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Ask a Latter-day Saint Therapist: My relative gossips about my spouse

Editor's Note: The views, information, or opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author. Readers should consider each unique situation. This content is not meant to be a substitute for individual, professional advice.

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Q: A family member is trying to come in between me and my husband. This person talks behind my husband’s back to me about him, complaining about him, trying to get me to see him in a negative light the way she does. 

Now, I always tell my husband everything, no secrets. I was taught by the gospel that my spouse is my companion and we share things 100 percent. He’s a good man. I am afraid of confronting this person about it because they have some heavy mental/emotional issues going on and it might break them down. What things can I do?

A: Thank you for reaching out with this. It’s hard being caught in the middle of drama between your spouse and the extended family. You certainly didn’t ask for this, yet here you are. Overall, you’re right to prioritize your relationship with your husband over that with anyone else (except the Lord). It seems like this family member just wants to be heard and finds you to be a good listener, but there definitely could be an ulterior motive of manipulation and attempted collusion.

I’m not sure that there’s anything in the gospel that says you must share every single piece of information with your spouse. It’s one thing to keep a secret, conceal information, or lie. That’s not okay. It’s another to decide that something is not your place to say. The truth is, if this family member has issues with your husband, they ought to be express those things to him, not to you. And you can tell them so.

If I were in your shoes, I would say something like “I can tell you’re upset, and I’m grateful that you trust me with what you’re feeling. I need you to know that, as much as I love you, my first commitment is to my husband. I don’t like keeping things from him, so while I do want you to confide in me, I can’t keep secrets from him. Honestly, if you’re concerned about him, talk to him. He’ll listen. He’ll try to understand and make changes if he needs to.”

If this person would feel better if you were there for that conversation, or that a therapist be present to help them navigate the conflict, then encourage and facilitate that. If they’d rather avoid voicing their feelings to your husband, then encourage them to speak to a counselor or priesthood leader to maintain their confidences instead of venting to you.

Persons with heavy mental and emotional issues need support, but they also need boundaries. Their world feels unstable, and boundaries help them know where the lines are. Otherwise, they may appeal on your compassion to get you to compromise your boundaries in order to meet their desires, which is neither helpful to them, nor Christlike on your part.

God bless you. I hope this helps.


Jonwe

Jonathan Decker, LMFT, Contributor

Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical director of Your Family Expert. He offers online relationship courses to people anywhere, as well as face-to-face and online therapy to persons in several states. Jonathan has presented at Brigham Young University Education Week and at regional conferences in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. He is married with five children. Contact him here and join his Facebook group for daily gospel-based relationship tips. 

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