Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

If you have a significant other, do you have a private life?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) October 2nd, 2009

In another question, I asked about whether people share their passwords with their significant others. Many people said they have nothing to hide, so they share everything (of that nature) with their spouse. This seems to imply that they really have no private life, any more, since they have nothing to hide from their SO.

I don’t know if I am taking things too far in interpreting what they are saying, but I want to question the idea that having a private life means you have something to hide. I think we all have private lives—and that this is a good thing. We are not totally merged with our spouses, and if we are, then there’s a kind of codependency that disturbs me. I’m not sure if that’s really the best way to be. Surely we all have thoughts that it would serve no good purpose to share with our spouses, although we may want to share them with other friends, or even write them down for our own good, but not for the eyes of anyone else.

So, do you share everything with your SO. Everything? Do you have no truly private thoughts at all? Do you believe that significant others should share absolutely everything? Is not sharing something hiding it? Is it your goal to have a relationship where you can share absolutely everything? Is a truly private portion of your self unnecessary or even undesirable?

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34 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

No one can be totally open at all times. There are some areas where you neither want or should share. A relationship is a partnership, not de facto ownership.

Dog's avatar

While I am pretty open most of the time there are some things that I keep to myself until I have determined it is something that I feel my spouse would benefit from knowing.

It is not a “secret” or something to hide. Often times it is an area that interests me but not my spouse. It also can be something that my spouse would have an opposing view on that does not involve our relationship or my spouse at all. I do not discuss things that I know will bring on a debate or advice discussion when it is a done deal in my mind.

Add to this that as a more private person I often need to think things out without input for a while before sharing. Again there are no hidden truths that will affect our relationships or lives. Just a cushion of private space where I filter out what is important and what is not.

Facade's avatar

I share everything. I don’t see why one wouldn’t share everything with the person they love and trust the most. I feel like I’m hiding something if I don’t. I don’t feel I need privacy, for lack of a better word.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think the answer is either of the two extremes that you describe. Thus, have a whole separate life or sharing everything. Reality is somewhere in between those two.

For example, I write a lot of things on Fluther that I never get around to trelling my SO, although I often show him posts, mine and others’, that I think are interesting or amusing. That said, there is nothing I write he could not read if he chose to.

He has lots of interests that he shares in forums or with others such as politics and pianos that I don’t feel as deeply about as he does. he surely does not discuss them all with me or even most of them.

Of course, we both talk to friends about things we don’t necessarily talk to each other about, but it is not because we wouldn’t tell each other those things. It is more about the other’s interest level in a particular subject.

I think where danger comes in terms of the relationship is if a partner is telling many things or sharing important parts of themselves that they are unwilling to share with their SO with another individual.

Unless your SO is your most intimate partner, the relationship is in danger of not being primary. One ends up calling someone else their “soul mate” a la the governor of South Carolina. That is a choice people make to turn outside their relationship.

Does anyone share all of their thoughts and feelings? Of course not. Who would want to know? It is an unfortunate tendency of the 21st century to think everyone is interested in everything we think and do.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

As @DarkScribe said in the first response, a relationship is a partnership. No one can share everything, not out of love, compassion, guilt or even fear, but also because we all perceive the world differently.

That said, I work a different shift than my wife. I have a lot of private time during the day before work. I have interests that she knows enough about to trust me, but that she doesn’t care to indulge in.

Two people can be close; even to the point of finishing each others’ sentences, or having the same random thought at nearly the same time, but to know another person 100%, well, that is quite impossible.

Someday, if someone invents a way to converge one human mind into another, then what you suppose could become a reality. That would be an interesting technology, but somehow, I feel it might be much more than even I bargained for. There are dark places in my mind that I wouldn’t feel comfortable having my wife tromping through. Hell, sometimes, I don’t like going there myself.

Thankfully, the medication has made those places much more inaccessible. There’s nothing wrong with exploring your dark side, just remember to wear a safety harness.

dpworkin's avatar

There are some questions it is inappropriate to ask, but if she told me she felt she needed to have the answer, I would trust that it was very important to her, and I have no reason to lie about anything. This situation has never come up in the 7 years we have been together, however. We tend to enjoy sharing things for fun, and we like being intimate.

gussnarp's avatar

I would not say I have a “private life” separate from my wife, but that doesn’t mean I share every thought with her. The obvious example is that I don’t go, “hey, that girl over there is really pretty!” or ” I saw this girl today who was really hot!”. I’m not thinking about doing anything with these girls, but I feel no need to point out that I looked at them. On the other hand I’m not hiding anything. Sometimes my wife will say “you were checking her out weren’t you?” and I say, “yeah, duh”. But then she also tells me “check out that rack!” So to sum up, “private life”? no, not really. Share every tiny thought and detail? well of course not.

