Disclosing Marriage Problems to Outsiders

When marriages undergo difficult times it is normal to want to turn to friends and family for their help and support.  This can be a good thing.  But, it also has the potential to introduce unintended complications.  One thing is certain, you should use discretion and wisdom regarding the information that you share with outsiders as well as the individuals with whom you choose to share.  The purpose of this article is to discuss various factors to consider regarding speaking with outsiders about difficulties in your marriage.

Generally, it is important to maintain a mutual sense of privacy, safety, and security in your marital relationship.  You and your partner should both be able to feel comfortable knowing that interactions and situations which occur within personal moments will remain private.  Herein lies the dilemma.

On one hand, it seems reasonable to expect to open up to close friends or family about struggles you are facing without any objection from one’s spouse.  Marital problems can make a person feel somewhat isolated and alone.  Confiding in a friend can certainly provide a degree of comfort and a sense of support.

On the other hand, many people do, in fact, object to their spouse speaking to others about marriage problems.  For some, it makes them feel awkward or embarrassed that others become aware of negative details of their private life.  For others, the disclosure of such information to an outsider may be perceived as a breach of confidence and a betrayal of trust.  This, obviously, can serve to exasperate existing marital problems.

So what should one do when presented with this dilemma?  There are many things to consider.  Start by trying to understand things from your partner’s perspective.  Is your spouse the kind of person who has a significant need for privacy?  Is he/she fairly sensitive, in general, about what others think?  Or is your spouse the kind of person who is very open with others about personal matters?  Is he/she somewhat ambivalent about the opinions of others in this regard?  What have you and your spouse discussed regarding the role of friends and family and their interaction with your marriage?  Each of you understanding how the other feels about this and related matters is important.

Some may be tempted think that it doesn't matter how their spouse feels in such situations.  They may believe that their own feelings are more important and that their personal needs trump those of their spouse.  However, if you value your marriage and hope to protect and strengthen it then this is a dangerous mentality.  When you are married then you are joined together with your mate and become one.  The relationship with your partner becomes the most important of all human connections.  The priority becomes what is best for the marriage - not what seems best for either individual.

All of this notwithstanding, it is typically somewhat harmless to confide in a trusted friend if you speak in general terms and refrain from breaking confidence with your spouse.  It is not a good idea to go into specifics regarding negative details or to complain about or speak critically about your spouse to others.  Think about it.  Would you want you partner to complain about you or criticize you to others?  Would you want your mistakes, faults, and shortcomings to become public knowledge among your spouse’s friends or family?

It is also is very important to consider who you are considering turning to for support.  Be sure it is a long-time friend, family member or mentor with a history of being confidential and trustworthy.  Also, be sure it is an individual who believes in the sanctity of marriage and upholds biblical principles and lifestyle.  If you are to confide in anyone make sure it’s someone who would never pressure you to betray trust and confidentiality with your spouse or be judgmental of either of you.  It should be someone who will pray for you and encourage you without asking to know the negative details.

It must be noted that it is always appropriate to address difficult issues with a Pastor or Christian counselor.  This is a different situation entirely.  But even this should generally be done with both partners present in the context of marriage counseling.  In such cases, the goal should never be to embarrass or humiliate one another - but to honestly and openly work through issues together to improve the relationship.

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