When you feel alone or frustrated in your relationship it’s natural to want to feel heard, seen, and connected. Talking about your partner to your friends or family might meet those immediate needs, but it isn’t helpful to the relationship. If you often find yourself venting to others about your partner, you may want to consider the long-term effects of this gossip and try a more positive approach.
Why We Gossip (and Why We Shouldn’t)
It can be hard to resist the need to overshare with your friends or close family members. Communicating is a part of human nature, and it’s a way to create bonds with one another. Communication at it’s best looks like asking questions, being curious, and learning about others. Conversely, bad-mouthing your partner, speculating on their motives, or sharing how they’ve hurt you can cause a lot more pain down the road. The immediate relief you get in the moment of sharing isn’t worth it, and it becomes a slippery slope into negativity.
There are two important reasons you should avoid gossiping about your spouse, especially if you want to strengthen your relationship. The first is that gossiping doesn’t move you forward. When you rest in and share all the negative stories of what’s happening in your relationship, you keep yourself stuck there. No, you may not be able to change your partner, but you can change your part… and gossiping only contributes to the negative feelings and your victim mindset in the relationship.
The second reason that you shouldn’t gossip about your partner to your friends or family is that they most likely have a greater emotional tie to you than your spouse. They want the best for you, and if you bad-mouth your partner to them, they’ll start to see your partner in a negative light. This can create awkward moments down the road, thanks to something called “triangulation.”
Triangulation is a common tactic we use in relationships of all sorts to manage conflict or tension. When there is a problem between two people, a third person (or group) is pulled in to create an alignment. This then creates tension between the third party and the opposing party (in this case your spouse or partner). If you have any intention of bettering your relationship, involving others close to you and your spouse isn’t in your best interest. They can’t ever see the whole picture and will be biased in their advice.
Do This Instead of Talking About Your Partner
Before you head to your friends or family with your relationship issues, think about your intention first. If you are seeking support or just need someone to listen, consider talking with a professional counselor, therapist, or coach. They will be the closest thing you can get to a neutral party and can offer unbiased support. They can also help you to reflect and grow past any negative patterns you might be falling into with your partner.
Another alternative to gossiping about your partner is to reflect on the situation on your own. Choose to learn what you can by asking yourself better questions. Consider what you can expand in yourself; do you need to have clearer boundaries, better self-care, or be more direct? You will learn so much more by keeping yourself open, rather than staying protected behind a wall of blame and disempowerment.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself and journal on. I even give you permission to share these questions with your friends or family to help you break the gossip habit. If you bring up issues about your partner with them, have them reflect some of these questions to you:
What am I (you) responsible for?
What’s the big picture?
What are my (your) choices?
What is the other person feeling?
What works or what is useful?
What can I (you) learn?
What is the other person needing?
It’s normal to turn to those closest to you when your needs aren’t being met in your relationship. They are safe, supportive, and want what’s best for you, but they shouldn’t have a role in your romantic relationships. Instead of gossiping with them about your partner’s shortcomings (which is keeping you stuck in negativity), consider what you want. If the answer is a better relationship, seek guidance from a professional and/or commit to looking inward at what you can do to shift things in the direction of what you desire.