No, this is not some abdication of my feminist, independent spirit. It’s the result of some musing that led to the realization that there really isn’t anyone in my life I can truly confide in. Sure, there are plenty of people I completely trust, but none of these relationships are such that someone couldn’t later try to discover the contents of my conversations with them. I don’t mean that any of these people would freely blab about what we talked about if they were asked; I mean that they could legally be compelled to do it.
There are few people one can truly confide in without worrying about possible compelled disclosure later on. Though the examples vary slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, typical examples of confidential relationships include those with lawyers, therapists, and clergy. Of course, the first two relationships usually cost money to establish and maintain, and within all of these professional relationships the range of topics you might be able or inclined to discuss is probably narrower than the full scope of what you might want to talk about within the more natural relationships you have with emotional intimates like friends or family. However, no matter how close you might be to any of these friends and family, your relationships with them are legally vulnerable. The only exception is a spouse, as only with spousal privilege can a relationship with an emotional intimate be protected against forced disclosure.
Hence the conclusion that I need a husband. Not today of course; there’s nothing on my mind that would be of any interest to any adverse party, I don’t think. But I did realize that it would be good to have someone to talk to with whom this would never be a concern. Thus the need for a husband, an emotional intimate in whose confidence I could truly be confident.
While the concern is hypothetical for me now, I can see how for others it could be a big deal, especially for people who do their best thinking out loud by bouncing their decisions off of someone they trust. If there’s any possibility that these decisions could lead to legal liability – which, given today’s litigious society could happen for just about anything – then people with spouses are much better off than those without them, having the benefits of both less liability exposure as well as the ability to speak with the greater candor that privileged communication enables. Or, conversely, the people without spouses are at a greater disadvantage than those who have them. While married people get a legally-protected confident built into their lives, unmarried people do not, and it could matter.
Perhaps we can say this is a perfectly fine result, that people who do not choose to marry should not have all the same benefits as those who do. But that ignores the reality that many people can’t marry their emotional intimate, or that some people are not so lucky in love as to ever have an emotional intimate they could possibly marry. It further essentially forces those who might otherwise not have been so inclined to marry, simply so they can get the equivalent benefit of a protected confidant.
So do we really want to say that this is a perfectly fine result? While we wouldn’t want all relevant testimony to be locked up, it may not advance society to deprive so many people of the benefits of a truly candid relationship with a confidant. Or, worse, to only allow this privilege to some.