Have you ever walked over a frozen pond and realized just how thin the ice was? I have. You quickly understand that you need to step… very… carefully.
It’s the same when considering telling your friends and family about your marital problems. One wrong step can mean an icy plunge. It’s slippery, and it’s dangerous.
So should you or shouldn’t you? I wish I could tell you a definite “yes” or “no,” but it’s a complicated question. It depends on several things.
Before you unload your marital issues on someone, you need to ask yourself some essential questions:
1. What is your ultimate goal?
There are good reasons and not so good reasons to disclose the problems happening in your marriage to someone. Are you…
Seeking someone to tell you how you’re contributing to the problem?
Looking for advice from an older, wiser married person who’s been through it?
Looking for someone to point you toward a good marriage counselor?
These can be good reasons. Make sure you are talking to someone you can trust.
Just needing to vent and blow off steam?
Looking for someone to agree that you are right and your spouse is wrong?
Looking for permission to keep doing what you’ve been doing in your marriage?
These usually aren’t great reasons. It can be counterproductive and hurt your spouse.
2. Who do you want to tell, and why?
Good listeners know there are three sides to a story: your side, your spouse’s side, and what’s really going on. You don’t need a cheerleader. You need someone willing to listen carefully and be willing to call you out for the part you play.
On the other side of the coin, talking to someone who is naturally going to take your side, like your mother or best friend, isn’t going to help your situation. You’re just making enemies for your spouse. Think about that.
Even worse, let’s say you just want to vent your dirty marriage laundry, and you choose, say, your mother. When the rant is over, you might feel better and move on. But guess who isn’t moving on? That’s right: Mom. This is going to make the next family gathering very awkward.
Consider talking to someone distant enough to be neutral and objective—and who will call you out when necessary and remind you of your core values and goals.
3. What are the possible outcomes that could come from telling someone?
Sure, you might feel better if you vent. But at what price? Will your friend or family member see your spouse in a positive or negative light?
If you tell someone, will the news about your marital problems spread among the family or the friend circle? Could your spouse end up feeling hurt from this? Would you say the same things about your marriage or your spouse if they were standing with you?
4. Are you having a conversation with someone that you should have with your spouse?
Often, we have conversations with other people that we haven’t even had with our spouse. If you haven’t engaged with your spouse to work toward solutions and growth, it’s unfair to do your marriage work with someone else. Do your relationship work with your spouse.
It’s one thing to seek out encouragement and accountability. We need people in our lives who help us recalibrate and refocus. It’s definitely wise to learn from marriage veterans. Be discerning about what you share about your marriage and with whom.
Complaining to people about your spouse or running them down is always out of line.
I know you want to do what’s healthy for your marriage. You want to work through the problems. Give yourself 48 hours to gain a sense of calm and honestly answer the above questions for yourself before you make a decision to tell friends or family about your marital problems. Walk across the thin ice toward your spouse. Honor them with your words no matter who you are talking to. Rule of Thumb: If it’s not constructive, it’s probably destructive.
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***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
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