It’s a challenge to deal with an “overly-disclosing” spouse. If this sounds familiar, your spouse may mean no harm…yet they regularly manage to tell their friends or family things you’d rather keep private.
We (Leslie and I) struggled with this issue early in our marriage. For Leslie, talking about things I didn’t want repeated outside our marriage was just her way of connecting with her friends. She wasn’t trying to be hurtful…yet, it made me feel sad and violated.
Luckily, there’s a happy ending to our dilemma. Because Leslie didn’t want to be the reason I clammed up and stopped sharing with her, she learned to “put things in the vault” that needed to stay between us. And if you’re in a similar boat, you can have that happy ending, too.
So how do you learn to protect your marriage’s privacy?
Don’t discuss private matters with your friends or family
What’s a private matter? Generally speaking, it’s often a given that things like personal finances, sex, certain boundaries you’ve set, and similar subjects are off the table for casual discussion outside your marriage. And only within specific parameters should they be on the table at all (like if you’re seeking counseling, for example, which is also private between you and your therapist).
Not only could sharing private matters hurt your spouse’s ability to trust you, it might also undermine your spouse in the eyes of friends and family. And while it’s possible to regain your spouse’s trust and confidence over time, it might not be easy for your loved ones to adopt a picture of your spouse other than the one you painted. Even if you haven’t badmouthed your spouse per se, everything you tell contributes to others’ perception of them.
Put the kibosh on over-sharing
There are likely some things that may not be universally recognized as “private”…but maybe there are certain things your spouse doesn’t appreciate you sharing. Depending on your (and your spouse’s) unique preferences, the things you choose to keep private may extend beyond the general don’ts.
One or both of you might feel uncomfortable with the other discussing things like your:
- Closely-held dreams and ambitions
- Opinions of others
- Political or religious beliefs
If you’re not sure what your spouse is or isn’t okay with you discussing, ask them. If you’ve never discussed the details you’d each like to keep private in your marriage, this week would be a great time to sit down together and hash it out.
Let your spouse know how their over-sharing affects you
If your spouse tends to tell others a little too much about you or your marriage, keep in mind that they probably don’t mean any harm. Most likely, they have no idea they’re hurting you. But the fact is that they are, so it’s important to kindly let them know how you feel.
Don’t accuse your spouse or assign malicious intent to their actions. Tell them something like, “I want to be able to trust you and feel comfortable sharing everything with you. But I need to be able to trust that what I tell you in confidence stops with you.
“When you tell our friends private things about me or us, I feel very upset. It makes me feel like my privacy has been violated. I don’t want to be guarded around you, but it’s important to me that you don’t share these things with your friends or your family any more.”
The more open, vulnerable, and non-threatening you are when you talk with your spouse, the more likely they’ll be to bite their tongue next time they’re tempted to say too much.
When it’s okay to talk
Keep in mind that there are some times when speaking up and telling family and friends what’s going on in your marriage is completely appropriate. If your spouse is isolating, controlling, or abusing you, it’s crucial for you to get safe. Keeping harmful secrets and suffering in silence is the last thing you need to do, so find a trusted friend, family member, or therapist to confide in who can give you the help you need.
Share your experiences
Is your spouse an over-sharer? Are you? How do you handle this issue–or have you overcome it? We’d love to read your stories in the comments section.