Daily Press (Sunday)

All conversati­ons confidenti­al?

- Email tellme@washpost. com or write “Tell Me About It” c/o The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: The other day, my girlfriend and I were at dinner with some friends of ours, a couple. I was deeply shocked when our friends asked me for an update on a major career decision I’m in the middle of making. I had not told them anything about it, though my girlfriend and I have talked about it daily for weeks.

I gave them a non-answer and laughed it off, but it has led to some serious relationsh­ip tension. My girlfriend does not see why it was a big deal that she mentioned my job situation to her friend — the wife in the other couple. She didn’t realize it was supposed to be private. I, meanwhile, think things discussed between us are assumed to be private unless we agree otherwise.

We got as far as her exasperate­dly saying that next time, if she confides in the wife on the side, she will ask her not to repeat it to me, which of course is clearly opposite of what I want. Am I being unreasonab­le here? — Private

Dear Private: Thinking that my or anyone’s confirmati­on of your reasonable­ness will make any difference here is unreasonab­le.

Are you entitled to privacy? Yes. Do you have a right to ask people to keep your confidence­s either on specific things or in general? More the former than the latter, but still, yes to both. Yet these don’t govern what others choose to do. They’re statements of principle only.

In this situation, your girlfriend apparently didn’t know you felt this way about your major decision. That seems pretty normal to me, both ways — you just assumed

People Don’t Share These Things because that’s your view, and she just assumed People Share These

Things because that’s her view. They’re both valid views; you both made the rookie mistake of thinking that if you think it, then it must apply to everyone.

Now that you both know it doesn’t work that way, you each have an opportunit­y to decide how you’re going to handle each other’s informatio­n. You can decide to apply your standards to your business and hers to hers — i.e., you both respect each other’s natures and keep your news private and blab hers freely. Or each of you can decide to live your own way and let the other one deal with it. I.e., she keeps blabbing, you keep guarding and you both keep getting annoyed with each other. Or various other permutatio­ns.

Once you’ve both decided where to draw your own lines, then you see whether you can function as a non-miserable couple within them. If so, yay. If not, then you either break up, argue recurrentl­y about this stuff till the end of time, or decide the other person’s company is worth it to you to warrant moving your lines.

Since she’s not budging and you haven’t broken up and want me to tell you you’re right, it appears you’ve both chosen the “have this recurring argument till the end of time” path. You might be happier, though, if you accept neither of you is budging and move on to open discussion of Plan B, whatever that may be.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States