Do you remember when you were in high school and you’d tell your girlfriends everything? Nothing was off limits—she’d tell you about her boyfriend, then you’d share back and the two of you would compare notes. There were no secrets, or boundaries, but often there’d be judgements passed, rumors started and of course loads of giggles.
I know that guys talk too but it’s the way young women share so openly about their relationships that I want to look at. Often the chatter is emotionally charged and while cathartic, it can also be damaging as there’s little thought given to the possible outcomes that such conversations may have.
There are many women who still run to their girlfriends to discuss their husbands or boyfriends on a regular basis. Often there’s no filter and knowing when to temper the topic of private issues is lost over cocktails and the airing of dirty laundry. The problem with this strategy is that your friend doesn’t have the same investment into your relationship and will always take your side. That may seem like a good thing in the short term but doesn’t bode well when she begins to belittle your partner on her own. So, whether seeking advice, venting or just whining, be aware that there could be consequences.
Here’s an example. A young friend of mine shared this story with me. I’ll called her Jane. She was very upset as she’d had a serious fight with her boyfriend. It was their first big blow out and Jane was confused, feeling betrayed and on the verge of an emotional melt down. Though well into her thirties, her first instinct was to call her best friend—just like in high school. They met at a restaurant and Jane spilled every dirty little detail of the fight. The friend at first gave sympathy then quickly became angry and protective. Fueled by alcohol, she started bad mouthing the boyfriend and making plans for Jane to end the relationship. It got to the point where Jane felt she needed to defend her boyfriend, the relationship and her decision to stay. What had started out as Jane seeking the support of a friend, turned into an uncomfortable discussion with opposing views, stakes, and understanding.
After the emotions settled, Jane regretted disclosing so many intimate details and didn’t know what to do. She feared ongoing backlash and judgement from her friend for something she and her partner worked through together. She was over the fight, but was the friend? Even after talking with her, Jane was concerned the friend would act stand-offish around him, treat him differently, or even make snarky remarks or innuendo. In the end the friend did comment to the now fiancé about the incident and that changed the friendship forever. Jane backed off and closed ranks around her partner who she felt was being attacked unfairly. It was a hard lesson learned.
In this scenario, the friend came out on the losing end of the stick. There was never any doubt that Jane would chose her fiancé over the friend and admits that some things should’ve been held closer to the chest. She’s now found a neutral person that she can trust and confide in and seek guidance if necessary. If you’re someone’s person—your job is to just listen and support—not comment, judge or suggest. Listen and support.
If you feel compelled to rant on about your man’s annoying habits, traits or appearance then you best sit down and take a look at yourself. As you evolve in life and relationships, things need to change and mature. It’s not high school anymore. Instead of talking so much you need to listen to the others and perhaps you’ll see what I’m saying. And, let me make it perfectly clear—I’m not referring to violence—physical or verbal. Those secrets kill and need to be told.
Originally published by Black Press October 26, 2018