Q. My fiance and I have never lived together, as most of our friends do before they get married, and there are some forms of intimacy that frighten me when I think about them. He wants there to be complete openness between us, and I am uncomfortable with his idea. Perhaps we shouldn't be getting married at all, but I love him dearly and would like to work this out.
It started when I asked him to look at a list I had made for the wedding, and he went to my desk while I was fixing dinner, and read everything in it. Everything he could find, that is. Fortunately, I still had in my pocketbook a letter from an old boyfriend wishing me misery in my coming marriage, and my journal (where I have been jotting down thoughts and poems and things for years) was in the bathroom because I had recently been reading over some funny things I said about him when we first met.
He did find a letter from my cousin, who has been like a sister to me, making jokes about some of the men I almost married, and also telling me about a boy she's met and how she hopes it will lead to marriage. He saw a clipping I had cut out about a watch I thought I might give him for a wedding present. I was afraid it was too expensive, but now I'll have to buy it, because he knows about it.
He also saw a paper where I had been practicing my new name in different ways, including how it would look printed if I ever became a famous poet. And also a bill for a pair of shoes that he couldn't believe I could spend that much money on, although I don't think it is his business yet, as I paid for it myself and at the moment make more money than he does.
Fred thought all this was very funny (except the shoe bill), and got furious that I got upset. He said he doesn't want me hiding things from him when we're married, but when I asked him if he would show me things like that he said he didn't have any mushy letters, except from me. Then he sent me the receipt for the suit he bought for going away after the wedding.
In my family's house, nobody was supposed to look at the private things of anybody else, although it is true that I sometimes found my journal in the bookcase in the wrong place, and I think my mother read it, although she denied this. If my father wanted something from her purse, he would bring it to her and she would take it out, and the same if she needed something from him. If she wanted money, she didn't just take it out of his wallet.
Am I holding back on Fred if I don't let him go through everything of mine? I honestly don't have anything to hide, and I never will, because I want to talk about everything with him. For instance, I was telling him about that same cousin, but he didn't seem interested when I was talking--only when he read it. Of course I want to share with him, but I'm just not comfortable about this, I don't know why. Please advise me about what is proper between a husband and loving wife.
A. When husbands and wives started calling each other by their first names, Miss Manners was afraid it would come to this. Intimacy, in marriage, does not properly apply to everything. Body and soul, yes, but not desk and pockets.
Your fiance's policy can lead to no good. Soon you will be hiding the shoe bill, simply to avoid an unpleasant discussion, and he will stash away something else. Eventually, you will both have hiding places, and whoever discovers the other's first will make no end of a scene about it. Many nasty accusations will be made, ascribing vile motives to the simple fact of wanting a bit of privacy. Why not just acknowledge that to begin with, and agree to keep out of each other's desks, wallets, correspondence, bureau drawers, closet space and telephone calls?