children.