Not everyone agrees with my idea that sharing “everything” can be a bad idea, even if the topic of discussion creates anxiety for your spouse (detailed in this post). In review, I advise couples not to discuss work-related problems at home, advice that encourages you to consider what you share and how you share it.
George Pransky, PhD, recounts an illuminating interview that hits the nail on the head in his book The Relationship Handbook. The couple, Bill and Wendy, married 15 years, have a strong, intimate relationship:
Interviewer: Shouldn’t you be able to talk about anything in your marriage? I assumed a couple with a good marriage could talk about anything.
Bill: We have learned to from experience that we do better not talking about sensitive subjects when we’re upset.
Interviewer: But, isn’t it important in a marriage to be able to discuss sensitive subjects?
Bill: Let me put it this way. I’m an engineer. If you study any blueprint of a building, you can always see weak points in the structure. These points might be more than strong enough to keep the building up but they are definitely the weakest points in the structure, and you wouldn’t want to put extra pressure on them. In fact, you would put as little pressure on them as possible. These points wouldn’t hurt the general structure of the building unless you put undue stress on them. I think talking about sensitive areas when you’re in a low state of mind puts unnecessary stress on the structure of a relationship. If we pile on enough stress, the relationship might collapse even though it’s ninety percent sound.
Interviewer: I understand you don’t tackle issue head on. What I don’t understand is how you expect an issue to resolve itself if you don’t focus on it?
Wendy: When we back off an issue, we put it out of our minds. Somehow it looks different the next time we think about it. (George S. Pransky, PhD, The Relationship Handbook, p. 101)
This interview describes another important consideration: when — if ever — you should discuss a problem. For many couples, job security — and hence, “life” security — is a sensitive subject. Very few of us like to dwell on what would happen if we suddenly found ourselves unemployed. Does this mean we should avoid any uncomfortable issue and just stick our heads in the sand?
Definitely not. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the difference between focusing on problems vs. discussing solutions in the context of when, what, and how — an excellent topic covered in Pransky’s book.
Dr. John Alexander is relationship expert and the author of The Sigma Male: What Women Really Want. To learn more about Sigma Coaching, visit his website, subscribe to his blog, “like” his page on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.