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Background:

I try to avoid shopping while hungry as I make bad decisions but I wasn't expecting we'd be dropping by the store when my wife and I were out on a walk. She asked if I intended to share with our kids the big bag of chips I'd picked off the shelf (not wanting any herself). Well, no, my stomach was doing the thinking and I had intended to eat that entire bag, but coming to my senses somewhat I decided half would satisfy my craving and the kids could have the rest. To that end I chose a different bag, telling my wife a less popular flavour would help ensure I'd have more for myself. Sounds selfish, I know, but my adult son eats snacks as meal replacements and there have been many occasions when I went to get a snack from the pantry or freezer only to find he'd already eaten everything. As he pays room and board I usually don't have a problem with him getting his portion, it's just that he's incapable of pacing himself and ensuring everyone else gets their portion too.

This isn't news to my wife who previously had hidden a box of popsicles in the meat freezer instead of the snack freezer for exactly this reason (which worked well as my wife, daughter, and I snacked on popsicles over the course of two weeks instead of the typical few days).

Problem:

After we got home, I opened the chip bag and left it out for sharing. My son was playing video games and didn't notice the bag right away, but my daughter had some and as I was still hungry I quickly ate my portion. This prompted my wife to laugh when she entered the room and exclaim, "the bag's already half gone! So much for your plan to get chips that no one else likes!"

The kids didn't say anything but I was mortified that she had shared what to me had been a private communication between us (and one that -- on the face of it -- doesn't paint me in a flattering light). I approached her about it in private later and she told me she hadn't considered it a secret, that she'd directed the comment at me (meaning, I suppose, that she wasn't purposefully trying to embarrass me), and that I was blowing things out of proportion and neither of our kids cared about this as much as I do.

When I asked her how she would feel if I told our son that she had hidden popsicles because she didn't want to share them with him (which to me is equivalent), she said that wouldn't bother her at all. Finally, she told me she was sorry if I felt embarrassed but she feels she has done nothing wrong. That's not satisfying as my feelings are my own and no one needs to apologize for them.

She feels this was a non-event, and while the event itself is relatively minor to me the bigger issue is that I am unable to make her appreciate that it still feels like a small betrayal.

What steps can I take to better explain to her why I see this as a betrayal of our trust?

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    To clarify, is getting your wife to understand that you saw this as a betrayal your only goal? Would this conversation fulfill your goals?: "I thought I had told you that in confidence, and I felt betrayed by you breaking my trust" "Oh I see. I understand. There's no way I could have or will think like that, though, so my behaviour won't and can't change moving forward" "That's okay, I just wanted us to be on the same page, I don't care if you do it again" "Okay cool." – Sarov May 12 at 21:00
  • Hey Reginald! Welcome to IPS. I've given your question an edit to remove some of the off-topic parts and a bit of 'noise'. I do think your question could benefit from clarifying one more thing though: Your priorities for the outcome. What's your actual goal you'd like to achieve? Your old title mentioned 'seeing eye-to-eye', but together with your requests for reasons that you could've been wrong (which were edited out for being off-topic), that can also mean you change your position on this. 1/2 – Tinkeringbell May 12 at 21:15
  • So, could you pick a possible goal, or prioritize some things? For example, Are you after an apology from your wife, or would it be enough if she promised not to do things again? Would you be satisfied if you better understood why she thinks of this as minor, are you after clearer boundaries on what is/isn't private? Are there any other things you wish for, that I couldn't think of? – Tinkeringbell May 12 at 21:15
  • Thank you, Tinkeringbell. To (hopefully) answer you and Sarov and get closer to a proper question, what I want most is to avoid being placed in an awkward position like this again (with anyone, not just my son). For that to happen, my wife needs to understand why I feel that her revealing my scheme was a breach of trust so she can recognize and avoid similar situations in the future. I’ve been unable to explain that to her, and that’s what I’m hoping for help on. (1/3) – Reginald Vas Deferens May 13 at 14:41
  • So, Sarov, the conversation I’m hoping for is more like, “I understand now why that made you uncomfortable and, although I don’t think it’s a big deal at all, I won’t do it again.” (2/3) – Reginald Vas Deferens May 13 at 14:41
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Different people always make different assumptions (source: every requirement I've ever written/read). This can be improved over time, but they will never perfectly match. So when in doubt, the best approach is to explicitly state your assumptions.

