If You Don’t Have Something Nice to Say (about your partner…) Don’t Say Anything At All

A picture of what you ate for breakfast. A rant about the annoying guy who cut you off on the highway. A heartfelt plea for understanding as you go through a difficult time.

People today share a lot more with their loved ones than in years past – and often with their extended network and even the world-at-large, too.

Some of this sharing is innocuous. Harmless. Little slice-of-life anecdotes that could have come from anybody.

But some of it is not. It goes deeper. Means more.

And when you involve others in your disclosures – particularly disclosures about your partner – it can open a whole can of worms.

Even something seemingly innocuous can feel embarrassing. Like a violation of trust.

Private moments and feelings between two people are supposed to be just that – private. So, when one partner shares them without the permission of the other, it typically hurts.

Now imagine that it’s not just a private moment or feeling being shared, but a complaint. One member of a couple criticizing the other to the public. To their friends.

Think that feeling of being violated is magnified? You’re darn right it is!

But why?


When two people decide to become romantic partners – whether that means marriage or simply staying together over the long-term – it comes with certain commitments. Certain promises to each other.

Some of these may be literal. They might be things that are actually voiced. Or written down. Or however you create your relationship “contract.”

But they don’t have to be. In many, many cases, they are unspoken. They’re just things that are understood.

What is the promise of committing to another person?


Life is tough. There are all kinds of things that will try to tear you down.

Partnering with someone is agreeing to hold them up when they need your help – and vice versa.

It’s knowing that you’re going to see each other at your worst and taking that as a challenge to keep each other going and raise each other up.


We choose to be with someone because there is something about them that we admire – and feel that they have a similar admiration for us.

The promise both people unconsciously make when they stay together is that they will continue to not only have, but also show this admiration for each other.


Sometimes this means keeping your partner safe from others or the outside world in general.

Other times it might involve recognizing the things they do that can potentially cause them harm and battling against them.


You’re in this together. That means, when you move forward, you do it as a couple.

It also means that you fight for each other’s success. And when either of you achieves it – in whatever capacity – you revel in it. Or at least allow each other to enjoy it.


Everyone changes over time. It’s natural. It’s human.

Well, just as partners advance together, they must also change together.

This doesn’t mean that they have to change in exactly the same ways. It does, however, mean that they should make an active effort to find ways to share in their growth rather than holding each other back or going their separate ways.

In other words, you agree to always have your partner’s back. It’s the two of you against the world. Or if not necessarily “against” it, at least in league to work your way through it together.

To do this, each of you will have to open up to the other. To become vulnerable. To trust. There will need to be things that you only share with partner. And they with you.

Sharing these confidences with others outside your partnership – whether that means your mom, your coworkers, or your Facebook “friends” – crosses a dangerous line. One that you might not be able to step back over.

It’s a betrayal. And one of the worst versions of this type of betrayal is when you vent about your partner to others. Because you are essentially allowing others into the sanctity of your relationship bond. You’re inviting them into a space that was previously only occupied by you and your significant other.

Without their permission and presence, this type of behavior can be incredibly destructive.

How so?


If you and your partner are fighting over something or otherwise dealing with a frustrating relationship issue, the idea of sharing what you’re going through with another person can be really enticing.

Maybe you just want to vent. Or you think that an outside, unbiased opinion might bring some perspective. That just talking about it could help.

But here’s the problem. When you talk about relationship problems without your partner as a present, active participant, all you’re really doing is offering your point of view on the situation.

This may seem fairly harmless. But in actuality, it serves to reinforce your viewpoint – your correctness – while devaluing that of your significant other.

You’ll see all the ways that they are “wrong” and form a blind spot where your own accountability is concerned. Which will end up making you feel worse about your relationship.

Beyond this, you will be causing everyone you confide in to form a negative opinion of your partner – even if that isn’t your intention. They won’t be able to help from siding with you against your significant other because all they ever hear is your side of the story.

Over time, these types of relationships eat away at the emotional intimacy you share with your spouse. Because they become a sort of secret alliance where you collude to talk about all the things you don’t like about your partner.

Put that way, it sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? Imagine how you’d feel if you learned your significant other was having these types of conversations about you.

So, don’t do it. Establish boundaries to protect your relationship and learn to talk to each other in relationship coaching. You can also find  helpful tips on how to keep your partnership strong over the long term in the book I co-authored with Norene Gonsiewski, Rock Solid Relationships.

It is possible to have a great relationship, but you need to know how to achieve it.

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