A portion of my practice involves counseling romantic relationships. Some counseling sessions focus on the front end as couples come to me to see if they are a good fit for a lifetime of marital bliss. Others come toward the back end, sometimes too late, to discuss what is going wrong in their relationship. Oftentimes, one of the spouses, usually the male, will complain that his wife/girlfriend is talking about him and his perceived failings, with other people. He does not like this biased perception of his failings to be discussed with others. Less often it is the male partner that is the blabber mouth. In most all cases this is not a good idea.
Isabelle Bank had a short article in Psychology Today entitled “Love and tell”. In it she listed the most commonly shared topics by percentage. They are: growing apart (67.5%), not being able to talk together (66.3%), not getting enough attention (63%), a partner’s personal habits (58.8%), possibility of divorce (57.9%), infidelity (50.8%), in-law or relative problems (46.6%), household responsibilities (41.1%), sexual problems (37.7%), emotional abuse (31.5%), physical violence (27%).
Based on her survey Ms. Bank said that these confidantes were primarily friends, followed by siblings, coworkers, and other family members in that order. In my clinical opinion none of these should be called upon to hear the one-sided presentation of relationship woes. Perhaps there is room for one exception in some cases. That person is the heralded “BFF” – best friend forever. In most cases the BFF is the confidante of another female. She may have earned that designation based on being loyal, trustworthy, a good listener, objective and non judgmental. Rare, but occasional.
Usually confidantes offer too much advice, usually poor, turn it around and focus on themselves, or speak too critically about the partner being discussed. Plus, once this confidante gets the “dirt” on the offender, she will look at him in a different light – and sometimes the damage is irreparable for future connection. Another factor of too open sharing is the resulting gossip. Relationship problems are some of the juiciest fodder for gossip.
Respected Reader, should you be in this situation where your relationship is not doing well and you want to share it with someone – someone who can make a difference – visit with a seasoned Marriage and Family Therapist one time. At such a session you can vent with vengeance, or hurt, and gain some insight as to a possible game plan to remedy the dysfunction present. Professional empathy, analysis, and advice going forward can be a rewarding outcome from a single session. It is a better choice that prattling with a girlfriend, or a buddy!
“The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates