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Do our diaries know us better than our lovers?

Date
Who do you share your innermost thoughts with?

Who do you share your innermost thoughts with?

I have kept a diary since I was a little girl. I’ve managed to keep most of them. It began because I was lonely and continued because I wanted to record a teen life more perfect and pimple-free than the reality. Today, I record memories, thoughts, shocking poetry, and the sort of mundane minutiae some small part of me hopes will one day qualify for the kind of praise Virginia Woolf lavished on Jane Austen.

Yet there’s also plenty of explicit stuff scrawled across the pages of my oh-so-cliche Moleskine. Mingled with the obvious, the lists, and the silly bits of stuffy-fluff are confessions from peculiar corners of my conscious, inked in all manner of humours and composed careless of consequence.

Like a secret held on bitten tongue, these intimacies pose a problem. For these are the lines of which I am wary, these are my most private of parts. Disclosure could expose me in a way I would not like, confessing my fantasy could compromise my real world. But, like any good secret, there’s always the dark and delicious desire to reveal.

And this desire is compounded the closer you are to someone - someone who has already seen and heard so much.

So do you share? Should you share everything about yourself with the person you’ve chosen to share your life with, the person with whom you are one? Or is it OK to keep some things to yourself?

A friend of mine prompted this blog with a story about a friend who inherited his grandfather’s journals. For years, they sat in a box below stairs, untouched, uncared for, unbothered about. Then a move interstate prompted unpacking, and the question – to read or refrain?

Though his grandmother was also gone, their children - his father, aunts and uncles – were still alive. What if these books contained embarrassing family secrets? What if they revealed events with ramifications impossible to ignore? A person’s influence does not die with them. But should you invite the dead back from the grave so deliberately?

Many discussions were had about what it means to keep a written record. Questions were asked about whether anyone would take the time and make the effort to put their life onto paper if they didn’t want it read one day. That the books were handed down and not destroyed was a fact not overlooked.

In the end, the decision was made to read. The family assembled, wine was poured and appetites primed to devour pages of family history. High drama was hoped for, but not explicitly expressed. Breath held, they dived in, and were soon sorely disappointed.

Nothing but mundane minutiae trickled forth. No rushes of emotion or candid outpourings. Just a simple record of almost every day the man had ever lived, and the weather, and the sports scores, and all the breakfasts, lunches, dinners. It was earnest to say the least, plain boring in actual fact, and certainly not the stuff which might quicken the heart of Virginia Woolf.

But what if the journals had revealed more about the man who wrote them? What then? They may have shown something which altered the reader’s views – something with the power to enhance or destroy the character of the creator. There may have been something with consequences anyhow.

These are powerful questions in a time when record-keeping is almost unavoidable. Even those who don’t keep deliberate diaries leave digital traces of their life, times, and loves. For this reason privacy is ever more concerning. And for this reason we should think about how it plays out when it comes to love.

We’ve discussed whether it’s right to share things like email, social media and bank accounts within relationships. But there the focus is more on seeing who your partner talks with or how they spend their money.

However secrets of the heart and soul held in the mind, in the heart or on the pages of a personal journal, are something altogether different. They are the essence of who we are as individuals, the most foundational aspects of our personal mythologies. They may be the very key to our identity.

So if you share them with someone else, do you lose a bit of who you are? In a way, I believe so.

But can you be with someone else and not bare your soul?

That is the far harder question.

What do you think?

Do you keep a journal or a diary and would you let your lover read it? If you were the lover, would you want to?

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kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au

66 comments so far

  • i have no secrets of the heart so it would make no difference.
    i've never kept a diary, moved countries too many times, i've seen too much destruction, a war, a revolution, too much crime, and at a personal level, grew apart with ex wife, got s$#@ed over by the next one, best put all of that away and forget about it. all that's important is what's ahead.

    Commenter
    Victorious Painter
    Date and time
    August 22, 2012, 6:46AM
    • "So if you share them with someone else, do you lose a bit of who you are? In a way, I believe so. But can you be with someone else and not bare your soul?"

