By Amanda Singer
I was talking with some of my friends recently at a rare kid’s free brunch to catch up on what was happening with us and our lives. As it inevitably does, our spouses came up, and I found us seemingly skirting around some of the issues that were going on with our spouses and in our marriages. It made me realize that I know I have a strong support system of women both near and far to talk to and lean on for support that I can always turn to for anything I need. However, I have often found myself holding back on how much I talk about my husband and the issues that are going on in my marriage. I see this come up in multiple friend groups that I have, so I know it’s not just certain friends that don’t talk about it, so it got me thinking, why don’t we talk about our marriages with our friends? And what can we do to change that dynamic?
Nobody’s marriage is perfect.
First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that nobody’s marriage is perfect, and those that may look “perfect” to you on the outside are often far from that. Now, as a divorce mediator, I see and hear everything that goes on and has gone on in someone’s marriage and understand that there’s far more going on than what initially meets the eye. We must remember that we never know what goes on behind closed doors, and often we never will. However, when we think that we’re the only ones whose spouse doesn’t help as much around the house or makes us feel guilty when we want to spend time with our friends, then we keep those concerns to ourselves because we don’t want our friends to judge us. If no one in your friend circle is discussing the issues they have in their marriage, then you’re unlikely to want to discuss what’s going on at home and be seen as the only one who’s having issues in their marriage. But we must remind ourselves that no one’s marriage is perfect, and everyone has something going on.
Being vulnerable is hard.
One of my friends has recently been going through a challenging time with her husband, and I was so proud of her when she reached out to our group of friends to share with us what had been going on and what he had done to contribute to that. I know that it must have been extremely difficult for her to be vulnerable with us and share what was going on instead of sugar-coating it for herself and us. It’s hard to be vulnerable because when we do that, we put ourselves out there to a host of reactions, and we don’t know exactly how that will go. While everyone hopes their friends will open their arms with unwavering love and support, that’s not what always happens when we’re vulnerable. It can be not easy sometimes for our friends to be supportive if they disagree with our choices or especially when they want to protect you and disagree with what your spouse has done. This often leaves us feeling shameful for what we’re going through.
Now I know that my friends are intelligent women who won’t necessarily do this, but I also know that they care about me and my wellbeing first and foremost, which can sometimes leave them blind to how they may react. Additionally, I know that one of my concerns about sharing issues I’m having with my husband is that my friends will judge him and hold the things against him that I share. I want to be able to discuss the issues with my friends, but if I choose to do something different than what they would do, I want to be able to feel like I’m not being judged for my choices or told that I shouldn’t let him get away with that. I want their support, and often it’s hard for friends to be 100% supportive without judgment if they don’t agree or like what your spouse has done.
How do we change the dynamic?
I found that the best way to change this dynamic was to start talking and sharing the things I might usually keep to myself. Certainly, there are some things about my marriage that I will never share with anyone outside of my husband, and that’s ok, but it’s also alright to share what’s happening, the good and the bad. They’re there to support me, and I must remember that just because I tell my friends something that I’m not happy with my husband doesn’t mean they are judging me, him, or our relationship. When one person took the first step of sharing and being vulnerable, it seemed to give the rest of us permission to do the same. And while I still find it hard to be vulnerable about what’s happening, I made more of a concise effort to talk about my spouse and what we were struggling with. I found that when I opened up, a few things happened. First, my friends were completely supportive of me and what I was going through, and I realized that they were struggling with some of the issues we were discussing. I no longer felt alone or like we were the only ones. It normalized it for me and made it seem less scary to get through. Secondly, I got the talk out with people I trust, and when I wanted advice, I had other women to give it to me, and when I didn’t want advice, I knew I still had their support in whatever I chose to do. Lastly, I found that the more I was open and honest about what was going on with me, the more they responded similarly.
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