When we talk about transparency, the response is nearly unanimous: it’s a vital part of marriage and relationships. You really can’t build a meaningful bond with your spouse if you’re hiding part of yourself. But most often, hiding is our first instinct.
- Sometimes we hide our Facebook lives.
- Some hide sexual addictions because they feel ashamed.
- Other times, we hide costly blunders.
Transparency and accountability with your spouse is one key way to ensure healthy progress toward Christ, which is the whole point of marriage in the first place. Learning the value and practice of transparency has transformed my life and our marriage.
In all of our “championing” of transparency, we can lose sight of it’s context. Here I hope to add some texture to our understanding of transparency within the context of life and marriage.
Recently, I’ve discovered four surprising aspects of transparency in marriage:
1: Transparency is a tool and only a tool
Transparency itself is not the primary goal of marriage, Christ is.
Christ is the goal, love and righteousness are byproducts of our security in him – our right standing with God, and our identity as His children – , and transparency is just one tool we use to honor Jesus more fully through our marriage.
Christ is the “who”, love and righteousness are the “why”, and transparency is merely one “how”.
Transparency traces back to a heart that seeks to gladly honor Jesus by being the person he’s called you to be. Knowing and being known by Christ absolutely must bare real fruit in our lives through love and righteousness; it’s cause and effect. Christ compels us to love better–to live better.
Transparency is a tool we use to help us honor God through right living. We honor God when we love and honor our spouses, and we glorify God when our lives are proof of His holiness, goodness, and utter consistency.
2: Transparency requires two sides of trust
We must be both trusting and trustworthy.
Everyone will agree that in marriage, trust is a must. Heh, catchy… But how does trust actually work in your marriage?
There are two sides to trust that each spouse should consider: you must be trustworthy person and you must be trusting of your spouse. I need to trust Selena just as much as I need to know I am trusted by her.
We hear many stories of worrisome husbands or wives who are constantly questioning their spouse’s motives, actions, and integrity – regardless of what they do to build trust. Did they make stupid mistakes to lose their spouse’s trust at some point? That’s usually the case, but what good is a foundation if you never build on it?
Sin and hurt cause brokenness which can take years to heal before trust can even begin being rebuilt. Transparency is the first step in healing, and if you’re hurting, please don’t rush through healing – I’m not telling you to ignore pain or brokenness. Transparency, forgiveness, prayer, and time will all help rebuild trust in a damaged marriage, but be careful not to allow your brokenness to turn into bitterness.
You may need to build or rebuild trust slowly, but you must build it. Transparency will help expose cracks in the foundation so repair can take place, and the sole purpose a foundation exists is to be built upon when the time is right.
3: Multifaceted Truth
Sharing your actions and life is the first step, there’s at least one more.
There are two components to transparent truth-telling. When a couple enters the covenant of marriage, they are unified as one body and one soul. This truth has profound implications for the concept of transparency. Let’s read Mark 10:6-9:
“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,a 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
In speaking truthfully about your actions and struggles, you’ve opened your life to your spouse, but have you opened your soul? Your mind? Your heart?
Sharing your actions and struggles is really only the first step. You must also be truthful about your (guys, wait for it…) feelings.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t disclose my personal flustered-ness (not a real word) when writing this. Feelings don’t express themselves… apparently.
There’s a deeper level of truthfulness I’m still discovering: how to really process what’s going on in my heart and mind with my wife. When I struggle with something, it’s immensely helpful if I just take a moment and look inward. When I shared my darkest struggles with Selena, I shared how I felt about hurting her and how I felt shame. I felt broken beyond love or repair.
I was trusting her to handle my heart carefully; thank God she proved trustworthy.
Sharing your heart, mind, emotions, and feelings are all part of exposing the entire wound–not just for exposure’s sake– so you may heal more fully.
4: Critical conviction
We must actively seek righteousness.
Men, sorry. I’m about to pick on you. Note that the instance below is illustrative of a thematic problem for both guys and ladies.
I’m surprised by the quantity of men I’ve interacted with who openly struggle with a pornography addiction.
I don’t mean they still struggle even though they’ve disclosed their addiction with their spouse and accountability partners/groups in hopes of changing. I mean, they have this sort of resignation about it, like it’s just part of life and it’s not changing. They’re not changing. They’re apathetic.
There is no condemnation for those in Christ, but there is conviction (see Romans 8:1). The Holy Spirit convicts us toward righteousness, and a life absent of conviction is usually due to an unexamined life, pride, or bad theology. Transparency should accompany a healthy hunger for righteousness. Jesus speaks:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. ~ Matthew 5:6
We must want righteousness and we must live with conviction. All the transparency in the world will do little good if you don’t care about being righteous*.
(*Important note, this is not a self-righteousness or a works-based salvation, but rather a glad submission and willingness to honor and obey God, being compelled by His supreme love, goodness, and righteousness. We cannot earn salvation, we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness – as he payed the price for sin in our stead. That’s the good news of the gospel! See 2 Corinthians 5:21.)
I sincerely hope you’re in a transparent marriage or are actively working toward one. If you and your husband/wife disagree on this, all I can recommend is that you pray. I know how prideful some spouses can be (I am one!), and God is the only one who can change hearts. Pray hard.
I also hope these points add another layer of depth and purpose to our earlier transparency posts.
In all we understand, may we always come back to this: if we ever love better or live better in life and marriage, it’s only by God’s grace and for His glory.
In that sense, there’s an awful lot riding on us living transparently.
Are you and your spouse transparent with each other?
For the benefit of others, can you share how you and your spouse “broke the ice”?
(Header image by Jeff Marsh)