What to do when your boyfriend tells your secrets

Vitu asks:

I have a boyfriend who tells people what I tell him. He goes behind my back to discuss me with other people, and then he toys and teases me about it. Should I dump him or continue with the relationship?

Hi Vitu –

This is something we dogs never deal with.  We communicate in ways that you people often don’t understand (through sounds and smells and gestures), but we don’t keep secrets.  We don’t even know how!  So the only thing that happens behind anyone’s back is… well… sniffing!

But I know that you humans take these things very seriously.  Secrets, promises, confidentiality, are part of human intimacy.  And for many people, telling those special secret somethings to others is not too far from cheating.

Then I see other people who feel the exact opposite.  My human friend Handsome has dated a number of women who see nothing wrong in sharing every intimate detail of their relationship, including anything he’s told her in confidence, with their closer friends.  They wouldn’t blab them to others, but they feel just fine about that.  (He does not agree with them, by the way, and it often contributed to their breaking up!)

So I think this is one of those situations where you and your boyfriend have different values and needs.  Which is true in all relationships eventually.  The question – the VERY BIG question – is whether or not you two can work this out, in a way that respects you both.

Now from what you wrote me, I’m getting the idea that your boyfriend doesn’t respect your feelings about this at all.  What I don’t know is whether you’ve told him how much it means to you.  If he doesn’t know, then I can’t fault him; it’s just your job to tell him how you feel.

And once he knows, he might have some perfectly fair responses.  Like, “But I need my friends to hear what I’m dealing with; it’s something I’ve always needed in all sorts of circumstances.  I don’t do this to insult you.  Darling, I do it so that our relationship can work!”

Or he might be shocked and say, “I’m so sorry!  I had no idea I was doing anything that would bother you.  Tell me specifically what it is you want me to keep secret, and I’ll do it absolutely.”

Or he might laugh and say “Oh you’re just a prude.  Stop being so sensitive!”

And his response will tell you a lot about what to do next in this relationship.  If it’s the first, then he’s ready for a very mature exchange, and I’d say this guy is a keeper.  If it’s the second, then he’s a good guy, but I’d guess the issue might come up again in the future, as he tries to figure out how to balance his needs and yours.

And if it’s the third, he simply doesn’t respect your feelings.  And yes, I’d say to head for the dumpster!

The important thing here is to respect your own needs.  Listen to him, sure, but you deserve to have a relationship where you feel safe, loved, and honored.

Like mine with Handsome.  Well, safe and loved anyway.  It’s hard to feel honored when someone jumps onto you while you’re sleeping, covering you in kisses and calling you “Knucklehead!”

All my best,


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