Dear Carolyn: I was recently diagnosed with a significant health problem. I'm not one to share personal issues like that. I, of course, shared this with my husband but told him under no uncertain terms, emphatically and repeatedly, that he was not to tell anyone.
He told. He told his daughters, his colleague, a couple of his friends.
When I found out he'd betrayed a confidence I told him how very angry I am, how very hurt I am and how very disappointed in him that I am.
He made excuses . . .
"They needed to know why you didn't attend a funeral." "He needed to know why I couldn't attend a meeting."
I'm having a really difficult time getting over this.
Venting!!: Ayyy, don't minimize your actions, feelings or self. You're not (just) "Venting!!," you're asking for help — with a problem that's significant now, could worsen later and sits uninvited atop an already serious health problem.
For which I'm so sorry. No doubt it's a scary time for you.
Though obviously to a lesser degree, it's a scary time for your husband, too. So instead of just trying to get over this, I hope you'll use it as a chance for you and your husband to learn to handle this crisis together.
For that you'll both need to figure out what will help you, what will help the other and what you can realistically ask of each other.
Your letter states one such helper — privacy — and implies another — an admission of fault by your husband. You asked for his discretion, which he completely botched, and you asked him to admit how profoundly he botched it, which he then botched by making excuses.
I see the excuses — i.e., invalidation of your feelings — as worse than the blabbing.
Even deserved criticism can entrench people against you, though, especially those who feel vulnerable, so revisit this issue more as a matter of what you felt than of what he did. Say his explanation deepened your frustration because it says he prioritized what "they needed" and "he needed" over what you needed, just as your needs felt most acute.
But first: Forgive him. His excuses say he's defensive, and presumably scared about your health, too. If he has any self-awareness, he's also embarrassed by failing you on the one thing you asked of him. It's counterintuitive, but showing you're there for him could make him stronger and better for you.
So forgive, and say why: "I see now it was asking too much to insist you couldn't tell. I'm leaning on you, so you need to lean on your people."
Because he does need to. And you need to let him.
Then, when you address ways of getting through this together, it'll be about getting through this together vs. a re-airing of your grievances. He does owe you an apology, yes, but you need his strength and partnership more, so reach for the greater reward.
I urge both of you to read up on psychologist Susan Silk's "ring theory," which establishes a (wonderfully phrased) "kvetching order": comfort in, dump out (bit.ly/RingInOut).
Your health crisis puts you in the center of the rings. You dump your stress out on your husband, your innermost ring. He directs comfort in to you and dumps his stress out — at the outer rings of his kids, friends, colleagues.
By insisting he tell no one, you unwittingly deprived him of a place to dump out. His betraying your confidence then had the effect of dumping in, turning your sole support system into a source of further anguish.
You want no one's support but his as you deal with this, I understand — streamline where you feel the need to. But please consider making that realistic for your husband with your blessing to do what he needs.
Dear Carolyn: Thanksgiving is seven days away, and my fiance informed me this morning that he had invited his family over for the holiday. We had previously decided not to attend or host a Thanksgiving celebration because we are leaving for a week-long vacation the next day.
I immediately opposed this surprise meal, insulted that he assumed without even asking me that I would prepare, shop, cook, clean, pack for our trip, decorate, the list goes on and on.
I am now being called selfish because of my reaction. How would you handle this?
N.Y.: I'd run.
I couldn't answer you in time for Thanksgiving, but the answer still stands.
Do it not because your fiance expects his little woman to cook — though you should and he does — but because anyone who assigns you extra work he won't do himself and then blames you for not liking that is the embodiment of marital hell.
If you've since kissed and made up on vacation, then run anyway, unless you have ample, incontrovertible proof that he gets why what he did was so awful.
I hope so for your sake, but don't expect it; entitlement dies hard.