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The venting circle

My older brother is visiting next week to see Bun Bun. He and I are pretty close. He tormented me an appropriate amount when we were children, but it never stopped me from idolizing him, and since we were about 12 and 14, he has treated me like an equal, even actually hanging out with me when we were in high school. We’ve talked about some intimate things, and I feel like I can be open with him about most matters. Not that I always choose to.

I know I’m going to want to talk to him about the effect parenthood has had on my marriage. He warned me to expect that it would be hard, and I want someone older and wiser to tell me it will all be okay.

But should I? I’ve been thinking about loyalty to one’s partner, and who is allowed within the venting circle. To whom can you complain about your partner without it being an act of disloyalty?

Total strangers on the internet, of course. (Though I do make an effort not to complain qua complain. It’s just that the effort sometimes…fails.)

Friends, of course, at least if they’re partnered themselves, and I think it has to be understood that friends are not allowed to say rude things about one’s partner. They can echo the things you say, but are not allowed to say new ones. For example, Oh, he sounds so frustrating! But not, Wow, your husband is a lazy-ass slacker, huh?

Parents? For me, parents are not within the circle. I know this is not universal, but I would never complain about my spouse to my mother or father. I’m not sure why. Well, I mean, my dad’s dead, so what would be the point. Anyway, I’m sure there are whole books written on this subject…

It’s not even that I want to complain, just discuss. See if he has any wisdom. I guess I have to figure out whether my brother counts as friend or family. But maybe the fact that I’m even considering whether it’s a good idea means it’s NOT.

So tell me, who falls within your circle?

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. i was thinking about this recently, and i think my biggest rule is that the person has to like sugar. (my wife, i mean; i'm not friends with people who don't like sucrose, because those people are aliens.) if i'm not sure they like her, then it feels too disloyal, plus i'll have to hate them forever if they agree with me too hard, which is awkward. (on a similar note, sugar's close childhood friend said something pretty crappy about me once, vis-a-vis ttc. sure got sugar on my side in a flash. thanks, rude friend.)i don't have siblings, but other family members are out, because…well, because my mother rips into me if she even thinks i'm on the cusp of complaining about sugar — i'm not sure that if we split, i would be the one still invited to christmas — dad's an absent-minded professor, and no one else is close enough.

    September 11, 2011
  2. Oak #

    Totally depends on the subject…I recently vented to my sister about my inlaws. But I would never vent about my husband because then she would bring that shit up again, and again, and again…and I'd be over it already. And I recently vented to my mother about my sex life. How's that for some fucked up shit? What? You want me to be even more fucked up? Okay! Happy to oblige. My mother informed me that we do not have enough sex.

    September 11, 2011
  3. My circle is almost nonexistent. I think it's more of a point: my therapist. And this may be because I'm too concerned about how other people perceive me or him or us to let them in on any issues I'm having with my husband. I don't know. It just feels too intimate. But I think that, by not sharing with close friends anything more than the most general expressions of unease, I'm missing out on valuable support. On the other hand, my brother frequently tells me when he and his wife are having issues, and as a result, I think I see her differently. So maybe that's served as a sort of cautionary tale? It's a tricky question and I've just been of absolutely no help to you. You're welcome?

    September 12, 2011
  4. This is an interesting post. I think that I myself overshared about my frustration with my husband with two of my aunts the other day. In fact the moment it crossed my lips I regretted it. I would, prior to having the baby shared with them both, but something about complaining about his parenting ability felt wrong to me. I think my married friends, especially those with small children is the circle. I also cherry pick what I tell my parents. There are some things I just don't want them to know. If you are questioning sharing with your brother maybe you shouldn't, or maybe just watch the content.

    September 12, 2011
  5. I do talk about such issues with my brothers pretty openly, I think — if they come up / are relevant when I see them. Which is, like, 2-3 times a year. Same for good friends — somehow, the threshold to complaining via email is higher. I don't want messages to get into the wrong hands, after all, plus writing it down makes it seem so serious. And at least at the moment I don't have any good friends close by (that happens when you move across the planet), so there isn't really anyone.If you're comfortable talking about such things with your brother (and maybe check bionic's point — how does he get along with your husband), you could carefully hint at the topic and see where the conversation goes…

    September 12, 2011
  6. cgd #

    this is such an interesting post. I wonder this too when I complain/ vent about E, especially to my BFF. It is hard to know what this will do to her thoughts on him. However, I think that taking care of yourself is perhaps most important and if you need to share this then maybe you should.I give you a lot of credit for putting all this stuff out there. I think most people are afraid to be that honest irl and on line. I appreciate this in you so much.I am sorry if i am commenting less on your blog, sometimes I do not always know what to say. I am always reading and sending so much love to you and Bunbun. Thank you , as always, for all of your support.

