Should I share my marital frustrations and problems with my parents and siblings? We've always been a very tight-knit family, and there are few people I trust more. Our marriage isn't in crisis, but there are times when I need some support or simply want to vent. Is that okay?
Only if the sharing, the venting, and the "support" they garner for you are likely to produce positive results in your marriage. That's the short answer to your question.
But how do you determine this? Is there any way to know whether the results are going to be positive or not? That's what the longer answer is all about. It's all a matter of discretion and wise discernment.
The first step is to gauge the emotional stability and psychological health of your parents and siblings. Are they really the kind of people you can trust with your secret marital frustrations? You seem to think so, apparently basing your assessment on the fact that you've "always been a very tight-knit family." We'd like to suggest that this merits a closer look. "Tight-knit" can mean a number of things, not all of which can be described as "healthy" or "functional."
For example, "tight-knit" could imply that the members of your clan are clingy, controlling, co-dependent, disrespectful of personal boundaries, and always butting into each other's business. It might further suggest that your parents don't understand what it means for married children to "leave" the nest and "cleave" to one another as an independent husband-and-wife unit. If that's the case, then you probably don't want to give them a window into what's happening between you and your spouse. Remember, God has designed your marriage to be an exclusive relationship. If you want to preserve its integrity and promote its health, you have to take measures to protect it from outside meddling.
If, on the other hand, you believe that your family members have the capacity to listen compassionately to what you have to say, and if you're convinced that their only motive in doing so would be to offer you good, solid, objective, and disinterested advice, it might be worth your while to open your heart to them. Every couple needs a strong support system – a group of people they can turn to in times of trouble. Ideally, we all want extended family to part of that network. The problem is that family members are often too emotionally involved, too biased, and too invested to maintain a helpful and objective point of view. You alone are in a position to determine where your parents and siblings fall along that spectrum.
Should you decide that it would be helpful to share some of your "issues" with your family, the next step is to give a lot of careful thought to the question of how to go about it. We'd suggest that the best plan is to maintain a certain degree of distance and decorum. Pure "venting" is not a good idea. For example, instead of launching into a litany of complaints about your wife, you might ask your parents how you can be a better, stronger husband. Instead of saying, "She has no respect for my opinions and refuses to submit to my authority," you could pose the question, "How can I learn to be a more effective leader for my wife?" That's one way to address your concerns directly without attacking and betraying your spouse.
On the whole, we wouldn't recommend making a habit of this kind of thing. Sharing your marital frustrations with other family members should be the rare exception, not the rule. Generally speaking, you and your wife should keep your conflicts and disagreements between yourselves. If you find yourself needing a third party to help you work things out, we'd urge you to seek out a same-sex individual who can maintain a purely detached and disinterested perspective – a pastor, for instance, or a qualified marriage counselor, or a trusted friend or church elder. This is the best way to preserve safety and trust at the heart of your marriage.
Call us. Focus on the Family has a staff of trained family therapists available to speak with you over the phone for a free consultation. They can also refer you to reputable and qualified marriage counselors working in your area.
Boundaries in Marriage
Communication and Conflict