Is it okay for a husband and wife to keep secrets from one another?

This question is going to sound silly I’m afraid because of the circumstances which caused the debate. Last night my wife and I were in disagreement over the appropriateness of keeping work-related issues and conversations from a spouse.

During the course of a pleasant conversation my wife has abruptly stopped herself midway-through and said, “I can’t divulge that bit of info” or “I’ve been asked to tell no one.” Now, it’s not that I have a yearning or even care to know her business secrets; it’s more about the closeness factor that a husband and wife share together. She feels that it would be sinful for her to share things with me when she has agreed not to do so with someone else. I feel that it would not be sinful and that when a Christian persons asks for confidentiality he or she is excluding the person’s spouse.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells me that:

Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter-appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul (CCC 1643).

How can keeping secrets be conducive to this?

I’m afraid you’re selectively quoting the Catechism. The Catechism also says:

Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it (CCC 2489).

While it is true that spouses should not “keep secrets” from each other, particularly ones that affect the other or the marriage or family, that doesn’t mean husbands and wives must tell each other everything they know. They should use discretion in sharing what others have confided in them, and should respect any business or governmental confidentiality to which they are bound.

Your wife needs to learn discretion and needs to think through what she can and cannot talk to you about before engaging in discussion. What is unfair to you is not that she cannot share certain information, but that she would release part of it to you and then withhold the rest. It’s the adult version of the child’s taunt, “I know something you don’t know!”

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