Accountability, Challenges, For Men, For Women

4 Surprising Facets of Transparency in Marriage

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.

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.

Marriage is the lifelong journey of learning to love like Christ.

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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.

True love sees the worst and still hopes for the best.

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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.

Two people, one flesh.

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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.

…Sigh, really?

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.

Love is quick to apologize and fast to forgive.

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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.)

Now what?

A happy marriage is good, but it's more about holiness than happiness.

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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.

Questions:
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)

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  • JulianneNG

    My fiance and I were transparent right off the bat, before we started dating. That makes it the absolute easiest. I had to be sure I knew him well enough before I wanted to court anyone. So we stayed up late talking. He told me to ask him anything. So I did. Anything and everything. And ever since that moment, transparency came naturally.

  • Blair Cartwright

    thank you so much for this post. I have not been transparent and it has hurt our marriage and only recently have i fully understood how much it has hurt my wife emotionally. I have been praying for our marriage for some time and realize it will take more time, I just hope it is not too late to right my wrongs.

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  • This is such a great article. More people could do well to be more transparent in their marriages.

  • Kristina

    My husband was not transparent with me and has struggled with lust and porn. He also had problems with his Facebook, lusting after women In other Countries. To the men out there that still struggle with this, let me tell you how it makes a woman feel. It makes you feel less or not good enough and when you are intimate with you spouse she wonders if you are thinking of the pictures or the other women you have been looking at. It ruined how I viewed my husband, therefore it ruined the intimacy in love making and our marriage. My husband was also manipulative and verbally abusive, coupled with his Facebook, porn and lust, I left and moved back Accross the Country to be with family.
    I pray that one day I find the marriage where I have a beautiful relationship full of trust, transparency and love.

  • Bennie

    In our marriage, we have had dishonesty and unfaithfulness both sides. But even after we both allowed God to change our lives, I still had a past with dark secrets. Every time I prayed to God to have a closer relationship with Him, He told me to go and make good with my wife. Only once I managed to share all of this with my her, did we find complete freedom in our marriage.

    Let me put it simple – if there is ANYTHING that your spouse is not aware of, you are keeping a portion of your heart away from your spouse and from God. This removes freedom. The truth shall set you free, and in our marriage we have both experienced it. And what a freedom it is! I had to pray for a few years for God to prepare my wife’s heart for the day I sat her down and washed her feet. It hurt. It wasn’t easy. But it was completely worth it.

    We are now committed to investing in other couples’ marriages through counselling sessions. My prayer is that all couples will have complete freedom through complete transparency. This is the one area where the enemy is destroying lives and ultimately the church. My wife has complete access to all my e-mails, Facebook and my phone. At any time of the day. We have one bank account. Trust is earned and maintained this way.

    • Steve Mallory

      I like this Bennie. I am trying to work towards this with my wife because of what you said about “you are keeping a portion of your heart away from your spouse and from God. This removes freedom.” It’s a point of contention right now, but I am in hopeful prayer that God can reconcile this for us. Thanks for sharing.

      • Bennie van Loggerenberg

        Thank you for this Steve. We are praying for you. May God do for you what He did for us.

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  • Don

    Not trying to dispute here….before my wife and I were married, I disclosed my nearest relationship before her. My first wife’s (deceased) and I had a conversation about dating after her death. it lasted a total of about a minuet and a half before we decided my wife’s presence was too great for our own relationship. Years later I met my present wife. We were discussing our previous relationships when I told her about the cousin. Fast forward to 12 years later, the cousin drives 500 miles to meet mine and my deceased wife’s grandkids for the first time. My current wife (slightly controlling) and her got into it over the phone a couple of weeks before the visit. Now I am being accused of an “emotional affair” with the cousin. I have been told I must disassociate with her. The argument has led to a two month separation (so far) and her second filing of a protection order. Satan and other issues are present. So much for complete transparency on my part. But, I still love my wife and want to go home.