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How much should you tell? — 12 Comments

  1. Dear Sue,
    I have to “approve” all comments on this blog and sometimes I don't get to it for a couple of days. My principles are that any comment that is purely about topics on this website are ok. Anything off topic or that contains advertising is blocked. You question seemed right on topic so I posted the final version. Sorry for the trouble.
    Al

  2. i have typed several forms of the same question a couple of times and it does not look like it is posting…hopefully it's going somewhere! thanks, sue

  3. This issue of what to share and what not to share continues to puzzle me. In my attempts to understand, and based on expereinces where the truth was withheld from me in my relationship, I come to some tentative conclusions.
    For example, I know my partner/lover has his own musing, thoughts, fantasies…and in terms of sharing, I do not fee like I need or want my partner to share every personal musing he entertains…wether it would upset me or not. But especailly those that might feel a bit upsetting based on content…I think unless it's important or it's something he plans to take action on, then…why share?
    I am wondering what you think of this or if this came up when you and your wife discussed this issues of sharing. I suspect a truly happy/healthy couple could share all…but still, is it sometimes just prudent to keep certain things to yourself?
    For example, perhaps a particularly attractive waitress served by partner at lunch and he entertained sexual thoughts about her during the rest of the afternoon as he finished up work. When he gets home, he is still somewhat caught up in work mode along w/ these rather distracting thoughts/images he has been entertaining about this waitress. I notice his lack of presence and innocently ask what's on his mind, expecting that he will share a work problem or something of that nature with me. If instead he shares with me his afternoon fantasies about this waitress, who means nothing to him in his real life, who he does not know and has no plans of ever seeing again…then I think I would rather he keep those private afternoon thoughts to himself, and tell me about his work day. I know he has these thoughts about other women…but do I really need or want to hear about them? Sharing that with me, I think, would give the shared information about this woman a pantena of importance that it probably, hopefully, does not warrant, if it's just a fantasy or fleeting thoughts.
    I'm wondering what your wife thought of these kinds of 'sharings'? I know from some statistics that men have these thoughs quite often and not just about their wives…knowing that is enough. I don't feel that I necessariliy need to be let in on the details…unless….
    On the other hand, after the above scenario, my partner finds himself feeling compelled to go back to this restaurant to see this waitress such that he is even entertaining not just the fantasy of her, but finds he is drawn to making a real connection with this woman…then I would absolutely want him to share that with me so we can perhaps together avoid what may end up being an emotional or physcial affair that could be very damaging to our relationship. Bascially…I would like a relationship where before any step is made that will significantly affect our relationship and my own life, that we can talk and share and figure out was is going on and what is needed together. In this scenario, hopefully by talking, we will together put this fantasy into context and he will not feel compelled to act. If however, he's still wanting to be with someone else or is compelled to act, then maybe that means we are ending our committed relationship, but at least I am being given notice that my situation has now changed such that I have knowledge about information that affects my life and I am then able to make fully informed choices for myself based on that information.
    And finally, if he chose to actually engage in an emotional or physcial affair w/ this waitress behind my back keeping it a secret for months, and I only find out about it much later, long after he has taken action steps (not just thoughts)…then yes, the secret was horribly damaging and I would feel very betrayed. It would be hard to ever trust him again. Being told he kept the affair from me to keep from huring me or to protect me, would cause even further anger…because in my opinion, by keeping me in the dark, I was not protected at all, indeed…by being left in the dark he left me unprotected and fully exposed to any number of possible negative impacts his affair may bring to my life. I was also robbed of the ability to take steps to protect myself, because I was kept in the dark.
    So the 'sharing' ends up being sort of a timing/importance issue with me. But I am curious about your input based on these three scenarios? Specifically….
    1) isn't it fine for couples to have their own private, ultimately un-important, thoughts without always sharing it? or do you think certain kinds of thoughts should always be shared?
    2) any thoughts that are heading toward an action step that would directly affect the other partner…to me, would be a clear signal that it is now important information and should be shared
    3) sharing, but only sharing after action has been taken, isn't really sharing…it feels more like a bomb being exploded without any warning and with no protection at all.
    Would appreciate your input and expertise!
    Thank you, Sue

  4. Good question, Stacey, And I may not have covered this anywhere in my papers.
    There are three principles involved, I think. 1) your health, 2) your partner's capacity ro learn and witess, 3) avoiding building secrecy between you two.
    1) For your health's sake you probably need to express the emotions around the issues you are talking about. I did. However, as a kid I was roundly discouraged from such healthy behavior – even told that such a healthy behavior was un-healthy. Wow, were my parents poorly trained in emotional expression and the clash between my normal strongly emotional body and their “parenting” was sad.
    I think all of us need to learn how to appropriately express our emotions a) to lead us toward health and b) to promote empathic relating in society by not threatening each other.
    Finding a “teacher” who will support you learning to express your emotions safely may be a challenge. A “good counselor” should be a help. Seek people who celebrate emotions as part of life. (I spent 10 years in Orgone Therapy to help me.)
    2) Your partner may be more or less trained at emotional expression. Could be your partner is scared of emotions. Thus he (I'm assuming) will eventually need some re-education about emotions. You may be the person he's brought into his life to open up this training program – i.e. to have a good relationship with you he has to learn. But you may not be the best teacher for him.
    But learning takes time and doesn't proceed well when people are panicked. And so the principle I have learned is that people do not have to witness your emotional expression if it scares them. You need to do it. They don't have to be present – at least at first and until they want to. Eventually, witnessing your expression, done safely, may become part of their learning path.
    3) I believe it best for people to reduce, over time, the stuff they hide or withhold from each other. The goal is to share everything – eventually. And to make progress on this. The goal is more and more trust and more and more intimacy.
    So, putting it all together, what does it look like if you have a bunch of emotional stuff to express and such expression scares your partner and if you go away to express it then it may appear like secrecy?
    The solution is to “report” to each other on progress using dialogue. If you get a counselor who helps you express rage or grief, etc., make sure you tell your partner enough about it to make it interesting but not scary. “Hey, hun, I got so mad that I pounded on a pillow for 15 minutes before I got tired. It took that long. I felt so much better afterwards.”
    The goal of all this is to share with each other, in dialogue, everything, while at times taking breaks from each other. This is a bit like one person going to work, a work the other doesn't like, and still coming home and reporting on the work-stuff.
    No surprises.
    Hope this helps.

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