casheroo's avatar

Well, I think you are taking it too far.
I do things that don’t involve him, but he is not completely shut out of my life. For instance, Fluther could be an example. He could easily come on and see any of my responses, but he chooses not to since he views Fluther as a more serious hobby as in, he does come on, but not to see my posts or anything.
If I ask him about work, I don’t need to know about every little thing that happened, just whatever he feels is important.
He has his hobbies and I have mine. I have no interest in the games he likes and I’m more an internet person than him. We still share our excitement and experiences with each other.
I’m a stay at home mother, so I guess it’s difficult for me to have a private life since my life revolves around my son and my schoolwork. There’s nothing for me to keep private from my husband. Even when I worked, it wasn’t like I felt the need to be a separate entity from my husband.
I share a lot of what my friends tell me, knowing full well my husband would never expose anything. I do have a community online that is just mothers and we’re very close. But, my husband has met a few of them, and he knows a little bit about it..but isn’t really interested.
I’m starting to confuse doing things separately with having a private life. I think this is difficult for me because we really don’t have private lives from each other. We involve each other in every aspect of our lives and it works for us.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@gussnarp funny you should bring up that particular example, as my wife and I point out cute guys and hot girls to each pretty often. Of course, it will not be blatant, but more like, “he/she was kind of cute, ya think?” and the other of us will agree, or disagree, for various reasons.

Of course, we are just ‘window shopping’ not looking to buy, so it is more of a harmless past time than anything. It’s fun, and we trust each other enough to not wander from the path we have set for ourselves in this life.

like I told an acquaintance the other day, before I got married, I told my wife-to-be that I didn’t believe in divorce, but I did believe in homicide. I taught her to use a gun to keep it fair.~

jonsblond's avatar

The following is my response in the other thread. It was being written as you asked this question:

I’m happy to be merged with my spouse. We have other friends, but my husband is my best friend. I don’t see why that is codependency. I think we are lucky. Some people feel they need privacy so they can bitch to their friends about their spouse. If I have a gripe about my husband, then I gripe to him. If I gripe to my female friends instead, nothing is accomplished. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to share any thought that I have with my husband and he feels the same. It may not work for other people but it definitely works for us.

Dog's avatar

@Jonsblond Lurve- I never did get why people complain about their spouses to others. Perhaps we are just lucky to have soul mates.

marinelife's avatar

Anyone seen the Adrian Peterson naked from the waist up ad for Fantasy Football? My husband laughed at my blatant ogling.

dpworkin's avatar

(I forgot to mention that I always tell her when a good-looking, or interesting-looking, or odd-looking person catches my attention, because she can’t see, so it’s part of my job to narrate the visuals.)

DominicX's avatar

The only thing I’m hiding is this site (I’m being serious). I also don’t share a lot of my writing; that’s strictly private and no one gets to see it unless I decide to make it public. Other than that, I don’t really have anything else to hide, but I still don’t share passwords or anything. I’m going to be honest in that if my SO or future SOs told me they didn’t want to share their passwords (I would never ask them to in the first place) I would not bat an eye. You’re still two different people; there has to be some autonomy.

nikipedia's avatar

Great question as always, d. I think this invites a larger question about what the purpose of privacy is in general. I consider myself a very private person in general and this certainly extends to significant others, but I’m not entirely sure why.

tinyfaery's avatar

I don’t need a private life. I have my thoughts, my feelings, work, hobbies, etc. She knows about these things, but I don’t feel the need to have her involved in every insignificant little detail. But I would never keep anything important to me or us from her. She is my best friend, and at times my only reason for living. My life means nothing without her.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@tinyfaery I agree one hundred percent with your last statement. That is exactly how I feel about my lovely wife. A thousand lurve points to you for saying what I was thinking, but couldn’t put into words.

Beta_Orionis's avatar

I feel like you might be equating a lack of privacy with a lack of independence, and that’s certainly not the case.

My SO and I share everything. As an example, we are, as you mentioned, some of those people that share passwords. We’re both part of Fluther, and sometimes puzzle over a question together. We constantly invade what others might consider highly personal space. Obviously most passing thoughts are the exception to sharing. But even then, if it’s a particularly strange, interesting, or pertinent thought, then it gets shared. Sometimes it sparks excellent discussions, or sends us into fits of laughter.

Often, we do sort of function as an interestingly intermingled entity, and the co-dependence has been noted, but we still lead individual lives and have individual personalities. It’s not as though one cannot exist without the other, or that we can’t participate in activities by ourselves, it’s just that most of the time we don’t want to.

@tinyfaery said it best; my SO is my best friend, and my life also means very little without him. Having a life partner means someone is willing to be a witness to your life, and place importance in even the most mundane or actions or accomplishments. In our case, we love being so involved in the other’s life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Firstandlast's avatar

After work I devote all my time to my wife and children but this is my choice.

Many people have best friends that they see on a regular basis and I see absolutely nothing wrong with this as long as it doesn’t interfere with their marriage.

I personally enjoy my wife’s company more than any one else’s and my children are at the age where they still need my direction so I go straight home after work.

Beta_Orionis's avatar

After talking about it with a house mate, I think I didn’t properly address the question. So here I am again! Point by point…

as previouly stated, I do share everything with my SO.

