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Originally posted at AlexMichaudCounseling.com

I heard a song come on the other day and was immediately captured by the lyrics. They perfectly captured an opinion I have long been aware I hold and will often talk to couples and individuals about in counseling — how our friends and family factor into our romantic relationships. The song immediately reminded of a couple I used to know who were going through a tough spot in their relationship. There were a lot of dissatisfactions, a lot of resentments that had built due to a lack of communication over the early years of their marriage.

Like many people do, the wife turned to her friends and family as support. She told them about the problems and listened to their supportive feedback when they replied. She told them about his shortcomings and they absorbed that information — growing frustrated on her behalf. The husband, too, shared with his friends and family their problems and his wife’s shortcomings and they, too, were supportive of him. The rallied around his cause for being frustrated and chimed in with solidarity when he had complaints.

And then, the couple talked. They shared their needs and concerns with one another; they shared their frustrations and fears about their relationship. After all of this communicating (you’ll start picking up on a theme here in a minute) they were fine. In fact, their relationship was infinitely better than they could’ve imagined it would be and have been excellent ever since.

Sounds like an incredible ending to the story. If I stopped here, you’d think the moral of the story was to have supportive friends. Truthfully, I think you should make sure you have supportive friends but that’s not actually the point of the story.

You see, the friends and family didn’t get to have those restorative conversations. They didn’t get to feel the resolve of communicating their needs and then have that met with a supportive partner. They were just left with the information that the husband and wife told them. And some of those things aren’t forgotten very easily — conversations about physical shortcomings, emotional shortcomings, and past private events.

When your friends are the frontline of your emotional battlefield, there is a ton of extra fallout — things you might not even be able to foresee. What happens when you are out socially a month later and are openly affectionate after you’ve told your friends that your partner is “so clingy”? What happens when your friends invite you out and you can’t go because you have prior engagements but you’ve told your friends that your partner won’t let you do anything with your friends? What happens when you’ve told your friends that you think your partner was having an affair (and they weren’t); when they’re spending late evenings at the office, what will they think?

I cannot begin to stress the importance of good communication with your partner BEFORE letting everything fly to the general public. There are some cats that just can’t be put back into the bag. Sure, our friends can feign maturity — and some will be able to accomplish that — but there is a significant chance that will be difficult. I implore you to take a pause, approach your partner about these issues first, and then lean on your friends for support when you have a more clear mindedness about your troubles.

If you don’t feel like you’re able to communicate successfully on your own, well, that’s what marriage counseling is for.

Until next time,

-A