A bit of backstory

My parents are separated and my Dad has a long-term partner who he has been with for over 10 years now. She (my Dad's partner, let's call her Eve) has a close group of friends who she sees on a regular basis. One of Eve's close friends (let's call her Annie) works at the same place as me, in different departments but we occasionally see each other at lunchtime.

Someone in my family, Adam, has a mental health condition which sometimes means the way they behave is not the most polite, can come across as rude etc. I mention this because it has caused issues in the past. Eve has found Adam's behaviour to be 'unacceptable', has told my Dad, who has then told Adam which has caused a lot of grief and loss of trust. I think this goes to demonstrate how sensitive Eve can sometimes be about a person's perceived behaviour, which is why I want to avoid as much as possible any conflict.

My Problem

Adam had recently been going through a 'down period', whereby I mean their mental health was not in good shape for several reasons. I would talk to my (our) Dad about this when I would see him. Sometimes Eve would be there too, but I felt like there was no reason not to trust her with the information. In essence, Adam was not sure if he wanted to go on a family holiday because he wasn't feeling great, I felt it was important to tell them because they would need to be aware and available had that been the case.

So, on a couple of occasions at work, I have bumped into to Annie at lunchtime and she has asked me about a specific 'event' that either myself or Adam would have discussed with my Dad. My Dad may have discussed this with Eve which I don't see a problem with unless it was explicitly stated to be confidential between my Dad and Adam. I do however take issue with this for several reasons:

  1. The information I shared with them, was shared with confidence that it would be private between those present. It was not explicitly stated but I definitely would expect that to be the case.

  2. I hardly know Annie. She is a lovely person but we are not close and she isn't a close family friend. On the contrary, she is only friends with Eve, not my family and certainly not someone who I would divulge such personal information to.

  3. When Eve and Annie normally see each other it is with a large group of friends. So if Annie knows about this then it is likely that everyone else present at the time also knows. People who I don't even know. And who knows who else could have been told.

As nice as Annie is, and as much as I like her, it is not her (or any of Eve's other friends') business to know the inner workings of my family or Adam's personal information and I need to make sure that Eve doesn't do this sort of thing again.

This has only happened twice. With the example that I mentioned above and with another example.

As mentioned earlier Eve has a tendency to be very sensitive about matters such as these. How can I go about asking her not to share such information? In the meantime, I know that I can refrain from saying anything with her present, but I know that I do need to tell my Dad important things. But then I would have to tell him explicitly not to share this with Eve which raises the same problem.

This is especially important to me because if Adam were to find out about how Eve had been 'spreading his secrets' it would cause a lot of conflicts and unnecessary grief in our family.

How can I make Eve know that she can not be spreading personal family information such as this with strangers?

Thanks for any help.

  • Upon reading the questions one assumption struck me that you may want to investigate as not being 'the truth' (at least there is nothing in the question indicating that this is 'so'): I think this goes to demonstrate how sensitive Eve can sometimes be
    – user10085
    Jan 12, 2018 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


This is a tough one. There are no guarantees Eve will honor your request. Usually, people who spread information to others, whether you consider it gossiping or not don't realize it's a big deal and if this is how they are they will keep doing it.

Approach Eve and tell her what her friend Annie mentioned/asked about Adam. Ask her calmly to not share your family's private matters (e.g stuff about Adam) to anyone even Annie. You could explain what you said in your question about both Eve and Annie discussing such matters around other women who might also spread the information and so on. Depending on your relationship with Eve you could politely tell her that you don't like that this is causing problems to Adam and you wish she stopped the behavior.

Eve, I'd appreciate it if you kept our family matters/Adam's personal problems private from now on. Can I please count on you that anything me or dad discuss with you will remain confidential?

You could elaborate more about the importance of confidentiality in discussing someone's mental health. Adam hasn't agreed nor given permission and he feels uncomfortable to the point his health is affected.

Keep in mind that even if Eve respects your request in theory she could still tell Annie and ask her not to mention anything to you from now on...

If you feel this is really damaging to Adam ask for your dad's help. Either don't talk about Adam when Eve is around or involve your dad in a solution by mentioning what happened with Annie. Is he able to convince Eve that she needs to keep your family's matters private?

If after asking Eve she keeps spreading information e.g about Adam, confront Eve and tell her that it has made it difficult for you to trust her and you won't be sharing personal information again. You could ask your dad to do the same but he's been with Eve for many years and it's hard to exclude her from information involving the family.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. I agree that if I did approach her there would be no guarantee she would honour it and it would of course cause lots of hassle. I think, after reading your answer, my best option would be to not mention Adam with Eve around again and mention to my Dad what happened with Annie and why it could be important to not share anything with Eve. Jan 12, 2018 at 10:31
  • Excellent answer, really like this simple line If you feel this is really damaging to Adam ask for your dad's help
    – user1856
    Jan 12, 2018 at 12:18

Tell Eve what you told us. There's no need to ask her to stop sharing information, merely to mention the outcome of sharing the information (ie, Adam may be upset) and that she should discuss it with Adam so he knows what she's shared, who she's shared it with, and what he'd like her to do in the future.

Eve, Annie has approached me at work a few times to discuss sensitive family information, for instance Adam's mental health. I understand she's your friend and perhaps you need someone to talk to about this, but I'm concerned that if Adam knew his mental health was being discussed with others outside the three of us, even in confidence, it would be very upsetting to him.

I'll tell Annie directly that I don't want to discuss personal family matters with her. I'd appreciate it if you would discuss this with Adam, letting him know what you've shared with others and why. I want to avoid him finding out later from someone else that his information may have spread further than he'd prefer, and he may have specific desires for how and with whom to share this information.

  • I'm not sure about the second paragraph (from I'd appreciate...). Since Eve has found Adam's behaviour to be 'unacceptable' she may not be willing/ready to do that. You are right implying that something needs to be done towards Adam (because of if Adam were to find out about how Eve), but maybe the father or the OP?
    – user10085
    Jan 12, 2018 at 16:48
  • @Jan While I agree with you on the surface, I think part of resolving this has to come from Eve and Adam (ha!) hashing this out. Op and his father could make rules for Eve to follow, but it doesn't sound like that's going to be effective. Telling Adam without giving him the ability to talk to the person causing the problem is only going to frustrate him - his info is being spread around and he can do nothing about it. So I'd still ask Eve to have a frank discussion with Adam. It will likely be frustrating for both of them, but they have to come to terms with the situation, together.
    – Adam Davis
    Jan 12, 2018 at 21:35

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