What I assume is that...

When you said to your wife "A less popular flavour will help ensure I'll have more for myself", you assumed that you were telling her this in confidence, and that it painted you in a negative light.

Meanwhile, she assumed that you were just making basic conversation, and that it did not paint you in a bad light.

You can try to discuss the event, and doing so isn't a bad idea. The more you discuss differing assumptions, the more you will learn about each other, and the more likely you'll each be able to correctly guess the other's assumptions. Note: This goes both ways. Your wife failed to correctly guess your assumptions, and you failed to correctly guess your wife's assumptions.

But that's just the thing - note the words 'likely' and 'guess', there. There will always come a time where you each guess wrong. To that end, when you feel necessary... make your assumptions explicit (again, just like in writing requirements). For example, in this case:

"A less popular flavour will help ensure I'll have more for myself... but that's a secret! Shhh." Accompanied by a smile and a finger to your lips. At this point, her telling your remark to others would constitute an actual, willful breach of trust... rather than just a miscommunication on both sides.

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From my perspective, there are two issues to address here:

1. Clarify mutual assumptions in your verbal interchanges.

As Sarov pointed out, laying out some rules such as "I will explicitly say when something is a secret" and "I will not share information that you told me in confidence", as basic as it sounds may benefit you both.

2. Acknowledge the importance/weight of an issue may be different for each other.

The "offended" part may not understand why the "offender" is unable to accept responsibility or admit that they did something that hurt the "offended".

The "offender" may become defensive when the "offended" accuses him/her of doing something they did with no bad intentions or that they thought was right.

It's tricky because the chips incident (or any "small" event) is actually projecting deeper scars from each other. I think that trying to explain your own pain may help her see your point of view.

In my experience, one of the two will have to lower their defensiveness first and this may take time.

In order to explain clearly and mostly without pointing fingers, therapists suggest using "I" statements.

Having said that, here's what I would try to tell her:

I was not expecting to let the kids know about my selfish plans because I honestly felt > a bit ashamed of myself for wanting to eat a bigger portion. When you told it out loud, I felt exposed and a bit humiliated. I understand that you didn't do it on purpose and I'll try to voice my needs more clearly to avoid future misunderstandings.

After the incident, When I voiced my posture about what happened, I felt rejected and minimized, as if I didn't have the right to felt the way I did. This is the part of the incident that hurt me the most: to feel like you didn't understand or validate my perspective.

You have the right to look at this as something minor, and I will not try to change your mind about that. The only thing I would like to ask from you is to acknowledge that in my mind, I had reasons to feel betrayed, even if this looked like a minor issue.

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Thank you to Tinkeringbell, Sarov, and Aurinxki for helping me to understand my problem from a different perspective. I was going to reply to Sarov that, regardless of our assumptions, I felt my wife should have taken responsibility by asking herself if I would have revealed my scheme to my son, if there was a chance that revealing it could have resulted in a conflict between my son and I, and how my son might have felt upon hearing it. But I came back to one small comment my wife made, that she didn't think it was a big deal because when I've done things like this in the past I just owned it.

I brought this on myself when my wife asked me if I intended to share the bag and, out of guilt that I had not, I hatched the scheme to get it both ways (keeping chips for myself yet still sharing). I should have owned it, kept the actual flavour of chips I wanted, and replied that, no, the entire bag was for myself. Upon arriving home I actually would have shared with the kids if they had asked, but I would have kept the bag with me instead of putting it out for everyone. That would have been honest, at least, and I wouldn't have felt ashamed (thanks for helping me see that, Aurinxki), embarrassed, and caught off-guard, unable to defend my actions.

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