Why I stopped talking to my friends so much about my relationship
I love my friends. And, I am very lucky to have some very supportive ones at that. However, I also love my partner, my ‘boyfriend’ for want of a better word but we have had a roller-coaster ride of a relationship, in a way. My friends, bless their hearts have been there for me whenever my relationship has taken a slight detour and I am so thankful to them for that. They have been the ones I have turned to when things have gone pear shaped. They have listened to me cry and been such wonderful shoulders to lean on when I needed them, and for that I am so very grateful.
But. Love is not only a many splendid thing it is also a rather complex one. And relationships, well, complicated is just par for the course there. Is it not? I dare anyone to argue the contrary. Ask anyone who has been in a long term relationship about it and I am sure they will tell you that it was not been one long, happy every after. Real relationships hit snags here and there, and real relationships challenge you and are challenging by virtue of their very nature. It’s how you meet those challenges which both define you personally and your relationship.
Recently my relationship hit a bit of a rough patch, but we have come through it surprisingly unscathed. And I attribute the trajectory of our ascent in part, and the increasing smoothness of the journey onward and upward to my ceasing to run to my friends and report back every little bump, or conversely even small gain made, on the way. Notably, the less I blabbed, the less I had to blab about. It struck me that this was perhaps, not just a coincidence.
A bit of history. In a sense, in the beginning our relationship had felt like it was not our own. Perhaps this is normally the case when two close friends, who are part of a larger circle of friends and acquaintances become romantically engaged. This has never happened to me before, so I guess I was not aware of the dynamics involved in such a scenario. In retrospect, it seemed like our blossoming relationship was as much the property of our friends, as much as it was our own.
But, that is ‘ancient history’ now, as they say. However, I found that our relationship carried the legacy of its shaky beginning for a long time. And for a long time the ghosts of that unstable period would haunt me and continued to cause fissures to form that ever threatened to become impassable canyons if it weren’t for the love that continued, somehow, to grow and thrive in what now seemed like such a hostile environment.
Fast forward two years and we have been through quite a lot and I must say, our relationship has strengthened and deepened I think, because of it. There were times, I admit, when our differences seemed insurmountable and so for a while we would separate and walk alone. These were the times when I turned to my friends for comfort, and support. But soon enough, we found ourselves back on the same road, side by side, and eventually holding hands again.
But after our last wobbly patch, I decided to do things a little differently. Instead of informing my friends of our progress, of every kind word, deed from him or otherwise, I decided to just keep things to myself. I had to examine my motives, and when I did, I did not trust them. Why did I feel the need to report back to my friends? What did I hope or expect to gain from doing so? Did I do so out of habit, or just some childish need for instant emotional gratification and validation in the form of well meaning friends sympathizing or expressing happiness for me as the case may be.
Having done a fair bit of ‘soul searching’ during our last rocky patch, I came to realize the part I had played in the journey that is our relationship not going as smoothly (or progressing as quickly) as I had liked. I had come to realize the fault, if fault is to be lain anywhere, was as much mine as it was his or anyone else’s. For my part, I had allowed others’ opinions and viewpoints to inform my own thoughts and emotions to a degree. I had allowed my own insecurities to reign, unchecked at times, and had turned to others instead of turning to the one person I should be sharing my thoughts and feelings with, the object of those thoughts and emotions himself. I allowed myself to be consumed by what soon became a cacophony of voices, past and present, internal and external, so much so that I could no longer hear my own voice or intuition. (And I guess, although I wouldn’t admit it out loud, I was perhaps engaging in a little bit of futurizing…. I will post an explanation of this term presently.)
Yes, friends can be supportive and caring, but friends can also become judgmental and critical, often without meaning to. They say they are seeing things objectively, things that you cannot see because you are ‘emotionally involved’ but by very virtue of their involvement with you, this objectivity they claim is impossible. Don’t just take my word for it, counsellors come across this perplexing phenomena all the time, as this marriage therapist has noticed, Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that one should keep their cards firmly to one’s chest at all times when involved in a relationship but perhaps, this writer is also onto something.
The premise of the above article is that while men tend to share their emotions too little, women on the other hand sometimes share too much. Both have their disadvantages. Men tend to keep their emotions so closely contained that they often don’t know what they feel or even how to begin talking about it. Women, as I have personally experienced, can be guilty of over sharing with their girlfriends and family and the result can be equally problematic if for different reasons. Yes, it is can feel nice and cathartic to ‘get things off your chest’ and everyone needs to just ‘vent’ once in a while, but is it just possible that venting to your friends about your relationship is just a way of avoiding real intimacy with your partner, or an easy way out. You know you really need to discuss things with him (or her) but isn’t it just easier to just pick up the phone and offload to one of your girlfriends?
The trouble with this bandaid solution is while it is a temporary fix for your ‘problems’ allowing you to let off much needed steam, it can put you off from discussing, or broaching the subject that’s troubling you with your partner directly. So, while you might ‘feel better’ you really haven’t resolved anything at all, because the only people really involved in your relationship is you and your partner. Not your family or friends, no matter how much they may care about you.
Your friends and family are not therapists, so if you truly feel the need to vent, do it to someone who is trained to listen with empathy and without judgement and the closest to objectivity that you can find, please do see a therapist. Give your poor friends a break!
There are other issues that may come into play when talking of friends and relationships. Ideals such as ‘bros before hos’ or ‘sisters before misters’ can sometimes be raised and used as value judgements, emotional manipulation or criticisms. Jealousy may sometimes come into play, or simply some friends that have grown close when the two are single may experience a shift in dynamic when one finds a partner and this may cause the friend to feel left out. These are all complicated issues, probably cause for another post altogether, but suffice to say there is often a lot more going on than you realize when you confide in the people you know.
The main point of this post is that while friends are wonderful and we all need someone to talk to, and that is very much a good thing, sometimes however it is worth remembering that a romantic relationship (generally speaking) usually involves just two people. And yes, sometimes, there is such a thing as over sharing.
Boy, this post turned out to be quite a lot longer than I intended but for those of you who would like to read further, this is another good article I came across: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2215867/Dont-share-marital-woes-friends–talk-divorce–tips-saving-marriage-relationship-counsellor-Andrew-G-Marshall.html