Nov 042013 21 Responses

Only Tell Your Problems to Two People

We make two mistakes when it comes to talking about our problems with other people:

Some tell everyone everything.

Some tell no one anything.

Neither is a good option.

While being an open-book has noble qualities, few things can destroy our lives as much as failing to have boundaries with other people. Telling everything to everyone can have disastrous consequences.

I see this when an affair is found out. Often the hurting spouse will quickly spread the word of what their husband/wife has done. It feels good in the moment. It keeps the spouse from having to put on a front and pretend like everything is okay. It publicly places the blame where it often should be placed.

Yet, I’ve never seen someone who told everyone everything who didn’t later regret it. If the spouse chooses to work on the marriage, having everyone know “their secret” is not helpful. It can sabotage the marriage recovery as each person gives their two-cents of what the couple should do.

Conversely, I know many people who never tell anyone anything. On the surface this appears as a great strength. Yet the appearance of stoicism is not strength. It’s weakness cloaked in power. It’s dangerous.

No one was created to navigate this world on their own. No matter the pain and sorrow of past relationships, everyone should risk inviting someone into their lives and sharing their problems with someone.

This raises a key question: Whom should I tell of my struggles?

When it comes to the private issues of life, I would recommend only telling your problems to two people:

Only tell someone who can help. This is the most important rule when in the midst of a difficult situation. It provides a guardrail from keeping you from telling to many people. Only tell those who can help you deal with the issue. When I deal with couples who are dealing with an affair, I tell them—tell one friend, one pastor, and one counselor. The friend can help you with the details of life, the pastor can assist you spiritually, and the counselor can help your marriage. Don’t tell anyone else unless it is absolutely necessary. While it feels necessary to tell every friend and family member, it will not be helpful. Remember: you can always decide later to tell someone else, but once you tell someone you cannot take it back.

Only tell someone it can help. After you have navigated a tough time, there is a second group of people to whom you can tell your story. If hearing your story can help someone else, tell them. Stories are powerful and we can often leverage them to assist others. Generally, telling our story in the midst of the struggle is not helpful to others, but once we get a step or two down the road, we can use our stories to assist others. This takes courage, transparency, and vulnerability, but it is often worth it.

Everyone deals with problems. Some situations tempt us to tell everyone. Other situations tempt us to tell no one. Rarely are either of those two options appropriate. By only telling someone who can help and someone who it can help, we maintain our privacy while also joining others in healthy community.

21 Responses to Only Tell Your Problems to Two People
  1. dennyneff Reply

    Thanks Kevin. I have never thought of what you shared but it makes total sense. I’ve found out the hard way that my personal defects, even though they are shared by a majority of people, may not well received by others when I have confessed them. People who have been forgiven much quite often forget that fact, as well as holding up the broken and hurting party to even more scorn and pain. Often time the line, “brother/sister so-in-so needs our prayers” is just a churchy way of gossiping. Telling only people who can help is the really the wisest way to handle our situations. I too have found that the Holy Spirit will always show me people who can benefit from my mistakes and I try to be as open as I can so those people know that they are not blazing a trail that has never been trodden, that they are not alone in their pain and confusion. Again, great job. It’s only too bad I can’t take this sage advise back in time where it would have helped me to avoid making this kind of mistake in the first place.

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  5. nim Reply

    yes, thank you very much for this. This comforted me when I have to think whether I should tell someone about my problems. Thank you. -.-

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  9. edwin kirk Reply

    Man, wish I would have found this earlier. I did that exact thing. Told my parents everything and my soon to be ex-wife has despised me because of it. But then again, she has told all of her friends before I had talked to anyone about it. Still, it’s great knowledge to have for any future relationships I might have.

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  11. Arie Reply

    The hard part in not feeling the need to get advice when we have problems with our spouse. Its so hard when my spouse tells me she can’t trust me because I talk to too many people, part of me knows what I am doing is wrong and I know I need to control myself. But the hard part is stopping myself from feeling the need to get other peoples advice!

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  14. Sophie Reply

    Thanks for your suggestion. i’m gonna look for two peole in our church.

  15. Jason Reply

    i had a real hard time growing up my dad is abusive my family is religious and much more, i always tell evry1 all my stories, but i feel like every time i do that people look at me different and as hard as i try to stop usally when i know someone for a little while ill be tellimg them all my s**t,

  16. Farooq Ahmed Reply

    one tell your personal lawyer, second tell your notebook,

  17. KT Reply

    My problem is my husband always telling his entire family and relatives that my breath stinks or I need to bathe for a second time. It’s humiliating.

  18. Xavier Reply

    My problem is I am only 12 and I’m afraid of time passing too fast, and I feel like I’m afraid of growing up. I need advice please. 🙂

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Just enjoy every moment and realize everything season comes to an end.

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