Do couples really need to talk about everything? How much to share in a relationship is a question that’s going to be different for every couple. Even though you’ll hear over and over again that communication and honesty are the bedrock of a relationship, is there actually such a thing as too much communication? Or too much honesty?
It’s a tricky balance to find. Secrets are often bad in a relationship, but some levels of privacy can be completely acceptable. If that sounds a little confusing, it’s because it kind of is. It’s a very thin line and one that varies hugely with every couple. While one couple might talk about every detail of their day—including bodily function updates—others might have a more distant, but no less loving, communication style. As a general rule, you should always feel comfortable bringing up anything that is important to you—and you should expect that your partner will be receptive to something you feel strongly about. That being said, there are some limits. Here’s where you can cross the line into oversharing.
Will Saying This (or Not) Hurt Your Partner?
If you’re not sure whether it’s appropriate to tell your partner something sensitive, the most basic question you should ask yourself is whether or not it would hurt them. If your ex contacted you and you’re not sure if you should share that information, think about conversations you’ve had about privacy versus openness—and about whether you’d want to know the same thing. Do you get the impression that concealing this information would hurt them, or that telling them would?
The same question is true if you’re not satisfied with something in your relationship—think about whether or not something constructive can come out of saying something. For example, if you don’t love the style of necklace your partner got you for your birthday, it may not be worth saying something that’s just going to hurt their feelings. But if your sex life isn’t satisfying, you should say something—because even though you may hurt their feelings, there’s also room to improve and it’s important that the situation improves—so the benefit outweighs the cost. Give every sensitive issue thoughtful consideration before you decide whether or not to say something.
How Far Are You Into Your Relationship?
I’m a chronic oversharer—my long-term partner has to hear about every little of my day, no matter how inane or gross. But I also didn’t share every minutia with her during our first weeks or months of dating. If you want to be in constant contact or you want to share every tiny update of your life, you have to understand that, early in your relationship, that can actually be an invasion of your partner's space. Try to read your partner—or just ask them—to work out what they’re comfortable with. Now, if you aren’t on the same page as they are, it may be that you’re just not all that compatible. But if it’s early in the relationship and they just want to take things a little more slowly, that’s something that you should respect.
Has Your Partner Said They Need Space?
Sometimes oversharing is just a clumsy way of saying that someone is communicating too much. While communication is usually a great thing, if your partner has said they need space, then it's important that you listen to that. So if your partner has said that they need some time to think or that they want to work on being more independent, than some things that are normally social acceptable might actually cross the border into oversharing. Context is everything. While normally updates about your day might be completely fine, if they said that they need some air but you bombard them with a dozen messages about things that aren’t really important, you’re invading their privacy and their space. This is why it’s so important that you communicate enough to understand where each other’s boundaries and needs are at any given time—because context and life happening can really change things.
When In Doubt, Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Sometimes it can feel difficult to know if it’s better to border on oversharing or on secrecy—and, the truth is, it’s best to take it on a case-by-case basis. Although you should take into account all of the considerations listed above, the bottom line is you should try to put yourself in your partner's shoes. Have they said they value openness? Would you be hurt if you didn’t know this? Have they said they needed space? Is this relevant?
Every couple is different and, though communication is always important, there are some things that don’t always need to be said. Keep your partner and the situation in mind and decide if telling them something sensitive is actually the right thing to do. The best you can do is try to imagine what they’d want—and, when in doubt, have a larger conversation about communication.