Imagine your spouse disclosing intimate details about you or your marriage to friends, family or even strangers. For example, Kanye West unexpectedly announced that he and his wife, Kim Kardashian, considered aborting their first child when Kim was pregnant. He later apologized for “going public with something that was a private matter.”
Sharing the most intimate details of your life with your spouse is full of risk. They know your mistakes, fears, failures, hopes and dreams. To reach the most profound levels of connection, you have to open up and reveal who you really are, but exposing your deepest longings and secrets requires vulnerability. After seeing the real you, will your spouse still cherish, protect, and unconditionally love and accept you? Trusting that your spouse will stay committed to you — even after knowing the ugly and embarrassing things about you — helps build a secure marriage.
This is why it’s so painful when your spouse violates that sacred trust and shares personal information about you or your marriage.
What could be the impact of sharing such intimate secrets without your spouse’s blessing?
- Your spouse might feel disrespected or violated.
- Communication is damaged. One spouse stops talking about personal things, so there’s no risk of their spouse violating their vulnerability. This keeps couples from “knowing and being known” at a deep level, which is so crucial for intimate connection.
- The trust between spouses is damaged.
- People who hear the information you’ve shared might easily turn against your spouse.
Rebuilding trust: for the spouse who shared intimate details
Take full responsibility and acknowledge the lapse in judgment.
Understand your motives. Ask yourself, What was my purpose in sharing this information? Perhaps you were trying to empathize with someone’s painful story by revealing details about your spouse or marriage, a way of saying, “You’re not alone.” Was it an impulsive lapse of judgment?
It might have been a way of expressing that your marriage is hurting, and you wanted someone to validate your painful situation.
Maybe you’re attracted to the person you shared personal information with and you enjoyed sharing intimate details of your life and marriage with him or her.
Perhaps you just wanted someone to affirm your pain or were seeking honest feedback.
Whatever your motives were, ask yourself, Would this be better shared with a counselor or in marriage therapy?
Consider your spouse’s perspective — how you’ve hurt your spouse. Don’t defend yourself (“You never told me that I couldn’t share this information.”) or minimize the pain (“It’s not that big of a deal; that person will forget what I said in a few days.”). Instead ask “How did this make you feel?” Focus on your spouse’s painful emotions and not on your embarrassment or mistake. Connect with his or her pain by listening and doing your best to understand.
Memorize and pray Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth keep watch over the door of my lips!”
Rebuilding trust takes time and a commitment to becoming trustworthy. Keep what your spouse shares confidential. Don’t talk about their situation with others — even as a prayer request. Live by the creed, “It’s not my story to tell.”
Rebuilding trust: for the spouse whose trust was violated
Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt for sharing personal information. There’s a good chance that they don’t even know you’ve been hurt. Maybe your spouse is prone to “over-sharing” and didn’t understand that the information was off-limits, or they were disclosing intimate details as a way of empathizing or connecting with someone who was hurting.
Talk about boundaries. Discuss which topics are off-limits when talking with other people. The list should probably include things like what happens in your bedroom, conflict you’ve experienced together, marital struggles, dark seasons, childhood abuse, mental health challenges and past mistakes. Clearly understanding the boundaries around these sensitive subjects is critical.
Tell your spouse when you don’t want something shared with others. You could say, “This is for your ears only. Please don’t share what I just told you with anyone.”