Should You Share Your Marital Problems With Your Friends?
We've all been there. We make this vow to have and to hold through sickness and health and we truly believe we would never forsake the other. How could we imagine our marriages would be anything other than the perfectly crafted weddings which preceded them? And of course being under the influence of free flowing champagne, surrounded by so much love and heady with the sheer newness of it all, we walk into our marriages hoping for and even expecting the fairytale ending. And then like every couple who has ever taken a marital vow- we come up against a stumbling block.
Perhaps up until that point the minor tiffs we had with our spouse were something we kept hidden, finding it unnecessary to divulge to our closest friends what truly goes on behind the closed doors of our marriage. For some couples keeping their most intimate secrets close to the vest works. They believe communicating their needs, trying to work things out, without involving a third party would diffuse the situation. Most of us don't want to bear all the secrets and flaws which infiltrate our marriages. And really who does? However the perpetual stress of a spouse who perhaps physically abuses you, has been unfaithful, or has a chemical dependency - can break a marriage and force you to seek refuge and comfort in the arms of friends.
Yet so many of us who have shared our marital problems with our friends, have also felt the stunning backlash, when, once we felt we'd made amends with our spouse- the friends to whom we confided the darkest secrets of our marriage, felt a sense of betrayal. Our friends felt that by staying in our marriage we are betraying our own sense of self- and their friendship. Ultimately it is a tricky road to navigate. I guess the real question is, is it ever really okay to confide your marital problems and if you do are you prepared to deal with the consequences of your actions. I posed this conundrum to several mental health professionals and women and here’s what they had to say:
Share with your friends, but don’t use them as a crutch
According to Laura George, a business coach for creatives, from personal experience it's incredibly important that you have someone to share your marital problems with or they will continue to fester and foster resentment in your marriage.
However, you do need to be mindful of not using your friends as a crutch for a flailing marriage. If you're very happy in your marriage and things are going well, make sure that when you speak with your friends about your marital issues, you also make a point of mentioning the wonderful things about your marriage so that the problems are not an emotional burden on your friends or a way for you to pawn off the pain. If things aren't going so well in your marriage, don't try to fake the happiness.
Be honest with your friends, but don't dwell on the depressing subject. The deep discussion of this matter is better suited to working with a professional who can truly help you and your spouse get through the rough times. Talking to friends when your marriage is really on the rocks is like a bandaid - you'll feel better temporarily, but you're not treating the problem. And if you have to take the bandaid off, it hurts like hell. Do yourself a favor, stop wasting valuable happy years and see a professional about the problem. One last thing, if your marriage is in a bad place, take some action. Don't become complacent or things will never change and you'll back 10 years later and realize how unhappy you've been the whole time... and what a waste of your life that is.
Share only what you know your husband would be comfortable with
According to Sara Rosenquist, Ph.D., ABPP Clinical Health Psychologist, the rule of thumb is that you should not share anything with your friends you would not want your husband to know you shared with them i.e. nothing you couldn't share with him in the present. So...if he has ED then you could share that with a sex therapist because you could share that with him in front of you and even though it might be embarrassing, it would not be inappropriate in any way. But if he hit you, then you can and should say that to your friend because you should be able to say that in front of him and if it is just fear that is holding you back, then that should tell you something. The purpose of confidentiality is to protect the privacy of the other, not to keep secrets.
Sharing too much can backfire
Every woman should answer that question while also looking at just how broadly she is defining her circle of friends says Monique Honaman, author of "The High Road Has Less Traffic." Of course we need to share with our friends -- our friends are those people we turn to when things aren't going well to look for support, advice or a shoulder to cry on. But, I caution people against sharing too much of the negative / marital problem 'stuff' with too large a group of 'friends' beyond those immediate BFF's who aren't going to use the information you share against you (or your spouse) in the future. The caution is that friends remember all the details you share and assuming you and your husband work through your marital problems, some friends may not want to let you forget that those problems once existed. Or, I've often seen friends who hear about the marital problems, then completely trash and bad-mouth the husband, only to find that a reconciliation occurs and now the friendship is damaged.
A dear friend should only serve as a first line "therapist"
A spouse's big fear is that his wife will share their personal problems with girlfriends, notes Debbie Mandel, M.A.author of Addicted to Stress (Wiley and Sons). And he is not wrong because: Once the problem/conflict is resolved, girlfriends might fuel it further. What you say in confidence could be broadcast - and don't be angry with your girlfriend because you couldn't keep the secret either. Girlfriends come and go in our hearts and private matters could be held against you or your spouse if there is a breakup with a friend. With that said, if you feel complete trust in a dear friend and need perspective or advice, and a dear friend could serve as a first line "therapist," then confide, but withhold some truly private information and keep it in your heart and between the two of you. There is always an objective professional to help you resolve your issues, a self-help book or classes.