What NOT To Share With Your Girlfriends
I’ll admit, when Amanda de Cadenet gets Jane Fonda and Gwyneth Paltrow to spill about their lives on The Conversation, I can’t wait to tune in. Sharing intimate feelings, thoughts and pieces of ourselves is an important way for women to bond. It also normalizes whatever might be going on our lives and puts it in a broader context: You also do/feel/think this same exact thing? Maybe I’m not insane, after all!
But as with all things tempting and delicious, whether it’s a donut or a disclosure, there’s a fine line between enjoyable and regrettable. In other words, sharing is nice, but over-sharing can lead to a bad case of TMI. Sometimes what you think of as friendly chit-chat becomes your own little reality show with an audience of one who might want to change the channel but can’t.
As a therapist, I’ll be the first to encourage people not to keep their feelings inside. And I’ll also be the first to encourage people to be authentic with their friends, to open up to them and be open to them as well. Talking about our desires, fears, confusion and even the minutia of the morning’s spilled latte or our kid’s monumental tantrum at naptime makes us healthier both emotionally and physically. Studies show that talking to friends daily even increases our lifespan.
This is true, though, only if both people feel comfortable with the conversation. Here’s the thing about TMI: once it’s out there, you can’t take it back – ever! Many of us have learned this the hard way with an impulsive status update on Facebook (does the world really need to know about your hygiene habits, or lack thereof?). Offline too, TMI sticks like an image that we can’t erase. And while there’s no set “list” of what qualifies as TMI, here are a few general guidelines:
- TMI about sex. As teenagers, we were fascinated by each others’ budding sex lives and had to hear every detail from the first kiss on. Now, the novelty has worn off, we’re past the experimentation phase, and we all get it. Not only does sharing the intimate details of your sex life feel creepy, but it violates the privacy of your partner. If he couldn’t perform or did something embarrassing in bed, do you think your friend could go to dinner with the two of you and not have that on her mind? Would you want your husband to tell his friends about your mortifying moments in bed? I didn’t think so.
- TMI about your friend’s loved ones. Some people think that “sharing unsolicited opinions” is in a friend’s job description. Let me clarify: It’s not. It’s one thing if your friend shares quirks or frustrations about her parents, siblings, spouse, or children, but it’s not okay for you to point out their minor flaws. You don’t have to share every thought you have about the important people in her life, even if you think “it’s for her own good.” That’s not being honest. That’s being insensitive.
- TMI about trauma. These days, we know all about our favorite celebrities’ “issues” and often we think it’s appropriate to share ours openly as well. Of course, I hear about trauma all the time, but the safety of a trained therapist’s office is very different from your friend’s living room. It’s not that your friend won’t be sympathetic; she will. It’s just that with really loaded information, it may be hard for friends to know what to do with it. What you share may feel overwhelming to her. It may bring up old issues in her own life that she doesn’t want to re-open. Or it may become the focus of your friendship in a way that feels uncomfortable for her. We certainly get a lot of emotional support from our friends, but be careful not to treat your friend like a therapist. If you’re going to share something really heavy, think about why you want to reveal this to that particular friend at this particular time, and whether she’s the best person to talk it out with.
The definition of TMI will be different in every friendship, so if you’re unsure which category something falls into, imagine your friend sharing that same information with you. Is your gut reaction an “Eww!” or “Ah!”? If it makes you uneasy, then, well, enough said.
** Tune in to The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet, a Lifetime show which features a refreshing and intimate take on celebrity interviews. Thursdays at 11/10c.