When you’re in a relationship, it’s normal to want to keep your friends and family in the loop about what’s happening with your partner. This person is a big part of your life, after all.
But how do you strike a balance between being open with the people you care about, while not disrespecting your partner and the relationship at the same time?
It’s a fine line, and one that differs person to person, relationship to relationship. We’re not here to make sweeping generalizations about which topics absolutely should or shouldn’t be discussed with others. (The exception would be a partner’s abusive behavior, which you should absolutely disclose to a trusted friend, relative or mental health professional.)
But it might be worth pausing to consider the consequences of sharing sensitive information with your friends and family without your partner’s consent. That’s why we asked relationship experts to weigh in on the details you should think twice before divulging, and why. Here’s what they had to say:
The Pitfalls Of Oversharing
“Once details of your relationship see the light of day among your family or friends, that information can’t be put back in the bottle,” Portland, Oregon-based relationship coach Jonathan Robert told HuffPost.
You could be breaking your partner’s trust
Unless you’ve received your partner’s permission, it’s best not to assume they would comfortable with others knowing private information about them.
“What you may think is a cute or funny story about your partner’s life could be very embarrassing for them if you share it with others,” said Samantha Rodman, a psychologist in Rockville, Maryland.
It could make your friends biased against your partner
It’s common to vent to close friends about some of the ups and downs in your relationship. Maybe you just want to get something off your chest or, perhaps, you’re seeking another point of view on a certain issue. Just know that ― even though you and your partner may be able to patch things up ― your friends may still harbor negative feelings toward them long after.
“When the conflict is resolved and you’re wanting your people to support your relationship, you could find that they’re still angry and biased against them,”
said Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California.
Your family and friends might get sick of hearing about it
“If you overshare constantly, your friends and family may become irritated,” Rodman said. “They may be feigning interest when, in reality, you are dominating the conversation with details that nobody needs or wants to know.”
Details Your Friends Don’t Need To Know
Unless your partner gave you the OK, exercise caution before disclosing the details below to your circle of friends.
In certain cases, you may thoughtfully decide to open up to one or two of your closest confidantes about some of these topics. But that’s a lot different than blabbing to a bunch of friends over brunch or talking about it with anyone who will listen.
1. Specifics about your sex life
What happens behind bedroom doors should stay between you and your partner. Talking about your partner’s kinks or sharing commentary about their sexual performance could be breaking confidence.
“Without consent, discussing the specifics of your sex life should be a no-no,” Howes said. “This information is so personal and potentially loaded with shame that it’s best kept between you, your partner and potentially a therapist.”
2. Your partner’s financial info
Your friends really don’t need to know precise numbers when it comes to your partner’s salary, a bad investment they made or the amount of student loan debt they’re trying to pay off.
“With consent from your partner, you may be able to speak in generalities — like, ‘We’re having financial trouble,’ as opposed to dollar-amount specifics,” Howes said.
Same goes if your significant other is fired or laid off from their job: “Your partner should control who they feel should hear that information,” Robert said.
3. Your partner’s history of trauma
You may be tempted to tell your friends and family about abuse or other trauma your partner has endured, perhaps to help them better understand your s.o.’s behavior or because you’re looking for an outlet to talk about it. But remember: This is a very sensitive subject and revealing this information could be a violation of your partner’s trust.
“Your partner’s trauma stories are not yours to share,” Robert said. “This can be difficult because those trauma stories also have a burden on you. Perhaps they have a troubled past or childhood that weighs on you. Find a suitable person to discuss these details with, such as a therapist or coach.”
4. The status of your partner’s physical or mental health
Your s.o.’s health struggles, whether they’re about infertility, depression or anything else, are nothing to be ashamed of. That said, it’s ultimately their choice, not yours, whether to share those details with others and when.
“This is private information and unless your partner is open about these things, you owe it to them to keep these things confidential,” Rodman said.
5. Certain relationship problems or infidelities can be a gray area
At your discretion, you may choose to talk through some relationship struggles with a few people in your inner circle. But is it fodder for the entire group chat? Probably not.
“These instances should be carefully discussed with only those you trust most,” Robert said. “Seeking professional advice or help is often key to coming out the other side.”
If The Relationship Is Abusive, Confide In A Trusted Loved One
When any type of abuse or toxic behavior is exhibited in the relationship, opening up to friends or family may be difficult but could be vital to your physical safety and emotional wellbeing.
“If you’re being abused, if your kids are being abused, or if your relationship is causing you considerable mental or emotional distress, please share these details with someone else, preferably a mental health professional,” Howes said.
While physical abuse is more obvious, emotional abuse can be difficult to detect. The tactics emotional abusers use can distort your perception of events and their behavior. For example, they may blame you for things that aren’t your fault until you start believing they are, they may attempt to isolate you from your friends and family and they may criticize and belittle you to the point where you doubt your worthiness.
Talking to a loved one may provide you with some much-needed clarity. Plus, this person can assist you in getting help that will allow you to safely leave the relationship.
How To Talk About Your Relationship Without Hurting Your Partner
It really comes down to having some honest conversations with your partner in which you talk specifically about which elements of their life they’re OK with you sharing and with whom.
“The idea that you’d like support outside the relationship is very normal and healthy,” Howes said. “If your partner forbids you from speaking about any part of your relationship with others, this is a red flag. You should be able to talk about some things, and having this discussion to clarify what and with whom will go a long way.”
And when problems in the relationship do arise, you can usually find tactful ways to talk with others about what’s going on without getting into specifics that might betray your partner’s trust.
“Talk about how you are feeling, not about your partner’s actions or details,” Robert said. “For example, if your partner just got a large pay cut, talk to family about the pressures of your financial burden instead of blaming or outing your partner’s loss of income.”
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.
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