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Fighting Fair: Venting in Relationhips

By Brianne Lutterman, MA, NCC, LPC-Intern

Supervised by Dr. Allen Novian, PhD, LMFT, LPC-S

Hello, My name is Brianne Lutterman, and I am new to Novian Counseling & Neuroeducation, but I am certainly glad to be here. I wanted to take a look at relationships, and communicating with friends and family about your marriage in a negative way.

While I recognize the benefit that venting to friends has in the moment, the aftermath is not always so great. When you vent to close friends, even ones that have not yet met your spouse, it changes/forms their opinion of that person and can create a bad or uncomfortable atmosphere when that friend comes into contact with your spouse next. If the majority of what you are communicating to your friend about your spouse is “the bad stuff,” that is all they know about them and what they (whether they want to or not) will form their opinions on. This happens even when that friend is a mutual friend. If someone hears enough negative information about their friend, their opinion of them will eventually change. If it’s a person who has never met your spouse, they form an opinion without even meeting your spouse. When they do meet them, automatically the information they know about that person will be recalled. If it is all negative from the hours you spent venting to them the week before, your friend is not likely to get off on the best foot with your spouse.

Another issue that arises with venting to friends is the impact it may have on your friendship. Sure, a friend is supposed to be there for you during “the bad times,” but if you are having a rough time in your marriage, it’s all you can think/talk about, and it’s all you call our friend to talk about, that friendship might suffer. I bet you have heard once or twice a friend say to you, or maybe you have said to a friend, “Why are you with him/her?! You deserve better…” First off, before the conversation even started you had a bad taste in our mouth about your spouse. This confirmation from your friend simply adds fuel to the fire and dumps a load of doubt into your relationship with your spouse. From there it is a snowball effect of questions that play through your mind: “I deserve better?” “Is there better than what I have got?” “Should I leave?” Even if you can escape this type of thinking and make it back to a good place with your spouse, when you come back to your friend to vent for the 82nd time about your spouse, they may become frustrated that you are not taking their advice to simply split. Eventually, whereas before it was just your spouse that they did not have a good opinion of, it now becomes you as well.

You have heard the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” In the cases of venting to your family members about your spouse, your family will almost always side/ sympathize with you because you are family. This, much like the situation with your friends, causes your family members to form negative opinions of your spouse. This, in return, causes tension at family gatherings and awkward moments between spouse and family members. A wedge will soon develop between your spouse and your side of the family-a problem that is commonly seen in marriages.

Venting to your friends and family also has an impact on your spouse, and ultimately your relationship. Your spouse may resent you for speaking ill of them to your family, whom he/she has to see on a regular basis. Mutual friends may be pulled in one direction or the other and your spouse (or you) may lose friends. Eventually, your venting to others may turn your marriage into “his side of the family” vs. “her side of the family” and “his friends” vs. “her friends.”

In my next blog, I will address what to do instead. How, exactly, do you “fight fair?” I will go over what to say to your spouse in the moment when you are angry, how to “de-escalate” yourself and get back to a more calm state where you can effectively talk out the issue, and offer a different way of speaking to each other in general.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, published on 30 November 2012 Stock Photo - image ID: 100122416

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