A “confidante” is someone you feel you can “confide” in, or share secrets with. Being someone’s confidante can be one of the most rewarding parts of friendship. It can feel as if we are specially chosen by a friend to be their trusted listening ear. This is a big compliment! It may also feel relieving, like you are glad this person has someone to talk to, even if you’re not sure why they picked you.
But there are also times when being someone’s confidante can feel like a pretty big job, even if it’s a job you treasure. What do you do when you worry someone is confiding in you too much? Or what if what they’re telling you makes you worried about their safety? This article will go over:
Being a teen or a young adult can be an especially challenging time for solving problems and keeping secrets. Teens and young adults are often caught in a “gray zone” where you can have adult-level problems, but still only have kid-level power in making decisions or changing your circumstances. I call this “Big Problems, Small Power.” In these situations, teens and young adults may feel like it’s safer to talk to a peer than to an adult, because a peer may understand being stuck in this “gray zone” better. One issue though, is that you (as another teen or young adult) are also limited in your power to make decisions or change circumstances. So you may be listening to your friend’s Big Problems, but not be contributing any power to help them…. and that can lead to Big Worry.
Here are a couple of signs that being your friend’s confidante could be creating a mental health burden for you:
What do you do when you realize that being your friend’s confidante has become harmful to you or them, but you don’t want to hurt or alienate them by setting a boundary? Here are a couple of conversation ideas that might help:
When your friend confides something in you that you suspect could mean they, or someone else, are in danger, it’s time to break that secret. Remember, your safety and the safety of others is more important than hurt feelings or breaking trust. Try this conversation opener if you don’t know where to start: “Thank you for telling me this secret, I’m glad you trust me. This problem is too big for us to solve alone and we need help. Who is a safe adult we can tell?” By partnering with your friend to agree on an adult to tell together, you may be helping them make a healthy choice they were scared to do alone. If your friend is in an emergency situation, you may need to break that secret and tell an adult without their permission. While this is hard, remember, your duty as someone who loves them is to do your best to keep them safe. Big Problems often require Big Power to solve, which usually means telling a safe adult. Secrets should be broken when they compromise safety.
Some examples of times when safety is more important than secrets are:
There a lot of options available for mental health support, even some that are completely teletherapy-based, like Joon Care. Other safe adults in your friend’s life can include:
Visit our resource page for crisis resources you can share with your friend, or call/text yourself! If you believe you or your friend is in immediate danger, always call 911.