Your significant other drives you crazy—in good and bad ways. Bottom line is you can't imagine life without her. So oftentimes, to avoid hurting her, you express your romantic frustrations instead to friends. That may not always be the best thing to do.
Jamcy, 23, has a hard rule about talking about relationship problems. "There are only two people in a relationship: you and your partner. Therefore, when there's a problem, there's no one else you should talk to but your girlfriend," she says.
Kay S. Bunagan, a co-founding psychologist at Better Steps Psychology, Inc., offers a softer stance. Venting to your friends, she says, is okay because it allows you to process things first before you express your frustrations to your girlfriend. Your friends can either validate or reject the ideas you may have. Just make sure to identify which friends you can really trust with your predicament. Think of it as a rehearsal before the actual confrontation with your special someone.
And that confrontation needs to happen if things are going to be fixed. It's a sentiment that Joan, 27, who's been in a relationship for three years, echoes: "Rather than complain to your friends, stop and reevaluate the situation—and approach her directly...sooner rather than later."
If you still need a dose of perspective from your friends, though, make sure they have a clear picture of your concerns so they may be able to gauge the situation successfully. Bunagan warns that when you're not being transparent, there may be a bigger issue at hand. She says: "Hiding a partner's flaws and mistakes from close friends and family may be a sign of abuse." Assess with a clear mind.
Now, if you can be open to your friends, you need to be even more transparent with your partner—a person who technically is a very, very dear friend.
A confrontation shouldn't be a pissing contest. Bunagan instead suggests you consider it as an opportunity for growth: "It is an opportunity for partners and for the relationship to discuss differences and reach a consensus or come up with a new way to relate to each other." Your friends can only help so much. At the end of the day, it's you and her—two sensible adults—attempting to reconcile differing opinions. There's only one road towards that reconciliation, and that's through no-bull honesty.
Being honest though doesn't mean being hurtful. A gentler approach can help soften the conversation. To do so, Bunagan recommends starting the avowal with the word "I."
Here's how a girl should do it according to her:
"[Say] 'I felt sad when you decided to go out with your friends after I asked you to spend time together' instead of 'You, insensitive bastard, you chose your friends over me'."
Why 'I'? "Focusing on the impact of the partner's actions on 'me' rather than pointing blame and calling names [is the best way to let your other half know how you feel]," Bunagan explains. Once you start pointing fingers, that's usually when tempers flare, and misunderstanding arises.
Also, speak and listen in turns so you can understand where both of you are coming from.
Sunshine, 33, who's been married for four years now, sums up this whole conundrum the best:
"Your other half deserves to hear from you the things you dislike about her. If you only say it to your friends, how do you expect her to change for the better?"
True friends help, but at the end of the day, it's truly between you and your partner. Everything else is just preparation.