Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Right to Privacy in a Relationship - Oh Really?
The other day, I was asking my girlfriend about her New Year's resolutions. She jokingly said that they were private and she would not share them. I didn't realize it was a joke and said, "Okay, that's fine. I understand." She let me know that it was a joke and I was silly for thinking that she was serious. However,I readily accepted that sometimes people have reasons for keeping things to themselves, even if they're in a relationship.That brings me to you, peanut gallery.
Okay, sidetrack for a moment, let's all agree that Howdy Doody is dead and gone and anyone under 50 didn't grow up with him so we can officially stop using the term "peanut gallery." Back to our story.I have come into conflict on several occasions with more than one girlfriend on the limits of privacy. There seem to be roughly two lines of argument, with possible variations on each line. First, there is the argument that more than one girlfriend has made that basically says, "Two people come together, they give up virtually all realistic rights to privacy." Sure, they can have privacy when they need to read or sleep or whatever, but any secrets including bank account numbers, current conversations you're having with friends, computer passwords, email passwords, plans you might be making for the coming week, closed and opened snailmail etc. are all expected to be shared. The sentiment here seems to be that there should be nothing worth hiding from one's partner, and if there is, then something is wrong. This idea is on a continuum.
While my current girlfriend sort of holds this view, she is on a much softer end of the spectrum about it, being a little annoyed at parts of the argument I don't buy into, but not going psycho and trying to hack into my stuff constantly. The other line of argument is more in line with what I think which can be roughly stated: People have a right to moderate levels of privacy, regardless of the relationships they're in for a variety of reasons. While a certain level of privacy is acknowledged to be given up at the beginning of a relationship, with more privacy given up as the relationship continues, there are still, and should always be, if so desired, personal privacies that one can maintain, with the understanding that trust negates any need for worry. In addition, while a deep level of secrecy certainly could point to a problem between the couple, having certain privacies need not be construed as a statement about the richness/trustworthiness of the relationship.
For me, for instance, I don't go over all the conversations I might have in a given day, with my girlfriend because I a) don't see them all as that important and b) I can't remember them all and c) even if I can remember them, I'm not sure they're worth the effort of explaining things in a way that makes sense, which is often much harder than one might realize.There are a myriad of other reasons about a myriad of other things, that I'm not hiding, I just don't want to talk about for whatever reasons. Past that, I do believe there are things that one has a right to deal with in one's own time and, regardless of love and affection, are not necessarllly the purview of the partner. So, I believe that one has a right to keeping one's passwords private, of asking before opening mail, of being squeamish when somebody asks me for my bank card; one has the right to keep one's inner sphere a certain level of private for all eternity. I feel that's a good thing. I do try to understand the other side and it does make sense in some ways, but so does the other side (and obviously moreso for me). Of course, laying out these things early in the relationship and compromising would usually be a lot more helpful, but sometimes that's not as foreseeable or as possible as one would like.
Oh well.With that in mind, I ask you, good public, for your views. What do you think of privacy rights in relationships? What are the limits? Who sets those limits? Is there a public standard we can share on this matter, a rule of thumb if you will? Any help would be greatly appreciated.