Ask a Mormon Therapist: How do I Confront Family Gossip About My Husband?

Two young women gossiping
Via Ben White for Unsplash

 

By Jonathan Decker, LMFT

Q: A family member is trying to come in between my husband and I. This person talks behind my husband’s back to me about him. Now, I always tell my husband everything, no secrets. I was taught by the Gospel that my spouse is my companion and we share things 100%. I am afraid of confronting this person about it because they have some heavy mental/emotional issues going on and it might break them down. What things can I do?

A: Thank you for reaching out with this. It’s hard being caught in the middle of drama between your spouse and the extended family. You certainly didn’t ask for this, yet here you are. Overall, you’re right to prioritize your relationship with your husband over that with anyone else (except the Lord). It seems like this family member just wants to be heard and finds you’re a good listener, but there definitely could be an ulterior motive of manipulation and collusion.

I’m not sure that there’s anything in the Gospel that says you must share every single piece of information with your spouse. It’s one thing to keep a secret, conceal information, or lie. That’s not okay. It’s another to decide that something is not your place to say. The truth is, if this family member has issues with your husband, they ought to be express those things to him, not to you. And you can tell them so.

If I were in your shoes, I would say something like “I can tell you’re upset, and I’m grateful that you trust me with what you’re feeling. I need you to know that, as much as I love you, my first commitment is to my husband. I don’t like keeping things from him, so while I do want you to confide in me, I can’t keep secrets from him. Honestly, if you’re concerned about him, talk to him. He’ll listen. He’ll try to understand and make changes if he needs to.”

If this person would feel better if you were there for that conversation, or that a therapist be present to help them navigate the conflict, then encourage and facilitate that. If they’d rather avoid voicing their feelings to your husband, then encourage them to speak to a counselor or priesthood leader to maintain their confidences instead of you.

Persons with heavy mental and emotional issues need support, but they also need boundaries. Their world feels unstable, and boundaries help them know where the lines are. Otherwise, they may play on your compassion to get you to compromise your boundaries, which is is neither helpful to them, nor Christlike on your part.

I truly hope that this helps.

Hope this helped. For those reading, what advice would you give? Who do you know that needs this article today? If you’d like to ask me a question, contact me here or join my Facebook group. If you’d like more direct support, schedule a consultation with me or take one of my online courses

Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and CEO of Your Family Expert. He received a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University and a master's degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He has presented at BYU's Education Week. Jonathan moonlights as a film critic, author, and actor. He lives in St. George, Utah with his wife and children.