Dear Amy: My significant other (“Danny”) believes that there should be “no secrets” between couples. I largely agree in terms of our secrets. However, when it comes to the confidences of my friends and family, I won’t share tales that are not my own.
Danny and I met through our mutual friend “Jack.” Jack and I are close (he is gay) and he often tells me things in confidence that he does not also share with Danny. Danny has said that this makes him uncomfortable.
Recently, Jack confided a secret that he made clear he has not shared with anybody – except those in his closest circle.
That secret is very likely to come out soon and will have ripple effects in our friend group.
Since this was revealed to me, I have struggled with whether I should share this secret with Danny, even though I still believe that it is not mine to share.
My question is: What do I owe to my partner to meet his stated need to be totally open and honest in our relationship? What are my other friends and loved ones entitled to in terms of my discretion?
I am aware my emotional closeness with Jack has made Danny feel a little “less than” in the past. As such, I never share anything important with Jack that I have not already discussed with Danny.
I am confident that Danny is fine with this friendship, but he does not like me holding Jack’s secrets.
Is honesty the best policy?
Dear Wondering: Friends should understand that when disclosing something to you, you won’t gossip to others, but you might share something with your partner based on your own judgment.
Jack seems to have a lot of secrets. Is it possible that you and he are confusing the concept of a “secret” with that of simple discretion?
Recently Jack confided in you that he has also shared this (alleged) secret with his “closest circle.” Does Danny qualify? Did Jack expressly ask you not to tell Danny? And if so, why?
If Jack often swears you to secrecy regarding events in his own life, you should examine why this is so.
I agree with Danny that when you’re in a life-partnership, overall you should not keep things from one another, but this is a judgment call, and you should trust one another to make this call. (You won’t disclose your sister’s diagnosis to him without her permission; he won’t disclose his friend’s marital problems to you without permission.)
Friends should assume that you might discuss things with your partner, unless they ask you not to.
My read on this is that Jack’s desire to control information might be his way of controlling your friendship.
Dear Amy: I’m an avid gardener. My fellow gardeners and I often give – and trade – plants to enjoy. It’s a lot of fun, and enhances all of our gardens.
Recently a friend of mine told me, quite offhandedly, that while I was away on vacation, she brought a spade to my house and helped herself to a couple of backyard plants that we had discussed previously and which I knew she loved.
Honestly, I would probably have happily given these plants to her, but I could not believe that she did this without my permission.
I genuinely believe that she felt these plants were on our “free to take” list, but I don’t like the way she did this, and I’m wondering how to respond.
Dear Loose: The plants in your garden are your property, much the same as your living room sofa. However, unlike your sofa, they are in your yard and vulnerable to a plant snatcher.
It would have been exceedingly easy for your friend to text or call you to ask if she could come by and dig up these plants. She chose to steal them, instead.
You should tell her, “I don’t like the way you handled this. This is a boundary issue for me, and I’m disappointed that you didn’t wait until I was home.”
Dear Amy: “Stuck in the Middle” wrote saying her parents constantly advise her adult son to get a degree and a “better” job, even though he has a great situation now.
Next time this comes up he should ask them point blank, “What’s wrong with my job now?”
They may not realize how elitist or judgmental they sound.
Dear Reader: These grandparents were unrelenting; pushing back might have helped.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.
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