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Why You Should Avoid Discussing Marital Arguments With Others
How Do You Present Your Marriage and Your Spouse?
First, I have to say that I'm not a counselor, I don't have a degree in psychology or anything related to it. However, I do have a tendency to observe others in relationships. I then try to emulate what seems to work well and make sense and analyze what doesn't seem as effective. I've lived quite a while now, have had many married friends and family over the years, and have even been with my husband for over 10 years as well. I have had plenty of chances to observe a number of behaviors and experienced the results of a few of my own. What I'm going to talk about is based solely on that; my observations, experiences, and thoughts.
I had dinner with a group of friends recently. One particular woman in the group is someone I have known for at least eight years. In those eight years, I've heard her refer to her husband, beyond just a passing mention, perhaps five or six times. At least four of those discussions were a diatribe about a disagreement they were having. Although I understand the frustration and heightened emotion around some marital disagreements, and the desire to vent those feelings, I am baffled as to why someone would present their marriage or their spouse in this way. To me, it seems destructive and unfair.
I'm not suggesting that a spouse should be secretive. In fact in some instances, such as abuse, information is best shared. But, in a typical marriage, oversharing could perhaps be very destructive.
I'll be the first to say that there may be times when sharing information about a marital disagreement can help you to work through issues. A counselor is probably the most appropriate place for this, but I suppose if you have a very good friend who is not judgemental, keeps opinions to themselves, and perhaps has little contact with your spouse, then perhaps it's ok to use them as a sounding board. If they help you think through an issue or simply smile and nod, fine.
What I often witness, however, is an escalation. Now I don't know how it plays out at home; perhaps once a spouse has purged their tortured soul in front of others, they are able to go back, and talk more coherently with their spouse.
However, my most recent experience is more typical I think. Once the offending spouse is eviscerated in front of friends or family, then everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Soon, the absent party has been officially declared wrong by the majority vote. I'm always concerned that the original complaint has been inflated, by the angry mob.
While this is occurring, I also recognize that the people around the table don't exactly represent a fair and balanced view of things. These are the friends and family of one party in this mess. They know and love you. They have accepted your shortcomings and quirks. Unfortunately, their main view of your spouse is what you present to them.
Sometime in the coming days, you will likely work through the issue with your spouse. But there isn't usually much of an update to those involved in the tribunal conducted days before. The other individuals are left with a slanted view of your spouse. One that doesn't include your spouse's change of heart, a compromise proposed, a realization on your part that you had been overreacting, or a really sweet apology. No, your spouse's reputation has been damaged permanently in many cases.
Short Term Gain, Long Term Loss?
I do recognize the short-term payoff in sharing some details about arguments with your spouse. As I said before, you simply feel better when you get it off your chest, it's rewarding to have others who love you provide support at a stressful time, and so forth. However, what are the long-term consequences?
In my eyes, you just betrayed your best friend. It's kind of like dragging their skeletons out of the closet and displaying them for others to see. In families and tight-knit groups of friends, it can be viral. You just spread vitriolic gossip that won't die. Those family and friends will often view your spouse in a negative light forevermore. Is that really what you want? For all of the important people in your life to dislike your spouse? In some instances, I would think this could put you in a difficult spot. You've put friction between the various relationships that are most meaningful to you.
Your friends or family may become quick to judge your spouse. If your spouse is aware of your choice to air your grievances with them, they are left alone, perhaps avoiding their accusers, the other important people in your life. My guess is the long-term consequences aren't really worth the short term gratification.
Trust and Friendship
If you look at those same people with whom you're spewing those frustrations, would they be as devoted to you if they knew you were describing them in the same manner that you're describing your spouse right now? Probably not. People who stay lifelong friends aren't the ones that you gossip about in front of others. Why wouldn't the same be true of a spouse?
Most would agree that trust is an important part of a marital relationship. To me, you've violated the trust with your spouse by basically sabotaging them while they weren't present. If this incident is discovered, wouldn't their trust in you be shaken?
How Many People Are in This Marriage Anyway?
When I have an argument with my spouse, I want to discuss it with my spouse. Last I checked we were the only two people in the marriage. No one else's opinion matters. We need to do our own negotiating and come to our own conclusions. Furthermore, what other people say they would do, and what they would really do in our situation is often two different things. Therefore, I stick with my own instincts and what the two of us decide.
If there is a need for a negotiator, then I'd see a counselor. If I just want to hear about other people's situations to see if they have information that will help based on their successful marriage, then I'll have a general discussion about the topic but not lay out the blow by blow.
Personally, I think that couples merely need to think carefully about what or how they choose to share the disagreements that they have. A basic discussion with a trusted friend about how they split expenses can be useful, but a scathing editorial about your spouse's ideas and actions don't fall into the same category. Betrayal is harder to get by than most simple domestic disagreements about who empties the trash, whether you buy the 2 door or the 4 door car, and so forth.
Talking About It Can Help You Process
On the other hand, keeping a reoccurring argument pent up inside of you probably isn't good. In my mind, you would be best off writing about it (in a journal, in a letter or an email to your spouse even if you don't send it, etc.) or in telling a very neutral third party. A counselor, for instance, would be neutral and could also help you think through the issue.
Perhaps you know someone who doesn't know your spouse and most likely never will. At a minimum perhaps this fictional person never offers advice but just listens.
In determining where best to vent these feelings it's important to consider your purpose, your end goal in talking about it, and the long-term consequences of doing so with a given individual.
Do You Share Your Marital Disagreements?
Related Books of Interest
I've read a lot of advice books. This one however, seems to really nail what's going on when there is trouble in a relationship. It's easy to see the cascading effect of some of the things people tend to do. It provides easy to understand activities to develop the skills you need to stop some of the destructive behaviors.
© 2009 Christine Mulberry