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Partners wonder about privacy

DEAR AMY: My partner of eight years, "Joe," feels that partners should not have any secrets between them, including allowing each other to view all communications. I told him that I would never read his email or snail mail addressed only to him unless he asked me to read something specific. He feels that partners should have absolutely nothing to hide from each other and therefore we should each be allowed to check out each other's email whenever we want. I totally disagree. On occasion, I receive emails sent in confidence that I prefer he not see. I would like to know your opinion, as well as input from your readership.

Respect My Privacy

DEAR PRIVACY: I'm with you. There is a difference between secrecy and privacy, and I think it is completely legitimate to expect that email and U.S. mail addressed to you should not be read by your partner without your permission. Having privacy is not the same as proactively hiding something specific.

When couples go through a trauma like adultery, which leaves them with a serious legacy of mistrust, one way to deal with it is to completely open up all communication for scrutiny on demand. Unless the trust has been breached, there should be no need for such total transparency.

One reason for your correspondence to be private (if you want it to be) is to protect the privacy of the people writing to you. I would not want to share a personal or professional letter or email without the sender being aware of my intentions.

I assume readers have other opinions and ideas.

DEAR AMY: I am 65, a retired gay man married to "Jack," who is 37, who is a musician and a medical researcher. We've been together for 14 years. Yesterday a friend, "Drew," came back to our city to visit. He came over for dinner. They spent the entire evening discussing music, bands of the '70s, bands of the '80s, bands of the present, who was influenced by whom, who the guitar player was in which band. I'll admit there were several decades when I did not pay attention to popular music. I was raised with classical music and am currently studying voice. I felt totally cut out of the conversation. Let's face it. Radiohead was NOT influenced by Schubert. Once or twice I tried to interject a new subject, but I felt like I was making a non sequitur. Most of John's friends have been very supportive of our relationship and have gone out of their way to accept me. Aside from politely excusing myself and retreating to my computer, I'm not sure what I should have done in this situation. Any thoughts? Thank you.

Who is Radiohead?

DEAR WHO: Radiohead is an English band that first became famous (in this country) in the 1990s.

But that's not really your question.

You and your husband have a fairly extreme generational difference, and so cultural references will differ. I assume that when you and he get together with your friends, there may be references to Schubert or Gilbert and Sullivan or Arlo Guthrie that make him think, "Huh?" When old friends become wrapped up in a somewhat exclusive conversation (whether it is about music or architecture or trout fishing), the answer for you is not to try to change the subject -- or retreat to your computer -- but to engage with them in a lively fashion by prompting them in a way that might be more entertaining and inclusive. For instance, if you had asked them, "So -- what's the first concert you remember going to?" this might have prompted fun stories from each of them.

If you don't feel included (or interested), you should politely bring them brandy and biscotti and generously enjoy their exuberance as they catch up.

DEAR AMY: Your answer to "Wondering Friend" was way off. Disagreeing about the gay lifestyle does not make a person un-Christian.

Upset

DEAR UPSET: Many people contacted me to express that point of view. But rejecting homosexuality is more fundamentalist (any faith) than Christian -- in my amateur opinion. It certainly doesn't reflect the Christian faith I practice.

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