Service of Conflicting Loyalties

April 22nd, 2024

Categories: Confidence, Loyalty, Secrets

We’re often confronted with allegiances that bump up against one another. I’m rewatching a series on Netflix, “Virgin River.” In it, a person with terminal cancer has asked her best friend’s husband [a doctor], and other close friends to let her tell her best friend about her diagnosis. Trouble is that this woman is on a trip, and she is devastated when her friend dies while she’s still away and nobody has told her of the serious illness out of loyalty to the wishes of the sick person.

At least three times officemates who were crucial to the running of a magazine or PR agency at which we were both employed, told me that they would soon be giving notice and to please keep it quiet. I always did.

A friend was annoyed when her husband wouldn’t tell her anything about a case the jury he was on was determining a verdict because he’d been told not to discuss the case with anyone.

It’s important to be clear when your news is not to be shared. If the person is married, I think that it should be OK, if the spouse is trustworthy, to give that partner a pass on the embargo. It’s ideal not to create potential friction as a result of your request for secrecy.

Have you been put in an uncomfortable position when asked not to discuss a situation with anyone? Have you asked not to hear the confidence? Have you asked others to honor your secret?

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12 Responses to “Service of Conflicting Loyalties”

  1. Anonymous Said:

    Actually over the years friends have told me things in strict confidence. I never reveal anything I was told. I’m like a safe and only I know the combination. Even when it’s been someone my husband is friends with….still no.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Anonymous,

    That is why people confide in you.

  3. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: I’ve never asked because I believe that most people can’t keep a secret, but when asked I do.

  4. TC Said:

    INDEED, PHYSICIANS HARD WIRED FOR KEEPING SECRETS ABOUT PEOPLES’ HEALTH OR ASKING PERMISSION FOR DISCLOSING TO OTHERS. USED TO BE AMONG ONES MOST PRIVATE INFO BUT PERHAPS NOT SO MUCH ANYMORE.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Linda,

    I trust some people not to discuss with others I know something I am not ready to share. I don’t care if they tell a million people I don’t know.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    TC,

    In the day, my parent’s family physician became their friend. My mother and the doctor’s wife were friends. Now doctors hardly have time to know their patients much less their family members.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Hubby is asking the Mrs. to break the law in order to satisfy his curiosity. If this isn’t totally unacceptable on his part, I don’t know what is. Shame on him!

  8. Martha Tepper Takayama Takayama Said:

    I do think it is very hard for most people to keep a confidence from a spouse or a significant other. The insider trading scandals always seemed unrealistic to me. Another aspect of confidence keeping that I sometimes find strange or unrealistic are the so-called HIPPA laws. They often seem absurd, because if you die your loved ones may not be able to be informed because you need to give permission for the information to be shared. They also can be counter-productive when information cannot be shared with family members who are needed for care for a patient.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    “Tell nobody/discuss with nobody” means just that. No exceptions. There are so many good reasons.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    You make a good point re HIPPA if it means a child or sibling might want to be vigilant about an inherited disease.

    If the confidence has no impact on the spouse or if the significant other has nothing to do with the person it should not be hard to stay mum and not involve him/her.

  11. Deb Wright Said:

    I think it depends on the situation. Personally, if I am asked not to reveal something and it doesn’t harm others NOT to know, I keep my word. When my husband was on a jury for two weeks, he would not tell me what the case was about or if he knew anyone else on the jury. I respected his silence. After the case was over, he felt free to tell me. And, yes, he did know someone on the jury; a former colleague of mine! So, I think spouses and significant others should not be exempt from “secrets,” as long as it does not directly or indirectly involve them.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Deb,

    I agree. And there are some things that are unhelpful for a spouse or best friend to know–a criticism for example. I was once in a restaurant and heard the full name of the husband of a friend/fellow worker mentioned by someone at a table behind me. While I don’t recall what the group was complaining about, I did take away something from the incident. [His name was not Joe Smith, or John Jones–but something unusual.] From that moment on I gave nicknames to my husband’s boss or others about whom we might not always be sharing cheery news. Who would put two and two together if they overheard, “So how is Daisy?” That is what we called one person.

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