Mutual Accountability in Marriage

One frequently overlooked dynamic of successful marriages is mutual accountability between husband and wife.  Indeed, mutual accountability is essential to a healthy, harmonious union.  Many happy couples may naturally employ these principles into their relationship without really realizing it.  Others deliberately make it a point of emphasis in the marriage.  In any case, husbands and wives who are not mutually accountable to one another are generally putting their relationship at risk of harm.

So what is mutual accountability in marriage?  What does it look like?  In a nutshell, principles of mutual accountability require complete openness between husband and wife.  Among other things, this means: true transparency, authentic honesty, and genuine answerability.  When couples are mutually accountable they allow for total access into one another’s lives.  They view one another as equal partners to be trusted and relied upon.  The good of the marriage is seen as clear priority over the good of the individual.  In other words, couples who are mutually accountable to one another take to heart the biblical doctrine of “one flesh” - the unmitigated unity of husband and wife (Gen 2:24; Mat 19:5-6).

Most married couples would likely claim that they believe in mutual accountability and that they think it is important.  However, in troubled relationships there is likely a breakdown somewhere between professing of virtues and practical application in everyday circumstances.  Accountability must be more than a noble declaration.  It must become a lifestyle or it does not work.

Below are just a few examples of how real mutual accountability is reflected in successful marriages…

Couples who are mutually accountable to one another consult with one another about important decisions as a matter of continual, normal practice.  They arrive at conclusions and formulate plans together as a cohesive unit.  They avoid making unilateral decisions on significant matters that affect them both.  They realize providing equal input and showing respect for each other’s views are requisite features of loving relationships.  Decisions involving having children, employment, education, housing arrangements, and so forth are major life determinations which certainly must be made jointly.  But areas of daily, routine life must not be overlooked - such as: domestic responsibilities, parenting styles, holiday plans, and so forth.

Couples who are mutually accountable to one another are transparent about their money and finances.  Financial issues are an often cited reason for marital conflict.  This is largely because many do not exercise mutual accountability in this important area of married life.  Practices regarding spending, credit, debt, bills, banking, budgeting, and so forth must all be open for discussion and cooperatively agreed upon.  Spouses in strong marriages do not withhold information or keep secrets from one another - and matters of money are no exception.

Couples who are mutually accountable to one another openly communicate with respect to their schedules and activities.  They view their time as not belonging entirely to them, individually, but as a shared commodity of the family.  Such spouses are considerate of one another’s time and needs.  Whenever possible and appropriate, they do not commit their time to outside interests and requests without consulting with one another.  They are accountable not only in planning their agendas, but also in regards to their whereabouts, activities, company, and so forth.  They are completely transparent about all aspects of their daily lives and dealings.

Couples who are mutually accountable to one another communicate openly and honestly about the nature and dynamics of relationships with others.  They put no other friendships and relationships above that of the marriage and family.  They establish and maintain appropriate boundaries with friends, acquaintances, and colleagues that are cooperatively agreeable with their spouse.  They do not put themselves in compromising situations and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.  Rather, they realize that when integrity and complete openness exists in this realm then the risk of temptation, breach of trust, suspicion, and other negative factors are greatly minimized.

Couples who are mutually accountable to one another voluntarily provide complete access into their lives - and this includes the use of technology.  They recognize the convenience and positive benefits of communication and networking through technology.  But, they are also aware of the potential hazard that comes with mobile devices, social networking services, internet access, and so forth. In good faith they openly share and make available with each other things such as: device access, passwords, contact information, records, etc.  They acknowledge that where no deceit exists there is no reason for secrecy. They view transparency in every area of life as a sign of their trust and fidelity to one another.

Couples who are mutually accountable to one another openly share any and all information about their past.  There is no inquiry too private that cannot be trusted with each other.  Of course, all of the major areas of personal history should be addressed before marriage, such as: spiritual, health, sexual, financial, legal, family, and so forth.  But if and when situations arise that bring the past into light, mutually accountable couples do not try to keep secrets or hide information.  The marriage is always the priority over the individual.  Honesty is always the best policy.
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