Question: My husband indulges in gossip (with his mom about his relatives), claims it is a stress-buster. He hardly has any friends whom he can meet occasionally if not regularly, a) I feel his views are taking a hit because he is not mingling with people of his mindset b) The gossip part irritates me because I do not like gossip so I do not indulge – I have tried telling him in a positive way that it is not correct to comment/pass remarks about others. This way I am worried about my kids taking on to this habit too, my mother says this is the stupidest worry of mine, but it doesn’t let me sleep so seeking help.
Value differences are not “stupid” to worry about. And if something is valuable to you, you must try to reasonably achieve it in and for your own life. I understand that setting aside value differences with people you love is harder to do, whether it is debating which political party to vote for or which habits are not the most functional in life to have. Value differences become even harder to handle when they are with our spouses.
One way to ease the tension is to perhaps look at your values as just that, your values and not as a universal code of conduct that by which everyone has to abide. This would probably make you feel less compelled to demand that your husband should stop gossiping. Hopefully a bit less worrying, but you will still have the problem of the reconciliation of values with your husband in front of you because this is, by your account, something that is super important to you and you find it hard to just agree to disagree on this point.
Helping him understand, on your own or in couple’s counselling session, the emotional importance of the matter to him might be helpful. Gossiping like most of our guilty pleasures, do help in short term stress reduction, but is not regarded as the most functional defence mechanism. Talking about others in order to understand them and reflecting on human nature, in general, is a different thing, then berating people behind their backs for addressing the insecurity one might feel about oneself. Putting people down has never helped raise low self-esteem because it is not a cure but a symptom of the experience. I hope you are able to make progress with him and don’t worry children have you as an example too. Hard as it might be, realize that people are different and may not share your important values all the time how much ever you wish that to be true