Question

If I share with my husband something my daughter says to me, he drops hints to her in his next conversation with her that he knows what she told me. I share these things with him because we are a couple, we are her parents, and I feel he should know what is going on with his daughter. I’ve asked him time and time again not to do this! I don’t want my daughter thinking that I tell everybody everything that she tells me. He seems to get a great deal of pleasure letting somebody know that he knows something about them that they did not tell him. This puts me in a bad light, and I’m afraid my daughter will quit telling me anything about what is going on with her.

I keep everything she tells me private from everybody else. I feel I should be able to talk to my husband about anything going on in our family knowing that he will not divulge our conversation–especially to the person it concerns and something that person said specifically to me, not him! I tell him something and I have to say over and over again to him not to let our daughter, grandson, or granddaughter know that I told him. He keeps doing this. I’m embarrassed, and the other family member is embarrassed! I feel betrayed over and over again. Shouldn’t a husband and wife be able to tell each other anything and know it will be kept private just between the two of them? By the way, he does not share a lot of things with me that I feel that he should. For example, giving money to our children. I have to pull information out of him.

I have not given him any reason to be this way with me. I do so long for an intimate, close relationship with my husband. It’s more like a business relationship than a marriage. What’s wrong? Why would a man behave this way with a woman whom he professes to love?

Answer

 Your husband doesn’t know how to build close relationships and is using the information you’ve giving him as a way to create closeness with his family members. Instead of doing what it takes to build trust so family members will open up to him on their own, he’s bypassing that process by borrowing the trust you’ve developed to get close to them. It’s unhealthy and an underdeveloped way of trying to relate to others. I doubt he has any idea he’s doing this, as individuals with poor relational skills also lack personal insight into their own behaviors.

He needs to be in charge of developing his own relationships with his family members, including his own children. Of course you want to have a united relationship where both of you share freely about your experiences with your children. However, if you look closely at the patterns, my guess is that you’re always the one sharing information about your children. Does he ever bring you information about your children so you can both counsel together on their behalf? Is he spending time observing and connecting with them to understand their needs so you can approach them in a united way?

The ideal you describe of having two parents who openly discuss their children’s needs is based on the reality of both parents creating safe conditions for their children. The fact that your daughter is telling you things in confidence with the expectation that you not share them with anyone else, including her own father, should be a signal to you that he’s not earned that trust with her. Just because he’s her father doesn’t give him a right to have access to her private thoughts and feelings. His access to that information is something she gets to control.

You have done nothing wrong by talking with your husband about your children’s concerns. It should be automatically assumed that both parents could discuss anything concerning a child. Your husband’s inability to handle this parental privilege in an appropriate way isn’t a betrayal of your trust.

However, now that your husband is misusing this information and creating additional tension, you might reconsider how much you share with him. Your husband has to learn how to build the kind of relationships where people want to open up to him. You can’t do that for him. You can’t singlehandedly create the dream of a unified couple when he’s not doing the work to build trust with his family members.

Recognize that you’re not keeping secrets from your husband. You are respecting the privacy and boundaries of loved ones. He’s fully capable of building the kind of relationships that would allow him access to this same information. Your children and grandchildren are fortunate to have you as a safe person to share their deepest feelings. Protect their information and your bridge of trust you’ve worked hard to build. Hopefully your husband will want to earn the same trust and make changes in his life to become a safe person for his loved ones.

Finally, I think it’s important that your children learn that even though you and your husband don’t always get it right as parents, they can always confide in Heavenly Father and pour out their hearts to Him. While it still matters for you and your husband to constantly strive to be safe individuals, your children can learn, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell so eloquently taught, that “submission to [God] is the only form of submission that is completely safe.”[i] When a parent makes mistakes, children might believe they can’t trust anyone, including God. Working to build relationships with family members is vital, but it doesn’t replace their need to develop that connection with their Father in Heaven.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

 About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

 

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Website: www.lovingmarriage.com

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[i] https://www.lds.org/ensign/2000/08/insights-from-my-life?lang=eng