On Self-Censorship in Relationships

I wrote something recently, and sent it over to Husband to read. The focus of the thing was the first man I ever loved. Now, one might say that, as a happily married woman, I have no business thinking of the men who came before my husband, never mind writing things about them that he – or perhaps even those other men themselves! – would read.

Now, upon reading this article, Husband told me he found himself feeling a little weird at the thought of me loving someone else, despite the fact that he knows that I love him, I want to spend forever with him, etcetera. I figured he might feel that way, which is why I sent it to him before I posted it online for all the world to see. Now, if he told me not to publish it, I wouldn’t, though I would probably feel a little irritated at the presumption that he could stop me from expressing myself. What he did, though, was tell me that he doesn’t ever want to censor me, and that as an objective observer it was a very good piece of writing and I should post it. As you might have noticed, I have yet to post that particular post.

Self censorship is important when it comes to certain things – like not telling your boss you dislike them, and where you’d like them to put that giant pile of paper they want you to stay late without pay to file – but when it comes to creativity and open discussion, self censorship can be a tricky thing to navigate. As a writer of fiction, of romance, and of people, (and as a human being) it is important for me to learn from the things I have done – including dating men that are not my husband. I had a mostly respectable dating life before my husband, and I’ve learned a lot from it. Husband dated women before me. We both took things from these experiences, and that’s why we’re so good at relationships now (or at least we think so). So when it comes to talking about my past relationships, I wonder sometimes how much information is too much information.

Is it too much information for me to tell him about being raped, or to talk about the person I was almost engaged to? Is it too much to discuss past sexual experiences, or maybe past emotional experiences? Do I have to qualify every single instance of discussion with, “Yes, this person and I did [insert here], but I married you because I love you and not them and regardless of whether or not I loved them, I still love you the best”? Do I have to ask his permission to hang out with men I once shared intimacies, or inform him when I’m contacted by them?

As far as I can tell after our year and three months (!) of marriage, communication is paramount to making marriage work. Especially when you’re moving around as much as we are. That means to me that if there’s something that’s on my mind that I feel I need to discuss with someone, I’m going to discuss it with him. He’s my partner, my best friend, and my lover – of course I’m going to want to discuss it with him.

I’m lucky, of course, because Husband tends to be extremely understanding of my random thoughts. Even things that probably a lot of dudes wouldn’t like to discuss, like sex that predates our relationship. Granted, I was honest with him from the moment we started dating. I told him about my issues, my expectations, and my insecurities. We set a precedent for honest discussion, and it has worked out for us. We don’t play games with the truth, with exceptions made for surprises and the like, and we know that when one of us says something, we aren’t holding back. The holding back, I think, is a big deal-breaker. If I’d written the article I mentioned, and Husband didn’t trust me to be honest with him, he would probably be a lot more skeptical towards my assurance that I didn’t “settle” for him, and that he was my one and only choice.

I don’t always give advice, but when I do, I stand by it, so here it is: honesty is, and always will be, the best policy. If your best friend is dating a guy you don’t like, tell them. If your significant other is making you feel a certain way, tell them. If you need something, ask for it. There’s a need to be tactful, of course, when dealing with other human beings, so be mindful of that, but your options when dealing with others is to be truthful, to exclude, or to lie. Only one of those things assures that you won’t be blindsided by the truth later on. Sure, excluding something will mean you won’t have to deal with it right now, but it means you’ll probably have to deal with it later, and it’ll be worse. I probably didn’t have to show Husband the article I wrote, but if I ended up posting it without him seeing it, or even if he ended up coming across it on my computer some time, one could imagine how much that would suck. What if I died, and that was the last piece of my writing he ever read without me here to talk to him about it? How seriously shitty would that be? He would go the rest of his life wondering if I really wanted to marry him, or if I just settled for him. I owe him way more than that.

If the person you’re with doesn’t want to be honest with you, doesn’t respect you enough to be honest with you, do you really want to be with that person? You’re going to spend a lifetime with someone whose words you will doubt, wondering if your thoughts might hurt them, questioning if you’re good enough. Wondering, “if they knew the real me, would they really be here?” Maybe I’m being a little bit too optimistic here, but lovers should share everything if they’re going to be together forever. If you’re not, then what’s the point?

Update: It has been posted here.

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