Bilhah and her husband Julius had not spoken much in three weeks and the stalemate shows no signs of thawing. It all started when she felt a tiny lump in her left breast while showering, which immediately alarmed her. She called Julius at his work and informed him of her discovery. In the days that followed, Bilhah became irritable and withdrawn.
Unable to talk to his wife about her condition, Julius reached out to neighbourhood friends close to the family to let them know their situation seeking for their prayers. Bilhah was offended; “How could you tell everyone about my condition? You have no right to discuss about me with our friends. Julius was stunned. He could not believe Bilhah had withheld vital information for any reason other than forgetfulness. How could that fact shared with the doctor be an intrusion of her privacy?
Confidentiality is the right of an individual to have personal, identifiable information kept private. It is an essential part of any healthy relationship. Consistent communication can occur only when both parties feel comfortable and safe enough to share their innermost selves with each other without fear of trust being broken. Any confidential info shared between spouses must be guarded. Sharing it with a third party is not only dishonourable but also destructive to the marriage. If you must confide in someone, do so to a neutral third party such as a marriage counsellor or a church minister.
There are two ways in which sharing confidential information from your marriage can go terribly wrong. One, you lose control of the information. Two, you drop your objectivity.
You lose control of the information once you break confidentiality. When you relay private info to a third party, they can choose to share it with other people without your knowledge causing you embarrassment and unnecessary heartache. You drop your objectivity when you share confidential information. Sharing untimely details on ill health or other bad news may create panic among friends and family. You and your spouse may already be struggling to cope with your own emotions about the matter on hand. Adding those of others into the mix, sympathetic as they may be, may simply weigh you down. Trying to anticipate their reactions can lead to your increased stress, anxiety and fear.
Bilhah had not yet come to terms with the possibility of breast cancer, yet Julius had already roped in his friends to pray for her. His was a noble motive, but it represented a challenge to Bilhah and their relationship in general. She was still trying to deal with shock, denial and anger; she did not need to be the focus of other people’s attention in coping with all that.
How to Tell Others about Your Situation Difficult as it might be, you must discuss this matter with your spouse. Be sensitive and rational. As a couple, it is important to agree on who should be involved, especially among your family and friends. Consider the manner of sharing your information. If you allow others to share your news, they might be able to alleviate your awkwardness in telling it yourself.
Though you may want to announce to everyone you know, it may be best to tell only those who are a positive source of strength and support in your life, e.g., a close friend or two and, of course, immediate family members. The extended family and distant others can be informed later, once you and your spouse are strong enough to handle them and only if you both agree to do so. Everyone processes challenges in their own peculiar way, so respect the timing of your partner. Bilhah felt disrespected and greatly injured because Julius violated her privacy—and more than once! As you plan to share confidential information to others, also consider how much of it you wish to share.
If you are the afflicted partner, your spouse would also have his own struggles. He might go through a sense of possible loss and grief, which should not be ignored. You should support one another as a couple and agree on your immediate support system. No disclosure should happen without mutual agreement and readiness to handle the same.
The writer is a Relationship Coach and Author, Marriage Built to Last. You can reach her on; www.jenniekarina.co.ke