By now you all must have heard the one about the writer to Slateâ€™s agony aunt whose husband neglected to tell her heâ€™d had a vasectomy â€“ leading her to despair of her supposed infertility. If not, read it here in all its gory detail.
Within moments of the letter appearing online, the story went viral, provoking ire from mommy bloggers across the English-speaking world â€“ not least because the â€śsecret vasectomyâ€ť (which the husband sought before the marriage, incidentally) was something that affected both partners and would have constituted a marriage deal-breaker had the wife been aware of it.
What was less alarming, to me at least, was that the husband had kept the secret in the first place. Sure, I learned long ago that secrets do not belong in a marriage â€“ likely from one of those poorly written soap operas, in which any mention of the rule was an ominous warning that Thorn or Tiffany had been keeping a doozy. And yet, in a real-world marriage it is often taken for granted that some secrets are best kept under lock and key.
Iâ€™ve already discussed the benefits of suppressing the tendency to burp and fart in mixed company â€“ not because it embarrasses me but for the benefit of my easily grossed-out husband. There are others, though, and they may or may not be included in the following list of secrets kept by the women in my straw poll:
That time I was strip-searched at the border.
The too-long peck on the lips I shared with an old beau.
The fact I still keep in touch with another ex.
The irregular smear that was swiftly remedied with antibiotics.
The true number of sexual partners Iâ€™d had before our relationship.
The anti-depressants I continue to take even though Iâ€™m long since postpartum.
That pill I popped the other night.
The fact that my best friends know his secrets.
No clandestine tube-tying sessions here, but secrets nonetheless. Are they shocking, or merely awkward? Would they threaten the foundations of the relationship? Do they constitute deal-breakers? If not, why air them, I wonder.
And to those of you flexing your fingers en route to the comments section, ask yourselves: are you truly an open book? A new book by Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioural economics at Duke University, suggests the answer is no. The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty reveals Arielyâ€™s findings that only about 1 per cent of us are truly honest, and that we fudge, spin, adjust, whitewash the truth for a variety of reasons â€“ not least to make others happy.
Just because it happens doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s right. But in a recent article in The Times, the UK-based psychologist Dr Cecilia dâ€™Felice says: â€śIf it serves no purpose to tell the truth other than to assuage your guilt, offload your problems or hurt your partner, there may be times when an untruth will serve your relationship better.â€ť
You may say: â€śOff with her head.â€ť I say: â€śSomeone buy her a drink.â€ť For me, the obfuscations are few, as, clearly, they should be. But they may be the rose-colored filter that keeps needless stress out of our lives.
Why not let my husband be the judge of that, you say? Indeed. Why donâ€™t I let it all out this weekend and tell you how that went.