I’m going to go on record, right here and now, saying that my husband does not read my email unless I ask him to do so. I mean, why would he? I don’t check his either.
Honestly, we’re pretty boring people. The emails I receive are only from a few sources. There are emails from church (newsletter articles, notes about the ministries with which I serve); family; my daughter’s Girl Scout leader; tracking information on things I order online at Christmastime; and spam (which GMail kindly removes for me). That’s it. If my husband were to peruse it, he would soon find himself nodding off, it’s so dull.
Of course, there is the little matter of getting me to play the part of the dutiful wife and keep my mouth shut about my opinions. But I guess my husband has learned by now to keep his place and let me have my say. He’s never concerned himself with preventing me from doing what I do best: Giving my opinion. I mean, he probably won’t find a lot of that in my email anyway, and he already reads my blog. So I guess he’s got his bases covered there.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very much in favor of husbands and wives sharing things with each other, being honest with each other. I don’t bother to share most of what’s in my emails with my husband because it’s boring and irrelevant to him. But I’m not hiding anything in there. Everything he needs to know, he does. Keeping my email to myself isn’t a matter of secrets and lies. It’s a matter of respect. Just as I would never dream of opening up my husband’s email and just going through it, he wouldn’t do that to me.
I’m not saying there would never be occasion to check a spouse’s email. If I ever needed to, I do have my husband’s password, and he has mine. But doing so on a regular basis smacks of paranoia and control issues.
Recently, a fired Mars Hill pastor and his wife came forward with their story of spiritual abuse at the hands of the church leadership. I highly recommend reading the story as written by Jonna Petry, which can be found here. While nearly everything in there is heartbreaking and disturbing, I was particularly upset by this (emphasis mine):
Shortly after this meeting, in my praying for the church that God’s will would be done in the
upcoming changes, I sent a letter to the elders’ wives inviting them to join me in prayer, along
with Scriptures I had been meditating on. Mark, who reads Grace’s emails, was livid about it and
verbally lambasted the elders at their next meeting for not keeping their wives in line.
Wait…did she just say Mark Driscoll reads his wife’s emails?
Don’t get all uppity about whether or not a husband has a “right” to check up on his wife. No, actually, he doesn’t. He doesn’t have the right to act suspicious to the point of violating the respect spouses should have for each other. He certainly doesn’t have the right to violate the privacy of the people who email his wife. This is especially true when he uses the information to control his wife or attempts to use it to control the others in their circles. In fact, that’s abusive.
Demanding that a wife allow her husband free access to her emails isn’t a sign that they are open and honest in their relationship. It’s a sign that she fears him, or she would just change her password and refuse to tell him. I have to wonder what would happen to Grace if she suddenly denied her husband access. In what other ways would he attempt to control or hurt her?
The idea that we need to continually check to see whether the people we love are doing something naughty is not found in Scripture. There is nothing in there that covers the idea that every aspect of a person’s life belongs to his or her partner. While I understand that we want to be sure that our relationships are honest and that communication remains open, violating someone else’s privacy isn’t the way to accomplish that. It’s not a way to build friendships, either. If someone had a personal problem and wanted to email me about it, it would be incredibly violating for her if my husband—without her permission—read the email.
I suppose it could be argued that people in a church know what they’re getting into, that perhaps everyone knows that the pastors and elders all read their wives’ emails (and, apparently, use it to control them). I know that I would absolutely never email anyone in church leadership about anything under those circumstances. That kind of invasive behavior isn’t good for a church, either.
I’m going to celebrate the fact that my husband loves and trusts me enough that he doesn’t need to read my emails or access my Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep tabs on me. I’m also going to pray for women who aren’t so fortunate. I highly doubt that reading emails is the only form of abuse going on in many of those relationships. If that describes you, know that you are not alone and there are places you can go for help.