Sunday, July 28, 2013

Don't Share Your Marital Problems

When troubles arise in her relationship a young woman will naturally want to share it with her best girlfriends. Wasn’t that the point of Sex and the City and Girls?

At the first sign of troubles with her boyfriend, her husband or her inamorato, she will hie to the nearest coffee shop and, over a long brunch, confide in her friends.

Nothing quite like some commiseration to go with the Eggs Benedict. Some people even believe that the process is therapeutic.

But, now Yahoo Shine! offers some thoughtful analysis of the question and arrives at a strikingly different conclusion: think before you share. I applaud the fact that more and more therapists are discovering the virtue of discretion.

Columnist Charlotte Latvaia offers several reasons why sharing might well be a bad idea. Her argument is cogent and persuasive; it is a welcome counterweight to the therapy culture imperative to overshare.

Here, in summary form, are some of the most important parts of the analysis.

Why shouldn’t you share?

First, because once you put information into circulation you have no control over it.  You might think that Cindy Lou is your best friend and that she would never, ever betray a confidence, but the more you tell her, the more likely it is that she is going to let something slip to someone.

Occasionally, she will feel that the information you have told her is so alarming, so clearly a form of abuse, that she must tell everyone about it.

Second, sharing intimate details of a relationship with your friends is, as one therapist astutely notes, betraying a trust. It is also disloyal.

Since the glue that holds a relationship together is a mix of trust and loyalty you are not doing your relationship any favors by failing to manifest these virtues.

When you speak ill of your spouse to other people, you are submitting him to public humiliation. It may or may not ever get back to him, but you will know that you have done it, and you will know that you are less than trustworthy.

Even if he never finds out, your behavior toward him will likely change. Naturally, you will be thinking that if you could do it, he could do it too. Thus, you will confide less in him, share less with him… and  create more distance between the two of you.

Third, what might have been a manageable minor difficulty within a relationship will become a major problem when your spouse feels that other people are watching what goes on in the privacy of your home.

Latvaia quotes Jessie:

"Once, I impulsively complained to my sister-in-law about my husband's inability to show affection," says Jessie, who lives in Cincinnati. "She relayed the conversation to him, and he was horribly upset. It took us ages to get over it."

I promise you that Jessie’s sister-in-law repeated what she had heard because she was trying to be helpful. Remember the old line about good intentions ….

Fourth, your friends are not objective. They will be on your side. They will take the opportunity to demonstrate your loyalty. They will sympathize with you. They will shower you with empathy. Since they only know your side of the story they will cause you to become more convinced that you were right and that he was wrong.

Since marriage is based on negotiation, such moral support will make you feel less inclined to compromise or conciliate. Drama will inevitably follow.

Fifth, even if your friends are the soul of discretion, when you speak ill of your spouse, they will behave differently toward him. They might shun him; they might avoid him; they might look askance at him.

He will feel the difference but will not know what is causing it. Thus, he will take grievous and justifiable offense. At that point, a minor spat will have become a defining moment in your relationship.


Dennis said...

If one is talking about their husband/wife, behind their back does it not follow that they are talking about you behind your back? If one cannot honor one of the greatest commitments one has entered into then one cannot be trusted to honor such commitments that are of lesser concern.
Honor, respect and responsibility define one and denote "trust." As we denigrate these characteristics we increase our failure to solve the great issues of our time. There is a distinct possibility that if one cannot honor and respect their marriages then one will not honor and respect any other relationship.
Life is pretty simple if one removes a lot of the justifications we utilize to cover our lack of honor, respect and taking responsibility for our actions. A society that ignores the importance of these characteristics is a dying society.
There is a reason why marriages are under attack. If one can undermine that institution then one has undermined the underpinning of that society. A society that disrespects itself is destined to fail.
As I have stated before this is all part of the same problem that we define by different names. I invite people to take the time to select the words that make a family, village, city, state or country what it is. What do all of these institutions require to function efficiently and effectively and provide the best possible foundation for success of it members?

Dennis said...

Further: What do individual families, villages, towns, cities, states, countries et al ideally have in common? They are no more than extended families. Destroy the individual family and one destroys the extended family.

Sam L. said...

"The notion that the United States can jump into any situation and improve it is a false one. We have proven in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan, that the nation does not have the stamina to see complex entanglements through to a productive conclusion. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we do not have the patience to persist in situations in which leadership cannot prove a compelling national interest."

I think not, Dennis. I do not see that it follows, though it may.

Mariam said...
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Mariam said...
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Adele said...
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Adele said...
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