If You Want Your Relationship To Last, Keep Your Problems PRIVATE

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If You Want To Keep Your Relationship, Keep Your Problems Private

To look at my catalog of published essays about relationships, I sound a lot like one of those smarmy, self-proclaimed “love experts” whose entire brand depends on how idyllic their personal romances appear publicly. My apologies.

To be blunt, those types of writers have always both grossed me out and made me skeptical. Even still, at least once a week, I’m sending my editor yet another article about what makes my husband great, and I sense my own hypocrisy at inadvertently perpetuating my own façade of a “perfect” marriage. Yikes.

Look, of course we have relationship problems just like everyone else. In our time together, we’ve been to couples therapy and have been on the brink of entirely calling it quits once or twice. We’ve overcome incredible odds to make it to this point in our relationship where things are genuinely better than I honestly thought possible, but we still have issues that we’re working on and I’m cool with that.

If no one person is perfect, it’s ridiculous to ever hope for two of them together to be.

However, one of the things that saved us from complete destruction during our weakest eras was that we never talked about our relationship problems publicly. He and I both had an exclusive personal confidante that we called on for moral support and/or for workshopping our individual feelings but for the most part, we kept our problems between ourselves, hashing out our issues one-on-one.

I grew up watching the adults around me complain to each other (and often to their children) about their partners and their relationship problems without actively making any real changes within the marriages. It took me awhile, but it finally dawned on me as I moved into my own adult relationships that this is not only incredibly disrespectful as hell, but it’s setting both parties up for failure. Once you’ve opened the door to let everyone into your personal issues, the opinions of everyone around you then also heavily factor in what should be a one-on-one dynamic.

Let’s say, for example, that I had told everyone in my life the intimate details of the most terrible arguments my husband and I have had. Even if I was calling on those people for advice in the moment, they aren’t going to be around for the time afterward that we spend intensively working to make the situation better. However, now they feel as though they have a say in our relationship based on the opinion they formed when we were at our worst.

Also, let’s be real: When I’m hurting, I have a tendency to only focus on the missteps my partner made in any given situation, so when I’m venting my frustrations to a friend, I’m hardly going to fess up to the mistakes I made. Plus, the role of friends (and sometimes family) is to take my side no matter what; that hardly seems like a fair fight should they then choose jump in to give their two cents’ worth at any point going forward.  

I’ll admit that it took me longer into my marriage than it should’ve to decide to limit my venting and/or advice-seeking to one paid professional therapist as an objective third party and one close friend. It took a couple years to realize I needed to start managing our inevitable stresses differently.

However, I have never once shared our relationship problems in any of my writing work or on social media, and for this, I am overwhelmingly grateful. I thoroughly believe it has helped my relationship immeasurably.

Alright, I’m always super-suspect when people talk too much about their significant other on social media to begin with. Occasional celebrations or shows of appreciation are one thing, but those couples who work overtime to show off how HAPPY! and #BLESSED they are, seem like they’re trying very, very hard to convince everyone — even themselves, perhaps. I’ve said for years now that the more you post about how much you adore your partner, the less I’m going to believe you. The more time I spend on social media, the more I stand behind that statement.

But there is nothing more ridiculous than watching couples go through the stages of relationship turmoil via "vaguebook" posts, constantly-changing relationship status updates or having full-on meltdowns via social media.

It’s embarrassing for everyone involved and is only made worse when the couple decides to reconcile after forcing everyone in their social circle to awkwardly stand by and watch them self-destruct in public. I genuinely don’t understand how, more than a decade into this whole social media experiment, we’re still watching adults strip themselves of all remaining dignity and use their news feeds as a means to lash out at the person they claim to love more than anyone.

Look, I don’t believe in being completely fake in any facet of our lives, and in the past, I have shared personal struggles online because I’ve experienced the benefits in sharing our stories with each other.

However, there’s a difference in announcing a breakup to your social media followers and attempting to get everyone on your friends list involved with your ongoing drama. I understand asking for your support unit to rally around you during times of struggle is often necessary for dealing with grief, but that’s what Girls Night Out is for... or group texts if you live far away from your besties like I do.

No matter what, there’s nothing my husband could do to me or our marriage that would be improved by my broadcasting our marital issues to the cousins, grade school crushes, and old college professors who follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even my personal blog. Even if my relationship is too broken to fix, divulging our personal issues won’t take my pain away, it won’t help me move forward, and it certainly won’t make me look like an awesome person who anyone would regret losing.

In fact, when I’m writing professionally about love lessons I learned from personal experience, I also keep my problems with my ex-lovers vague and anonymous for the same reason. Just because I pull from my own memory for writing material doesn’t mean I’m still hurt about any of my past romantic interactions anymore, and even if I was, I’m not here to ruin anyone’s life.

I fully realize the people I dated in my younger years are probably very different than the versions of themselves who are currently out there living lives detached from mine all these years later. No need to drag their names through the mud just to prove a point, even if I never plan to speak to any of them again.

Obviously, I have a couple exceptions to my rule about relationship privacy. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is threatening or hurting you, by all means reach out to your friends and family for help getting the hell out of there by any means necessary, although it should be said that screaming about abuse on a public platform is not an effective way to get out of the situation and is not recommended by anyone involved with domestic violence rescue. 

In an age when we all have a public persona, it’s even more important to keep a close guard on what parts of our lives we expose to our varied audiences, no matter the size. 

If you’re in a relationship you actually want to keep or improve, your best bet is putting on your grown-up pants and solving it through open, mature communication between the two of you (and a counselor at most). Your romances are between those directly in the relationship; inviting anyone else into your business is the first step to weakening your bond.  

So, fine, all the posts and articles I make regarding my love life are positive, and perhaps that is creating a false impression of a flawless reality on my part. However, the irony is that in keeping our private moments to ourselves — both good and bad — we actually are happier behind closed doors, in the real world, where it counts. Being considered fake is a microscopic price to pay to maintain this sort of sanctuary — I highly recommend it.