Every spouse in every marriage will, at some point, want to talk to others about some private marital struggles. Many just want someone to listen, or to understand the hurt, anger or confusion they are going through. Susan and I have had our moments of venting to friends in our 28 years of marriage.
But sharing things carelessly, to the wrong person at the wrong time, can change a problem into a full-blown crisis. Before baring marital problems to others, there are nine things below you might consider.
Several of these are variations on a well-written blog by author John Piper. A couple years ago, he responded on his blog to this question from an upset husband who discovered his wife had shared some private struggles in their marriage with some friends and asked, “Should My Spouse Talk to Others About Our Marriage Struggles?”
So, here are the 9 questions to ask yourself before you reveal your marital problems to others:
1. Is our marriage in real crisis?
It can be hard to tell the difference between a genuine crisis and a minor struggle, especially in the early years of marriage. Being sure a struggle is serious before putting it out there to others is important.
2. Is someone in danger because of this problem?
If something illegal is putting you or others in harm’s way, get serious help fast. When someone is a danger to themselves or others, the problem goes beyond mere politeness.
3. Have we tried – earnestly and adequately – to work this out, privately, first?
Going to others about your struggles can be premature if you haven’t even tried to work through it yourselves, first. One of the benefits of marital challenges is the strength that comes from solving problems together.
4. If I talk to someone else about our problems, will I be treating my spouse the way I want them to treat me?
It’s the simplicity of the Golden Rule put into effect. Just ask yourself if the shoe were on the other foot, would you appreciate your spouse sharing that about you to others?
5. Is my motive one of honor and respect, or something more sinister?
Intention is not an automatically acceptable excuse for sharing private details of your marriage carelessly with others. But it’s an important check in your heart. It’s not only what you share, it’s HOW you share the details with others that show honor and respect for your spouse (or not).
6. Am I open to get critical feedback I might need to hear, or just looking for someone to affirm me?
People who always agree with you or won’t challenge you when you’re wrong will not be helpful. They can actually hurt your marriage in the long run. Beware of the “yes” people in your life.
7. Have I asked my spouse’s permission to share our struggle with someone else?
This can be tricky, but it’s a fair and important question to ask yourself. If you are reluctant to ask your spouse for permission, you should be just as reluctant to share the problem with others.
8. Is the person I want to share this with trustworthy, the type of voice I should listen to?
Not everyone is worthy of your confidence or worth speaking into your life. Not everyone has your best interests at heart. Not everyone knows how to keep things confidential. Consider this question very carefully.
9. Do we really need professional help?
It could be that you don’t need a friend, a parent, or a co-worker to hear you out. Check out this post to see some signs that point to the need for professional marriage counseling.
Running through questions can save your heart, and your marriage, from a lot of unnecessary pain. Anything you share with someone may end up being shared with everyone. Every day, people are betrayed on social media and water cooler conversations from people they thought they could trust. Don’t give your spouse reasons to feel that way about you, too. Remember, you’re on the same team.
What other questions do you need to ask yourself before talking to others about your marriage? Share your thoughts below.