Should you air your dirty linen to the world?


By Libby Purves  

Being suddenly dumped is a shock. It feels like a humiliation, almost a disgrace. After a 20-year relationship, most of it as a wife and mother, there must be anger, bewilderment, maybe even a sense of guilt.

Libby Purves (pictured) argues that every woman has the right to tell their own stories

Some go quietly and talk only to trusted friends; many are so focused on preventing their children’s distress that they pretend it was mutual, a conscious-uncoupling.

Others, however, go public. They cut up trousers, pour away the pig’s vintage wine, or, like actress Alice Evans, hit Twitter.

Last week she announced her ‘beloved husband/soulmate’, Hornblower star Ioan Gruffudd, was leaving and said he no longer loved her.

People always criticise women for this, either for the sake of their children (without knowing what those children think) or because it seems undignified. But I say that whether you’re an LA celebrity or Joan down the road, your story is your own. You have an absolute right to tell it.

If vows were made and a family built and you have been faithful and want to stay together, why should you meekly fall in with some comfy fiction that the marriage ‘just broke down’? If your well-known partner would prefer it that way, tough. The creepiest aspect of this story is Alice’s claim that Ioan deleted her tweet. She riposted: ‘Hell yes I will wash my linen in public!’

They are reportedly talking now and good luck to them, but she steadfastly says she still loves him. ‘You must think I’m an a**hole. I’m not though. I don’t have a mum or a dad. I don’t have any close friends in LA,’ she said this week. She needed to lay out her pain, and wise or not, that was her right.

Your story is your own. You have a right to tell it

Just as it was the right of the late, fine journalist Deborah Orr to lay bare the disputes with her husband, novelist Will Self, over their home. She quoted one sympathiser who said: ‘When a man calls a woman ‘crazy’, it is almost always because she has raised the man’s failings.’

For centuries, women have been encouraged not to cause trouble. It goes back to the folk tale of Patient Griselda: her husband ‘tests’ her by removing her children, banishing her and hiring her as a servant to his proposed new bride, then patronisingly rewards her subservience by taking her back. Some people, men and women, still buy into that idea of silent humble virtue.

When it comes to social media accusations or hurling possessions out of the window, I wouldn’t do it. Maybe you wouldn’t. But no one may judge you: it’s your story.


By Bel Mooney 

Let it all hang out is so easy to say — and it’s the modern way, after all. We’re told the old-fashioned stiff upper lip is bad for our wellbeing, so let’s all ‘share’ and tell tacky Twittersphere and inquisitive Instagrammers how we truly feel.

But Bel Mooney (pictured) says she thinks people should be more careful what they share

But Bel Mooney (pictured) says she thinks people should be more careful what they share

And if your heart is breaking because your husband walked out? Well, spill it out! Let the world drink up your tears and shame that cruel man publicly at the same time.

Sympathisers will applaud your honesty and others who have suffered similar hurt will join in a rousing chorus of ‘All men are bastards’. And why not? Isn’t it your right to wash your dirty linen in public?

The trouble is few of us live in isolation. Our personal stories are usually shared with others. What about family and friends? And children? Even if your partner is causing you pain, should you shame his parents, say, by telling everyone how unfeeling he is? No matter what he has done, do you want to hurt your children with instant, blow-by-blow accounts of his infidelity?

And what if the situation changes? What happens if you broadcast your pain and allow hordes of well-wishers to agree how badly you’ve been treated — and then your man relents and wants to build bridges?

Will it help your private conversations, your tentative attempts to heal, if you’ve already vented to a listening world? No. There’s no taking back your wild words.

There’s no taking back your wild words 

That’s why I’d urge extreme caution before sharing with strangers in the rapid, unforgiving world of social media. That’s not to say I disapprove of expressing feelings. Of course not. I know from writing this paper’s advice column that setting problems down can help, and that personal stories shared can be useful for others, to realise that they are not alone.

No stranger to ‘confessional’ writing myself, I wrote a memoir about the end of my first marriage and its aftermath, intended to help others facing divorce and struggling to forgive. But my book was published seven years later. There was nothing impulsive about it — it was what the poet Wordsworth called ’emotion recollected in tranquillity’.

Writing thoughtfully in an article or book, trying to make sense of things, is very different from blurting on Instagram. So is confiding in close friends and being supported by their sympathy. But why tell strangers who can’t possibly care? Isn’t it more dignified to keep schtum?

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