Op-Ed: In 2024, Keep Your Relationship To Yourself — Good, Bad And The Ugly

by Elisabeth Ayoola (Essence)

Privacy, or ”the state of being free from public attention” has become increasingly rare in the social media age, and a lot of the time, it’s the most famous among us who are handing it over. Some of your favorite celebrities have gone from private and mysterious to overexposed and oversharing. Many have invited us into their love lives unprovoked, and we now know things about them that we wish we could unknow.

Throughout 2023, we saw Jada Pinkett Smith reveal the intimate details of her marriage, Cardi B scream at her husband Offset on Instagram Live (he wasn’t there by the way), Tamar Braxton and JR Robinson have a live therapy session, and Supa Cent and Rayzor announce a breakup, and then offer a play-by-play of an incident of domestic violence. As we kickstart 2024, I think it’s safe to say that as a collective, many of us are tired and would like to be taken out of the group chat.

I have always struggled to answer the question of how much of your private life should be shared online. On the one hand, I think there is power in sharing–especially when you’re sharing things that have held you hostage like shame or trauma. However, the further along in life and healing I get, the more I understand the importance of safe spaces. Healing, freedom, and resolution, happens when we share in safe spaces. The internet is not a safe space.

It is filled with people who are scrolling looking for entertainment and their next conversation starters. It includes many individuals who are miserable in their everyday lives and scroll so they don’t have to confront that misery. It’s full of people looking to find and gloat about people in pain so they can feel better about themselves. Your relationship issues aren’t entertainment and neither is your pain.

In 2024, I hope both celebrity couples and everyday people find safe spaces to share their pain. And if you feel you must share, be it to inspire others or connect with people going through similar challenges, wait until the wound isn’t so raw and you’ve decided on your next best steps. To that point, I once heard a couple say that when they share their relationship lessons, they do so after they’ve hashed out their issues and kissed and made up; after some sort of healing and resolution has taken place and not in the midst of the conflict. That makes sense to me. It sounds like a healthy way of sharing.

That said, I want to make it clear that nobody has the right to police when and how other people share their lives online. And as much as I think it isn’t healthy to use the internet as your diary, there is something admirable about someone’s ability to be vulnerable and open; especially on social media where people are often terrified of being their full, flawed, authentic selves. But when it comes to relationships, I think that vulnerability should be kept within the protected confines of people who love and are rooting for you, be it a therapist, elder, pastor, couple you admire or best friend. And if you choose not to keep your relationship drama in safe spaces, be ready for the repercussions; the public inviting themselves into your private affairs and criticizing you for your decisions.

The good thing about keeping relationship issues private is you can break up and reconcile as many times as you want to without anyone’s opinions or interference with your choices. You also get to take your person back without being shamed for it. This was an apt lesson I learned after a few of my relationships. We fought and I vented to people I shouldn’t have when my emotions were heightened. While I forgave a partner for their transgressions within three business days, other people in my life weren’t as forgiving. It made repairing those relationships more difficult because I was worried about the judgment of others. I have since learned to keep my business to myself or only share with neutral parties. I don’t want people who mean little to me having an opinion about my life. I especially don’t want them to have an opinion on the things I deem sacred.

If you think about it, we don’t know if or how many times Denzel and Pauletta Washington could have called a divorce lawyer or if such a thought has ever even crossed their minds. Thats because they don’t tell us. We don’t know whether Oprah ever told Stedman to pack his bags and then took him back the next day because she knows it’s none of our business. They aren’t painting a perfect picture or being disingenuous. Quite the opposite actually. Instead, it shows emotional maturity and their ability to fiercely safeguard something and someone they love.

I hope more people can adopt this way of living in the new year and we can make privacy a thing again.

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