A catch-up session with the girls can sometimes resemble an episode of Sex and the City, featuring wine and moaning about men. However, sharing every little detail of your love life with friends can be devastating for your relationship.
Thandi Vellem, a Johannesburg-based life coach and neuro-linguistic programming practitioner says women are socialised to talk about their relationships with their friends as a form of bonding.
“I think it’s because of how we’re socialised and wired as women. We’re wired to build relationships and to be nurturing and I believe we think that this nurturing should not have a filter,” she says.
After a messy fight with your partner, a venting session with your friends might be cathartic, which is why friends often confide in each other about the state of their relationships.
In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie noted that when women gather they talk mostly about men and their relationships with them.
“I think men are lovely, but I don’t think that women should relate everything they do to men: did he hurt me, do I forgive him, did he put a ring on my finger? We women are so conditioned to relate everything to men. Put a group of women together and the conversation will eventually be about men,” she said
Vellem says sharing everything about your relationship with friends is both disrespectful and unfair to your partner, particularly because they are not present to tell their side of the story.
“When you are done venting – and you and him are okay – then the perception of him being an asshole has already been created because we never paint people in an objective light; we paint them on the basis of how we are wronged in that moment,” she explains.
Friends who love you want the best for you and will defend you when you’ve been wronged. The negative perception of him that you’ve helped to create will often outlast your anger. This can make for very uncomfortable moments at social gatherings.
“You create a perception of your partner that sometimes can never be erased. And then you expect the very same people to be accepting of that person [when you’ve resolved your issue],” she says.
READ MORE: Setting boundaries in your new relationship
It’s essential to create boundaries between your relationships, as well as emotional filters when you talk about your partner with friends and family, advises Vellem. Even better is making a pact with your partner not to air any dirty laundry outside the relationship and choosing to talk to someone you both trust.
“We need to agree with our partners that if we’re having a conflict which we can’t seem to resolve together, that we’ll turn – together – to someone we both trust,” she says.
An agreement like this creates a sense of trust in the relationship and spares you from having to explain to your friends why you keep going back to someone you’ve painted in a negative light. Your partner will be secure knowing that they’re not being publicly ridiculed and mocked.
An important note:
Vellem emphasises that such rules do not apply if you are in danger. She advises that if your partner is beating you or you are being abused in any way, you should speak up and get help immediately.
Here are five things you should never discuss with your friends, according to the Relationship Rules website:
- Intimate details of your sex life
- Money issues
- Your partner’s personal problems
- Details of fights
- Comparisons between your partner and your ex
Additional source: Relationship Rules