Keep your relationship yours

Tired of having family and friends weigh in on your relationship? Here’s how to keep relationship issues between you and your partner.

Having someone to talk to outside of your relationship often helps us put things in perspective. Yet when family and friends start actively interfering in your relationship, it's time to put on the brakes. 

Getting advice
"Women process their emotions verbally," says relationship counsellor Mary Ovenstone. Therefore we need to talk to someone to deal with our emotions. As a result we often turn to family and friends to discuss issues or frustrations we're experiencing with our partners.

Men, on the other hand, sometimes need someone to help them fix things and solve problems with their partners and they rarely process emotions verbally. "However, men may look for comfort and support from their parents, as they may feel the need for someone to side with them," says Ovenstone.

Relationship rings
Ovenstone says that "relationships have rings around them". In the centre lies the couple and around them, in different circles, lie their confidantes and friends. "The bond the couple shares is privileged," says Ovenstone. "They share sacred information that can only be shared with one another."

The circle closest to the you and your partner are your confidantes, the one or two friends or family members you can talk to about anything, Ovenstone continues. "We need someone outside of our relationships who we feel we can confide in," she says. There needs to be a strong base of trust and understanding between you and your confidantes. "They are not allowed to share any private information you reveal about your relationship and they also shouldn't side with you." Their job is to be a neutral sounding board. If your confidante is not a family member, it's preferable that they be of the same gender as you to avoid jealousy and relationship complications.

The next circle is made up of mutual friends of the couple. "You and your partner need to agree on what you'll tell them so you both know where you stand."

Surrounding them are casual friends who you are less close to and choose not to confide in.

Interfering family
Parents naturally want to relieve perceived suffering of their children, says Ovenstone. "Their identities may also be tied up in fixing things, especially in their children's lives."

Regardless of their reasoning, if your family or that of your partner constantly interferes in your relationship or offers unsolicited advice, it's time to take action. "The person whose family or parent it is needs to to have a conversation with them," says Ovenstone. "So if your in-laws interfere, it's your husband's duty to step in and create boundaries with them." The same applies to you and your family.

Ultimately, it is up to a couple to agree on the boundaries they place around their relationship.