    September 12, 2011
  7. N #

    In this order of amount they get to hear. Strangers- MostSingle female friendsCouple friendsParents- None (tiny amount)Your parents will always take your side and possibly hold a grudge. So NEVER share much with them. Sibs can get a little but not to much to make them pissed too. 🙂

    September 12, 2011
  8. I agree with bionicmamma, you vent to those who like your husband and hence it won't turn into a "bash" fest. I vent to my mom cause we are close and a few friends but not to my brother because we are not close (could be the 9 years between us).

    September 12, 2011
  9. JB #

    I second the therapist sharing. They're always on your side and can be the most objective about seeing your part in whatever-the-shenanigans, and they'll never tell a soul.

    September 12, 2011
  10. I don't know, I don't feel there's anything disloyal about discussing. And, I wonder, can you broach the subject with your brother without exactly spilling all the beans? I think it can be valuable to seek insight from someone with whom you have such a lengthy history, someone who can see patterns in your relationships across that history. But, also, obviously, and as others have stated, this can also be achieved with your therapist. I don't know, I think it could be okay to share with your brother, especially if you trust him and trust that he could be even and nonjudgemental with it all. I have my sister, who I can tell pretty much anything, and I can really feel how helpful it is when she points out something from our childhood related to what I'm dealing with, something I had totally forgotten about or totally overlooked. (Except I can't tell her why it took me 5 days to respond to her email about her doula selection about birth center tour because there are moments I JUST CAN'T DEAL WITH HER PREGNANCY and feel a bit suffocated by her fertility. 😉 I'd rather have a tooth drilled without novacaine than share any sort of intimate emotional need with my mother.

    September 13, 2011
  11. For me it's mostly friends I vent to. I have to avoid my blog, since I made the mistake early on to share the url with him. darn. I think it's ok to talk about what's hard in the relationship with those you trust. It's the indiscriminate spewing to whoever will listen that I find problematic. I hope your brother can be a good support for you.

    September 13, 2011
  12. I pretty much only vent to my therapist. Once in a long while I'll mention something to my mother, but only about practical issues w/ my marriage (i.e., I really want us to get more life insurance, but LG is dragging his feet about it), never emotional stuff. I basically never complain to my friends about my marriage, unless it's in the "Ha ha, yeah, he leaves his pants on the kitchen chairs and watches too much football, too. Men, gotta love 'em," kind of way.I have this theory that complaining to other people about issues I'm having with him will only reinforce feelings of resentment, frustration and distance. So I'd rather address them with my therapist or directly with LG.But maybe this is a cover for my need to appear perfectly put together in public. Hard to say.

    September 13, 2011
  13. Very interesting post and comments from your readers! I vent to about three friends – two of whom are married, and one is single. And my therapist, although she always turns it around to what I could do differently the next time, or something equally as helpful and frustrating. I never talk to my parents about the hubs – everything is peachy to them! But I'd like to think if I had a close sibling, that I would be able to treat them like a close friend – able to hear all the nasty stuff that goes on and still love me and not hate the hubs. It's a tough balance!

    September 13, 2011
  14. I keep it to a few close friends who also have young children. It seems like most of our complaints are so universal in nature that the unwritten rule is that we respond to someone else's vent with a personal tale. So instead of: "oh no, your husband really is a jack ass", the reply is "we have the same issue and we deal with it this way". No parents no way.

    September 14, 2011
  15. Ack, I just managed to erase the entire thing. In brief, only my college roommate, unless it's something like "My dear spouse just overflowed the crockpot and now it's dead", i.e., not an earth-shaking marriage problem. One of my sisters is 9 years younger (still in college!) and the other is, er, very distant, so we don't really chat about these things. And my own mother loves my spouse almost as much as she loves me and generally tells me to be a) nicer and b) more nude around my spouse. (Thanks, Mom.)

    September 15, 2011
  16. *Wakes up, as if from a trance.* Where have I been? I didn't comment, how can this be? I have SO MUCH to say. :)I feel a real gap in my life where the safe venting should go. Some of my friends are labouring under the misapprehension that my dear spouse is a living saint and his public image colludes in this. They (think they) know him. This is awkward. And if people are not used to my venting, I fear they might seize on something I say, and make that the universal truth about us. That is awkward too. And now, we don't have the venting habit, and I am afraid to suddenly blurt stuff out. Family? Not on your life, I'm afraid.However. I do have my friend R. She gets it. And I have you too, bunny. Thank Heaven for that.

    September 15, 2011
  17. Just remember once it is out there, you can never take it back.I think confiding in feeling a distance or a low point is very different than something like a specific act that hurt the marriage.Trust your gut. Brothers are awesome that way.

    September 16, 2011
  18. Jem #

    I agree with Roccie! I never vent to my parents about Mr. Jem. Ever. Period. I reveal some of our struggles, when we are making progress.I tell you all out in cyber-land WAAAAY more than anyone else.

    September 19, 2011

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