I have private thoughts, but it’s mostly because sharing every thought would take all day, as each thought occurs. Sure, sometimes there are things not worth sharing, so those remain private.

I don’t believe other people should do anything. It’s an individual choice. Relationships work differently. I’m not about to impose my system on anyone else.

Not sharing is not akin to hiding something, unless you know that you’re not sharing specifically to hide something.
– There’s a difference between keeping the thought
“That gourd’s color is totally reminiscent of the color paint I almost stepped in today”
to yourself vs.
“I just dropped $100 on one purchase, but I will neglect to mention it to my SO.”
The difference lays in the intent. If you’re knowingly keeping important or sensitive information from your partner, information you know you should be sharing, it will eventually seep into the rest of your interactions and affect your relationship in (most likely) a negative way.

Having such an open honest relationship was never a goal. It just worked out this way. We, like @jonsblond and other, consider ourselves lucky to feel so comfortable and complete with one another. I didn’t have many preconceived notions and expectations for how my relationships should work, beyond the sensible, “I will not be abused” type guidelines.

And regarding whether a truly private portion of your self unnecessary or even undesirable, it’s really up to each pair of individuals. I’m completely comfortable with our mode of operation, and that’s what matters to me.

critter1982's avatar

I have a private life from my SO, one that if questioned I would be willing to share, however we trust each other so we don’t question every little thing about one another. @daloon I totally agree with the idea that there can be too much codependency on one another, and the reason being your SO is not going to be able to meet every single one of your needs, so you are going to have to look elsewhere for that need. That’s the point where I have a private life, not because I am intentionally hiding things from my wife but because there’s no reason to discuss it. I think the idea that people were getting across in the other thread was not that they share every single fart with their respective SO’s but the idea that they are willing to.

tinyfaery's avatar

I love to share my farts with my wife.

jonsblond's avatar

@tinyfaery lol…my husband loves to share his too!

RedPowerLady's avatar

Me and my hubby share as much as possible with each other. I am sure we both share some private thoughts. I certainly don’t desire to know everything that crosses his mind. But I don’t have anything I deliberately keep to myself. We truly consider ourselves partners. But then again we are both from a culture that values the collective more than the individual so perhaps that helps out a bit, neither one of us feel trapped by the sharing with one another, we feel growth from it.

StephK's avatar

My SO pretty much knows my all thought processes (sometimes better than me!) and we’ve been together long enough that he’s heard the majority of my stories. If he doesn’t know one, it’s just because I haven’t remembered it to tell him or the occasion hasn’t come up. Basically, no, I don’t really have a “private” life. And I have no desire to have one – I think sharing your entire self with someone is one of the most powerful ways to bond.

There are some things I don’t mention to him, but these things are, like @Dog said, things that interest me and are entirely uninteresting to him. Like music analysis. Or things to do with shopping. But there’s nothing that I actually keep from him. If he wanted to suddenly learn why the I IV V I chord progression is so popular, I’d jump at the chance to blab about it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

to me not having a ‘private life’ doesn’t equate with ‘not having my own individuality’
it’s a matter of definition
I do not have a private life apart from him, in that he knows all that goes on in my life
but there is a lot I do separately from him on a daily basis and those things like Bikram yoga, Argentine tango or working out my future PhD thesis are mine alone…

saeru's avatar

I don’t think private life is the same as privacy.

I don’t hide anything from my partner, but he still respects my privacy. There’s nothing on my computer that I would be upset if he saw, but he knows it’s my computer and not to touch it without asking me first. And I do the same for his things.

YARNLADY's avatar

Not “private” so much as individually distinct. He has his own room with his computers and such, and I have my sewing room. He works in an office all day, and I work at home. He goes to bed early and rises early, I go to bed late, and sleep till noon. He once went to Europe for a month, and I stayed in our beach condo with my three small grandsons.

Individuality, but no privacy = something that one does and the other doesn’t know about.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I’ve only been “single/dating” for a little over a year so I can tell you in many years of coupledom that I still had a private life. My ex husband and I had mutual friends but still had private conversations and things kept inconfidence we respected and expected the other to uphold. We had separate checking accounts even though we split bills and we occasionally did things without the other person. In dating where I don’t live with an SO and their friends aren’t necessarily my friends and especially where my SO has children from previous relationships, things are very different, I wouldn’t feel comfortable to impose on what they do when I’m not around. I may wonder, I may have times I want to be included in everything but I know the dynamic of the involvement means they have every right to retain some un-me time.

Dog's avatar

Perhaps I should mention that my soul mate and I do share a very private life. ;)

Adagio's avatar

@YARNLADYhe once went to Europe for a month and I….. for some completely unknown reason I thought you were going to say didn’t even notice. Like I said, I have absolutely no reason to offer for that stream of thought.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Adagio hahahahahahaha, priceless

Bluefreedom's avatar

My wife and I both have private aspects of our own lives.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, it’s the very basic requirement for a healthy long-term partnership.

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