Secrets and Mysteries

"You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass." -- Hamlet, Act III, Scene ii

Is there any place for secrets and mysteries in a healthy marriage? That all depends.

From one perspective, it should be obvious that it's not a good idea for couples to keep secrets from one another. When you got married, you made a number of vows and promises, all of them centered around a single idea: namely, your commitment to work together towards the goal of becoming one. That requires openness, transparency, and positive communication. In a marital relationship, it's all to easy to let hidden truths become dividing walls.

On the other hand, there's a sense in which mystery is absolutely essential to romance. Boredom can be the death-knell of any relationship. Many couples find themselves "falling out of love' when they become convinced that they've learned everything there is to know about one another. Illusions of this kind can take hold when honesty becomes brutal and openness isn't tempered with sensitivity and discretion. Remember, transparency doesn't necessarily entail revealing every thought or feeling you've ever had. Some things are better left unsaid.

Is there any way to strike a positive balance and achieve a happy medium? Is it possible to keep a healthy sense of mystery alive in a familiar, long-term relationship? That's the problem of effective marital communication in a nutshell. Such communication is not a science but an art. It's a matter of keeping your partner intrigued and engaged. It's a question of teasing the other person out and exposing your true self without smothering or squelching the flame of mutual affection.

Date Night

Remember, always act like you're trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and "woo" our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate -- hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Recapture the mystery and intrigue of your earliest days together.

  • Try to go back to the excitement and intrigue of communication as you experienced it when you were first getting to know each other.  Reduplicate one of your early dates.  Do something you did together before you were married.  It can be as simple as a walk in the park or an evening spent people watching at a sidewalk cafe on a busy downtown street.   When you’re together and in a relaxed frame of mind, one of you should get the conversation rolling by talking for ten minutes about the feelings or issues that are on his or her heart.  Without saying too much, reveal some side of yourself you’ve never revealed before.  During this time, the other spouse does nothing but listen, responding only with questions or statements intended to promote clarification – for example, “I don’t understand; could you restate that?”  After that, you switch sides, following the same rules. 
  • Remember your vows and determine to keep the promises you made on your wedding day.  Many couples, during their wedding ceremony, light a “unity candle” and blow out their individual candles, symbolizing that they are dying to self in order to become one.  Find a place – a small chapel, perhaps, or a favorite outdoor spot (a beach would be ideal) – where you can re-enact this rite.  Then spend a short time in prayer.  As your partner speaks to God, listen to his or her heart.  Then spend some time expressing your feelings about this experience.
  • Camp out at a table in a local café and spend some time reading to each other.  Try to select something that will transport your thoughts to a place beyond your mundane everyday experience – a good novel, for instance, or a spiritual classic that neither of you has encountered before.  Discuss your reactions to the author’s ideas or to the story and atmosphere that are created.  You might be surprised at what comes out of your conversation.      

Step 3: Relax and unwind.

After your activity, find a quiet place for dessert or coffee to relax and emotionally connect through good conversation. Answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging.

  • What was your favorite part of the evening?
  • What is the one thing you learned tonight that you didn’t know about me before?
  • What one question have you always wanted to ask me?  What can I do to help you know me better?

Step 4: Home Sweet Home

As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think about additional ways you can strike a healthy balance between transparency and mystery in your relationship.  Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!


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© 2014 Focus on the Family.