Zip Your Lips: How to Protect Your Marriage’s Privacy

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:

  • Vulnerabilities
  • Shortcomings
  • Disagreements
  • 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.

14 Comments

  • Kathy Haviland says:

    I need to talk this over with my husband. This opens up a new dialogue for us. Thank you

  • Atwan Brown says:

    Hello,
    I would say that I have and still am accused of being an over-sharer of personal information. Most information is already known by close friends, but it didn’t help that I have a closer relationship with our friends than my wife. I want to say there are other things lying beneath the surface, but until my wife is comfortable sharing with either me or a counselor, it will go untouched. I am doing better, but it’s hard when you constantly see the person you love isolating themselves from others who want to help and stand alongside them. Like I mentioned, there are other things going on & I pray that we are able to get them addressed much sooner than later.
    Thank you for this read, it was truly an eye opener this morning.

  • Daniel Faust says:

    I also think deprnding what role you are put in your life and with permission it is ok to share some vulnerable to connect to the person at hand. An example would be in counseling or teaching to reflect a point. It needs to edify the audience and makes you spouse look well in front of others. Primarily your info is the information is 100% at your discretion to reveal. Your spouse’s information needs to be protected under lock and key. I am the over-sharing. It helps the over-sharing to give a disclaimer “this is for your ears only”. Kids or adults that tend to be the over-sharer need clear boundaries and regularly established. Our excitement in conversation sometimes forget boundaries and that is why it needs to be established regularly.

    • NAH says:

      My friend used to tell me about details of her and her husband’s relationship, and now I view him in a way that I’m sure they’d rather I didn’t. I started staying out of it, and they seem closer than before.

  • Hilda Adu Gyamfi says:

    Awesome, thanks

  • Mark says:

    Thanks for the article and the community comments which were especially good for me this time.

  • Jay says:

    Lovely. Good caution indeed. What’s your advice to counsellors or teachers in marriage/relationships issues, when is it OK to share and how?? Especially as the need to be real is usually more productive these days

  • Lori says:

    It is uncomfortable for my husband that I talk to my friends about most things. I have always been that way, because I feel I get great feedback from my friends and they are open and honest with me if they feel I have been wrong. It’s good for me to get outside opinions from people who know me the best.

  • Sandi says:

    Very important info. Having been married nearly 34 years I learned early on that I needed to be careful with what I shared with whom. It was a painful lesson but praise The Lord, I did learn.

  • Triss says:

    While I appreciate the desire to keep things private between a couple, some spouses need the support to stay in the relationship.
    I have a friend like this. If Erica didn’t confide in me and pray with me, she likely wouldn’t still be in her marriage. So yes, discretions is needed, but so is support for the one who lives with a spouse who is unwilling to go to counseling or to deal with their issues.

  • ANNA D RENTERIA says:

    I really grateful that my mother taught me not to speak about my husband in a bad way before I was ever married. We have been married 40 years. And
    I have passed along that golden advice to my daughter. We are suppose to be our husbands Helper, his cheerleader, his lover, his confidant and we want our husbands to safely trust in us. Yes, there were many ups and downs along the way. But God was there through it all.

  • Kathryn Esterline says:

    This is so important, considering that it is not the mindset of society to hold the tongue. It’s too easy to share both in person and online. I like the idea of “painting a picture” and am going to set that in my mind. Every word I say about my husband to others (and myself!) paints a picture and I want it to reflect him in a way that glorifies God and eliminates the opportunity for The Accuser to add or detract from it.

  • Meagan Beechy says:

    I’m the more private person, and through a lot of painful moments, my husband has learned to ask me before he shares about my personal life. It really causes distrust and a lot of heartache.

  • this article is so nice and informative. this article can help other for getting rid of the following problems. thanks for sharing this..

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