Is your partner your best friend? They should be! Your partner should be your partner in every aspect of life. The more connected you are, the stronger the bonds of trust become. The basis for a strong and enduring relationship is authenticity. Having that one person in the world that you can trust absolutely, tell all your deepest feelings, secrets, hopes and dreams to without judgment is a very freeing feeling. Knowing that your partner loves you in spite of all your past mistakes, flaws and foibles raises your self-esteem and gives you confidence to face problems and struggles in life with the knowledge that you’re not alone. You are a team; unified and strong together.
Having that kind of trust between you is a sacred thing. You have to be willing to take on all truth and keep confidences without judging, and that can be a difficult thing. I’m not talking about criminal secrets or anything harmful. Of course these are a different story. In all other cases, you should be prepared to honor your partner’s confidence and keep their stories private, guard their feelings and be a locked vault that would never divulge your partner’s secrets to anyone.
You have to keep the confidences that they trusted you with to the grave. This means you don’t tell anyone, not a family member, not your best friend. No one should hear what your partner has confided in you without express permission from them. It is never acceptable to do this; you can never let it slip out. There’s no excuse for violating this sacred trust.
Never bring up your partner’s personal stuff that they trusted you with in a moment of anger or an argument. Nothing will destroy your bond of trust more thoroughly than using information told in confidence against your partner. They may never trust you again and certain will never feel good about confiding in you ever again. It’s very hurtful for you to pass judgment on your partner for something they told you in confidence. We all have things in our past that we wish we had handled differently, we’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all done things that we’re not proud of. To judge your partner or to keep score on these negatives is a sure way to destroy their confidence in you. It really is a sacred trust, like that of a doctor, priest, or rabbi. When your partner shares the most painful and shameful elements in their lives, they are trusting in your love and that you will not hurt them. You should both be equals in the relationship. These are also times that physical touch is critical. A hug, kiss, or embrace that says “I love you even more now that you shared this with me” will help your partner feel secure. It’s incredibly important to show your partner that they are still very much loved by you.
One should never use information given in confidence to manipulate, coerce or gain an advantage over their partner when they are feeling emotionally vulnerable even when (or especially when) you’re angry or in conflict.
In sharing these confidences, your partner is not necessarily looking for absolution or even advice. They may just need to get it off their chest and need someone who will listen and keep their story. Beware of dishing out advice or even opinions about how you may have handled the situation, or what you think about it in hindsight. You’re partner doesn’t need your two cents. They only need a sounding board, or to unburden themselves of the story. Someone who can have compassion and empathy for what they have been through or are going through is an island in a storm. You should be that safe haven for your partner to be able to be real, authentic and raw with you and know that they are safe, secure, and you will not love them any less for confiding their deep dark secrets to you.
If your partner asks for help and advice, you should be ready to give that, but consider the impact of your words, be kind and empathetic. Take them seriously and do your best to help. Encourage your partner to tell you everything, and you tell them everything. This exchange of trust is crucial so that there is a balance between you. You both can feel like you can trust each other with anything and everything. Together you make a formidable team that can weather any storm.
Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters.