Dear Barb—Marital Business

Dear Barb:

My wife and I have been together for seven years, married for four them.  I have always got along great with my in-laws.  My wife and her mother are very close and talk daily and that has never been a problem until recently.  We’re having some money problems right now and it’s leading to other problems and we’re arguing a lot.  One day I overheard my wife talking to her mother on the phone and she was telling her about our problems.  I did not think that was right and I mentioned it to Carolyn.  She freaked on me and said it’s none of my business what she talks to her mom about.  I think it is my business if she is talking about me.  I asked her not to tell her mother about our problems and that I would prefer to keep them between us.  She would not agree and is barely talking to me now.  Am I being unreasonable in asking her to keep our marital issues private? Thanks, Matt.

Hi Matt:

I do not think you are being unreasonable in asking your wife to keep your marital issues between you and her.  If she continues to complain about you to her mother, the relationship between you and your mother-in-law will change.  Her view of you will be influenced by what her daughter tells her and even when you guys solve your problems and everything is good between you, her mother will remember all the things that her daughter told her.  You need to be open with your wife and tell her this makes you feel uncomfortable around her mother, knowing that she is aware of intimate details of your marriage.  Also, since her mother-in-law is only hearing one side of the story, her view will be biased.  If your wife doesn’t understand, ask her if she is alright with you telling details of your marital problems to your parents.  This may help her to understand how you feel.  On the other hand, are you being open to communicating with your wife about the problems in the marriage?  If you are not, that may be why she is seeking support outside of the marriage.  Perhaps marital counseling would help you both with opening the lines of communication, as communication is a skill that doesn’t always come naturally; sometimes it has to be learned.  A very good book on the subject is “The 5 Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” by Gary Chapman.  In the book Chapman says that each person has their own way to express love, and if we learn what it is that our mate requires, we can have a more fulfilling intimate relationship.

Thanks for your letter Matt.