This is an almost true story. Three fraternity brothers walk into a restaurant for a weekly lunch. One is recently divorced, another is a devoted husband, and the third is separated from his spouse. The topic of conversation for today’s lunch is how transparent should you be with your wife?
The brother that was separated from his spouse presents that question as he is in the midst of reconciling with his spouse, and wants to know how much should be shared between the two. Does he really want to know what she did after she moved from the family’s home into an apartment? Will she be able to handle the truth about his relationships that began before the separation and blossomed during the separation? Will uncovering either of their past transgressions serve their marriage well? These are the questions that this brother presented to his friends.
The voice of reason spoke first. He was generally the most level minded of the three and had been married the longest. Both he and his wife were well educated, successful in their professions, and faithful to their religious beliefs. Yet, he too had considered an affair, which qualified his response. In his case, as he explained nothing more than conversation occurred. However, the guilt associated with even entertaining another woman eroded his conscience. He sought his wife’s understanding and support as he revealed the times spent in conversation with the other woman. To his dismay, his wife took the news horribly. He did not receive understanding or support, rather he had to deal with the stages of grief as his wife moved from shock through sadness and ended with rage. It was understandable when he was adamantly against exploring whatever activities are shared outside of the home. Let the dead relationships and their stories remain buried.
The voice of regret spoke next. He had suffered a devastating loss through his divorce. He was once a highly regarded government employee and well know young leader in his church and fraternity. His wife was equally regarded in her circles of influence. They were a picturesque young couple that carried the promises and well wishes of family and community. However, behind closed doors he was severely unfulfilled with his marriage. The marriage lacked the excitement and adventure that he surrendered for the sake of marriage. Maybe he married too soon? Or, maybe it was simply the case of marrying un-equally yoked? In the end, he led a private and public life that did not agree. Once his wife confronted him about the subversive activities, and he confessed to all of his secret endeavors, she divorced him without a second thought. He lamented more once he learned why she was her hurt and in pain. She would not forgive him – not because of what he did – but because he did not give her an opportunity to be that kind of lover, friend, or mate to him. She believed she could have been the trophy he needed in public and the party favor that he desired at night. He never shared his desires with her, and for his lack of transparency lost it all.
The inquiring soul was now even more confused. Here were two of his most trusted friends offering completely opposite experiences with transparency. The only thing that was clear to him is that his decision would not be an easy one. The right thing to do would have been to not get involved with those other women in the first place, or put his wife in a position to seek affection elsewhere during the separation. But it was too late for either of those scenarios. Sharing his past or hearing hers could destroy their chance of reuniting – or it could provide content for them to understand where they need to focus this second time around.
The weekly meal and fellowship ended. Their friendship was truly essential to their souls. Each celebrated to their favorite foods, the laughter, the moments when they could share in confidence, and the uplifting of each other’s spirits. There was the customary affectionate embrace and well wishes for the week to come. And I am sure that each one of them left that restaurant feeling a little more perplexed about transparency. Who held the better perspective on transparency? Did either brother change their previously held position after hearing the others’ story? What would the inquiring brother do with this information? Would he share his experiences with his wife when she returned? Would he ask her to reveal her relationships outside of their marriage – even though they were separated? The only certainty is that each brother knew that they must find their own way – chose their own path and remain resolute about their stance toward transparency.