      That's interesting. I don't believe sharing your secrets (part of who you are)
      means that you lose something of yourself. It's sharing, but not in the way that takes away from you. It's a kind of sharing that can build and foster bonds and relationships.

      Yes I think you can be with someone and not bare your soul. Some people are ok with that but it would kill me.

      It wouldn't feel like a real relationship if I couldn't tell them things or share things with them.
      But then I also don't believe in telling them absolutely all your dirty laundry. Some details are better off private or left in the past.

      Commenter
      She-Raz
      Date and time
      August 22, 2012, 7:50AM
      • I also disagree that sharing secrets means you lose part of who you are. Sharing with someone can make you more authentically 'who you are' and can also create something new, like - as you said Raz - building a bond or a relationship.

        With the right person, I can share pretty much anything. You just need someone who realises imperfection is part of everyone and is capable of the most beautiful human emotion that I believe exists - genuine forgiveness. Some people pay lip service, but they're just not capable of it... lucky I have such great people in my life :)

        Commenter
        jetsam
        Date and time
        August 22, 2012, 9:51AM
      • Agree with you both, She-Raz and jetsam. I'm able to tell my husband so much because I totally trust him not to use it against me or tell others.

        Commenter
        MO4
        Date and time
        August 22, 2012, 11:29AM
      • I tell my boyfriend everything. I haven't got any good secrets to keep... I wish I was more mysterious :/

        Commenter
        toucans
        Date and time
        August 22, 2012, 12:20PM
      • One of the most important things about relationships was that you should be prepared to trust them and share with them more than you would any other person on Earth.

        But tHE most important thing I ever learned is that there are always some things that you should never share with anyone - especially those you love - because the people you love are wonderful, but they only human, and they are not perfect and their understanding of you is not yours to control.

        There is a dark side to each and every person, no matter how good a person you are. There is a place in our minds where lies, deception, hatred, truly disgusting desires and shameful thoughts are freely entertained - which hide in the dark corners of the mind and that is where they should always be kept - in the dark. Showing these parts of your mind to others, even just telling them about it, will always tend to colour their understanding of you in ways you not only can't control but because these are so powerful and taboo, they can easily become far larger in your partner's mind than your real personality is, they can speak louder than your true actions speak and become a more frightening character than your actual character.

        Commenter
        Christian
        Date and time
        August 22, 2012, 12:49PM
      • She-raz – “But then I also don't believe in telling them absolutely all your dirty laundry. Some details are better off private or left in the past.”
        What? So you would just tell the convenient truth? Typical.

        Jetsam – “just need someone who realises imperfection is part of everyone and is capable of the most beautiful human emotion that I believe exists - genuine forgiveness”
        Do you practice it? Or just expect it? Genuine forgiveness.

        MO4 – from what I read you don’t have much to not tell anyway

        Cristian – “There is a dark side to each and every person, no matter how good a person you are. There is a place in our minds where lies, deception, hatred, truly disgusting desires and shameful thoughts are freely entertained”

        Commenter
        Andrea
        Location
        Melbs
        Date and time
        August 22, 2012, 3:16PM
      • @Christian- I honestly don't understand how you can say

        "There is a dark side to each and every person, no matter how good a person you are. There is a place in our minds where lies, deception, hatred, truly disgusting desires and shameful thoughts are freely entertained".

        I don't think that is true.Just because you think this way doesn't mean everyone else does. I wouldn't describe any of my desires as disgusting so I am a little worried as to what your desires are :/

        Commenter
        kitten
        Date and time
        August 22, 2012, 3:42PM
      • Christian Aug 22, 2012, 12:49PM: Agreed completely. If you care about someone, you'll spare them this side of yourself. It is what makes relationships difficult.

        Commenter
        Spike
        Date and time
        August 22, 2012, 5:27PM
      • Andrea - you're twisting peoples' words or trolling. Either way, not very original are you?

        Commenter
        She-Raz
        Date and time
        August 23, 2012, 9:38AM

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