Maarten

Communication with your loved ones

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I started thinking about this after reading "The psychology of psychologizing" in the Voice of Reason for the first time a few weeks ago. This passage in particular sparked this question:

Allowing for exceptions in special cases, it is not advisable to discuss one's psychological problems with one's friends. Such discussions can lead to disastrously erroneous conclusions (since two amateurs are no better than one, and sometimes worse) - and they introduce a kind of medical element that undercuts the basis of friendship. Friendship presupposes two firm, independent, reliable, and responsible personalities. (This does not mean that one has to lie, put on an act and hide from one's friends the fact that one has problems; it means simply that one does not turn a friend into a therapist

Speaking personally, I would normally not bother with other people's psychological problems. However, this changes when someone becomes very precious to me; because I want to preserve this value I will do anything within my power (that is not sacrificial in nature) to help them deal with it. This will usually take the form of discussing the issue with them, to find out if they know why they are troubled by it, when it occurs, what they have tried, whether the problem is rational or not, and so on.

I greatly value communication with my romantic partner; I think it is important to be able to talk about anything that can have an effect on the relationship in question, and any psychological issues would probably fall into that category of things.

I think I understand what Miss Rand means when she says the above, that it's not a good idea, generally, to talk to friends about such things because it is not really any of their business, and it would do the relationship no good. I also understand that there are essential differences between friendships and romantic love; there are (obviously) things you only share with your romantic partner and not with your friends, no matter how close they are.

Is this one of those things? Or is it still not a good idea to talk about psychological issues with your partner, beyond perhaps telling them that you have some and want to work on them by yourself? I think in many cases it can be helpful to discuss it with someone who has a personal interest in the situation, to see if you are overlooking anything, or to see if you are perhaps judging yourself too harsly or perhaps too lightly in this matter.

Perhaps the thing I am concerned about here is that I feel like I would be holding back from the relationship if I did not share everything with my romantic partner. I think it would help to have better reasons for either doing so or not doing so.

I would be very interested in learning how other people here see this issue, and mostly their reasoning behind that. Do you share such issues with your partner? If so, why? If not, why not?

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I'd go even beyond that and say that you don't have to (and probably shouldn't) talk about everything with your partner. I'd tend to think that everyone is entitled to their secret garden.

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Why not? And where do you think the line should be drawn (or where do you yourself draw the line?) about what to discuss and what not to? I don't think it would be good to just arbitrarily say I will discuss this and I won't discuss this; what are the principles that guide this for you?

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I am finding the question and answer, complete with the reasoning, right in the same post -- with possible exceptions for issues for which one might need a professional therapist.

I would be very interested in learning how other people here see this issue, and mostly their reasoning behind that. Do you share such issues with your partner? If so, why? If not, why not?

I greatly value communication with my romantic partner; I think it is important to be able to talk about anything that can have an effect on the relationship in question, and any psychological issues would probably fall into that category of things.

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Ah, it seems I did :(

I think this is partly a way of verifying whether the value I place on it is proper; this is something that I have believed for a long time before I even knew of Objectivism, and it is not always easy to see whether older ideas are correct or not. It usually helps a lot for me to see how other people look at an issue, oftentimes their reasoning (or lack thereof, although that is not very relevant here) helps me better clarify my own thoughts.

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When it comes to a romantic partner's psychological problems, I would recommend being a good listener and a reliable sounding board but not a diagnostician, adviser, or therapist.

Sometimes all the partner wants is to be able to put her feelings into words and once she does, she can see and deal with the problem on her own. If she can't, I would recommend consulting a knowledgeable psychological professional. A romantic partner is too close to the situation to be objective and a well-meaning amateur lacks the knowledge and skills of a good professional.

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Why not? And where do you think the line should be drawn (or where do you yourself draw the line?) about what to discuss and what not to? I don't think it would be good to just arbitrarily say I will discuss this and I won't discuss this; what are the principles that guide this for you?

I would expect to share and have my romantic partner (I am not saying loved ones here) share everything with me. I would also expect to work on my psychological problems and have my romantic partner work on his psychological problems on our own. Not to say, that I won't expect giving support, offering advice and providing feedback on it.

