My friend Marty was steamed at her husband. She had worried all day about the results of a test to rule out breast cancer and was extremely irritated when her husband forgot to ask about the outcome.
Marty waited a few days to see if he would remember. When he didn't, she called her mother and spouted off: "What kind of insensitive oaf did I marry? Doesn't he care about me at all?"
Was it a good idea for Marty to unload a personal marriage issue on her mother or, for that matter, anybody else outside a professional counselor's office? She thinks so.
"When I'm upset with my husband, I usually need to vent," she explains. "I don't want anybody to take my side against his. I just want someone to listen to me and empathize with the fact that I'm feeling lousy."
Weighing the Costs
Like Marty, people sometimes feel the need to blow off steam or seek advice about their marriage. On the plus side, it can defuse an issue enough to prevent an unnecessary confrontation with a spouse. It can yield new perspectives or practical strategies for solving a problem. At times, unloading on a friend or relative can prevent a problem from escalating.
As one husband said, "I get all worked up about something my wife does and then I talk to a few other guys and find out their wives do the same thing. Then I realize, 'This isn't a personal attack. It's just the way women are.'"
But venting also has a down side. It can diminish your motivation to actually solve the problem. What's more, it can be difficult to discern that fine line between "sharing" and being disloyal to your mate. One woman told me, "If my husband and I have a problem, I generally don't take it outside the marriage. We talk and pray about it, and if the problem doesn't get resolved, at least I haven't made the situation worse by blabbing about it."1