Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Candid talk between friends should be kept confidential
Betraying someone's confidence? At a party last night I was with a group of eight people, and we were telling funny, awkward stories. I was fairly intoxicated and told an embarrassing story about a friend of mine who has a crazy sex life. She had shared the story with me and my boyfriend openly, so it didn't occur to me at the time that she might be upset if I retold it.
I feel bad, and I wonder if I did something that could have hurt her feelings. I don't plan to tell her, but I wonder what obligation someone has to keep a friend's personal life private.
I've always been of the mind that if you don't want information getting around, you should keep it to yourself, or share it with someone you trust and explicitly state that you are speaking in confidence. What's your take?
Carolyn: Your morning-after reaction was right — it was wrong to retell her private story.
People don't think to say, "Don't tell anyone," when they're speaking candidly to friends — something you'd realize if you weren't now rationalizing to make yourself feel better. Either they assume you won't retell something clearly personal, or they don't feel guarded enough even to think in terms of labeling their words for export.
Your word choice is interesting — when you "share it with someone you trust." You're essentially saying you're not trustworthy unless someone explicitly says, "Don't tell." Everyone makes mistakes, and you're not automatically a bad person for this blunder, but your regret twinges are an opportunity to make a conscious decision to become someone your friends can trust.
Marriage is a partnership that merits full financial disclosure
Anonymous: I'm getting married in a few months, and I've been struggling with a question: How much financial information should a couple share pre-wedding? Recently my fiance told me that an old creditor started garnishing a portion of his paycheck. I was shocked that his finances were in such a bad state. He has always been private about money, but I didn't care much, since I make my own living. I'm just wondering if we need to write out our debts and share them with each other before marriage. If so, how do I approach this topic?
Carolyn: You tell him the garnished paycheck surprised you, and you think it's important that you share full financial information — including credit scores — then fully discuss your philosophies and approaches to money. This is critical given not just his neglected debt, but also your casual attitude toward his being "private about money."
If he won't share, don't marry. Seriously.
And if he does share what amounts to a real mess, then postpone the wedding until he sorts himself out. This isn't about your ability to support yourself, though that helps. It's about the financial implications of the legal knot you're about to tie. Unromantic, sure, but losing a home or car, taking second or third jobs, never having a vacation and winding up in bankruptcy are all profoundly unromantic as well.