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Although every person is entitled to their "secret garden", I think it's very important to be able to discuss the most intimate aspects of your psychology, good and bad.

If a person has psychological issues, they may eventually come out in action, and your moods, or little things you say that the partner will quickly catch on to.

In the past, I always used to keep quiet about my issues, thinking I don't want to burden the person, it's not their problem etc.... But I've changed that because now I realize how much an impact every little thought and feeling you have has with your partner, and the value you get out of discussing it.

I know from personal experience, being able to talk to my partner about something very personal has been very helpful. Not only in re-affirming my values, but also giving me support and encouragement to work on what I need to and pursue my values.

It has also given me a lot of psychological visibility to talk with my partner about virtually everything, and having them understand me that much more.

On the other hand, I don't always talk about everything with my friends. Sometimes I find no reason to, it's something that I do myself. I would only talk to them about an issue if they had a similar experience and some valuable advice to offer.

Speaking personally, I would normally not bother with other people's psychological problems. However, this changes when someone becomes very precious to me; because I want to preserve this value I will do anything within my power (that is not sacrificial in nature) to help them deal with it. This will usually take the form of discussing the issue with them, to find out if they know why they are troubled by it, when it occurs, what they have tried, whether the problem is rational or not, and so on.

I very much agree here. I understand that a given person may not have the skills necessary to fix the problem, but they can bring up an idea or concept you haven't thought of yet, and shed light on your perspective.

~Carrie~

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-----------

Perhaps the thing I am concerned about here is that I feel like I would be holding back from the relationship if I did not share everything with my romantic partner. I think it would help to have better reasons for either doing so or not doing so.

I would be very interested in learning how other people here see this issue, and mostly their reasoning behind that. Do you share such issues with your partner? If so, why? If not, why not?

There is certainly nothing wrong with talking about any issue with your romantic partner. I agree with Betsy that one must not become a therapist. Besides the likelihood of misdiagnosis, if an element of a doctor/patient relationship creeps into the romantic relationship, the former will very likely undercut the latter. After all, one does not enter into a romantic relationship for the purpose of helping that person. Psychological problems can be quite complex and take a long time to solve. If a lot of time is spent helping rather than loving, the romance will likely lose out.

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Thanks for the replies so far, everyone!

I agree that your partner's psychological problems (if any) should never be the focus of your relationship. However, I do think that giving advice on certain delimited issues can be proper.

You can at the very least help point out any inconsistensies in her thinking with regard to the issues, things that can be much harder to catch on your own. Especially when you are troubled by something it can be hard to objectively consider everything on your own, to see if perhaps you are being irrational about anything.

If I look at how I currently deal with this, it is mainly listening attentively, and asking questions at certain points to further clarify something. I have found that a well-placed question can help a great deal there. Additionally, some people (including yours truly) are prone to being too harsh on themselves, and I think it can help place everything in perspective if through such a conversation you are again reminded of the relative importance of everything.

Why can conquer the world! :(

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Although every person is entitled to their "secret garden", I think it's very important to be able to discuss the most intimate aspects of your psychology, good and bad.

If a person has psychological issues, they may eventually come out in action, and your moods, or little things you say that the partner will quickly catch on to.

In the past, I always used to keep quiet about my issues, thinking I don't want to burden the person, it's not their problem etc.... But I've changed that because now I realize how much an impact every little thought and feeling you have has with your partner, and the value you get out of discussing it.

I know from personal experience, being able to talk to my partner about something very personal has been very helpful. Not only in re-affirming my values, but also giving me support and encouragement to work on what I need to and pursue my values.

It has also given me a lot of psychological visibility to talk with my partner about virtually everything, and having them understand me that much more.

I very much agree here. I understand that a given person may not have the skills necessary to fix the problem, but they can bring up an idea or concept you haven't thought of yet, and shed light on your perspective.

~Carrie~

I agree wholeheartedly with Carrie's post, and especially the parts above. That is essentially how I view the situation. Thank you for wording it so beautifully :(

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