Katherine and David have been married for eight years. Katherine just discovered that David has a bank account in his own name that she had not known about.
It’s my money Katherine says: I have been bothered by David’s secretiveness throughout our marriage; for example, he will never tell me who was on the phone when he finishes a conversation. But I was devastated when I found a bank book in his desk while I was cleaning the office. It’s in David’s name only and there’s a substantial sum of money in it. I thought marriage was supposed to be a partnership. But I feel marginalized and betrayed. What else is he keeping secret?
I thought we shared everything David says: I don’t understand why Katherine is so upset – it’s not like the phone calls I get are any big deal, but they are mine and not hers. We aren’t joined at the hip – I’m allowed to have some privacy, aren’t I? As it happens, the bank account Katherine found was money I’ve been setting aside to surprise her with a cruise for our anniversary. But frankly, given the big scenes she’s made about this, I’m not sure I even want to go on a trip with her!
What should they do?: When ideas are not communicated and then discovered inadvertently by your spouse, there is a whole lot of explaining to do! Is it just poor judgment or is it “busted!”? The first comment made by Katherine was a red flag to Tom. Was David’s secretiveness a continuation of an existing pattern while dating and during the engagement period, or is this a new behavior? Most often, habits and behaviors are a continuation of existing patterns set long before a marriage. Sometimes, our strongest and most endearing qualities and attributes prior to marriage become our major weaknesses after marriage. The one question most couples don’t ask themselves prior to marriage is, “What if the current behaviors and patterns continue for the rest of our married life – can I live with it exactly as I know it today?” In marriage, spouses get to experience the other’s most intimate details – that means it is critical to really understand the person you are marrying prior to the wedding day. What you see is really what you get! Secrecy is the cornerstone of mistrust – especially within the context of marriage. When the wall begins to form between spouses, you can rest assured the cornerstone will be mistrust. That cornerstone has a way of attracting other building material that would normally be given little consideration. But attached to the mistrust cornerstone, they become bonded and meaningful – and part of the wall. For example, David’s phone conversations, by themselves, would not be significant except for the cornerstone of mistrust. The secretiveness of the phone calls bonds with the cornerstone of mistrust to create a formidable barrier to communication and couple growth. Once the wall begins, people would be surprised at what is put into the mix to make it even more formidable: items such as a letter addressed only to David and not to Katherine; David working unusually late at his job; David wanting to spend a weekend away fishing with his buddies; or a bank book that Katherine didn’t know about. Regardless of how innocent these extra events/items are on the surface, once they are placed next to the cornerstone of mistrust, there is serious work needed by both parties to chip away and remove the wall. In reviewing both David’s and Katherine’s comments, it struck us that communication is not one of their strengths. It appears there is a lot of “assuming” between them and very little “fact finding.” It might have helped if Katherine had asked David about the bank account and let him explain the situation. Maybe it was really for a surprise anniversary cruise, in which case Katherine would be delighted and pleased, yet a little embarrassed at discovering his special surprise. Given his reactions at her being upset (not being sure he wants to take her on the cruise) our belief is that his story was not quite accurate and Katherine’s thoughts might have some validity. If it were truly going to be a surprise and a special event, discovery may be disappointing, but it shouldn’t be viewed as a deal-breaker.