How to Protect Your Marriage from Gossip Applying these tips will save you a lifetime of drama. BY JENNA D. BARRY
With a few steps, you can stop gossip in its tracks.
Gossip can be a major threat to a marriage, especially when a mother gossips to her son about his wife and a wife gossips to her family about her husband.
If your mother-in-law gossips to your husband about you, hereís what you can do. Gently tell your husband, "IĎd like to start having a healthier relationship with your mom, so in the future, IĎm going to communicate directly with her instead of gossiping to you about her. And I need for you to start refusing to listen to your mom gossip about me, too. The next time she starts to say something negative about me, Iíd like for you to say, ĎMom, I donít like being caught in the middle, so Iím not willing to listen to you criticize my wife anymore. I need for the two of you to talk directly to each other from now on.í"
If youíve gossiped about your mother-in-law, apologize to her for doing so. Not only is this a mature thing to do, but youíll likely gain your husbandĎs respect. Tell his mom youíre going to try to not talk about her behind her back anymore, and then ask her not to talk behind your back anymore either. A tactful, non-antagonistic way to say this would be, "Iíd like for us to start having a healthier relationship with each other, so from now on, letís talk to each other directly when a problem comes up, rather than gossiping to others." If there are times when you need advice about what to say to your mother-in-law, or you just need to vent your anger in a healthy way, meet with a counselor or join a support group (You can join my support group and/or find a list of recommended counselors on my website at www.WifeGuide.org.)
You can also apply this advice to sisters-in-law, aunts, grandmas, etc. For example, you can tell your sister-in-law, "Iíve decided to start practicing healthier behavior, so Iím going to stop gossiping to you about my mother-in-law. If I do start to gossip about her, Iíd like for you to refuse to listen. Iíd also like for you to refuse to listen if my mother-in-law starts to tell you something negative about me. Just tell her you donít want to be caught in the middle anymore, and that she should communicate directly with me." By confronting the person at the source (the one who gossips) and the person at the endpoint (the one who listens to the gossip), you are doing what is in your power to end the problem.
Out of Your Control
You canít completely control whether or not people gossip or listen to gossip about you. However, based on my own personal experiences, these strategies work very well. Sometimes people donít realize their behavior is destructive, and all they need is for someone to present them with a better alternative. Other people, however, do realize their behavior is destructive, but if you confront them about it, that may be enough to put an end to it.
If you gossip to your own family about your husband, then that needs to stop immediately. You must start a new habit of communicating directly with your husband to work things out. If you need advice on how to communicate with him about something, or you just need to vent your frustrations, confide in a counselor or a marriage-friendly support group. Here are seven reasons why itís a bad idea to gossip to your family about your spouse:
1. It is disrespectful. If you donít want your spouse to gossip about your family, then donít gossip about theirs.
2. It communicates to your spouse that your family is more important than theirs.
3. It communicates to your family that they are more important than your spouse.
4. When you marry, you are supposed to transfer your loyalty from your parents to your spouse. If you are gossiping to your family about your husband or wife, then your loyalty is in the wrong place.
5. Healthy communication is a key ingredient for a strong marriage. If you gossip about your spouse instead of talking to him or her directly, then you are preventing healthy communication.
6. Your family is biased, so they will probably side with you on most issues even when you are wrong.
7. When your marriage spat is over, your family will likely hold a grudge against your spouse long after youíve forgiven them for whatever they did.
Unfortunately, very few of us have good role models when it comes to gossip. Our friends, relatives and co-workers talk behind each otherís back on a regular basis. We see it happen so frequently on TV sitcoms that most of us think gossip is a normal, acceptable part of life. But just because others think gossip is okay doesnít mean we have to let it damage our most precious relationships.
Jenna D. Barry is the author of ďA Wifeís Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husbandís Loyalty Without Killing His Parents.Ē Find more at www.WifeGuide.org.