My girlfriend Rissa and I share many intimate details with each other. I remember this one occasion when she was telling me something that was super secretive and super private. Before she told me, she specified for about ten minutes that I could not tell anyone, not my best friend Ryan, not my parents, no one. I had to swear on my life that I would not let this piece of information get out. After all this hassle, she finally told me. Communication privacy management theory explains Rissa and my behavior. She felt that she owned this piece of information. It was hers to share or hers not to share. Even after she told me, she still wanted to have the power and control to do with it how she wanted to. When she decided to tell me this information, she was bringing me into her circle, and we were now co-owners of the information. When she specified that I couldn’t tell anyone, she was setting privacy boundaries and we were negotiating the privacy of the information that both of us now know. But no matter how carefully you set up the boundaries, it doesn’t mean the other person will follow through on your wishes.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I was at my friend’s house for a sleepover. Like teenage girls do, we were talking about our crushes. This was not a friend that I would have considered a bestie at the time, but someone I was getting closer with. I thought that we were at the point where I could trust her with the information of who I liked. So that night, we had our girl talk and at the end the conversation, the words “But don’t tell anyone " came out as they do in most situations like that. Everything was all fine and good, we controlled the information of our crushes through a set of privacy rules, through disclosure on both ends we became co-owners of private information, and we negotiated the new situation that there would not be any permeability or linkage since we were both not going to tell anyone about what we discussed. We had a unified approach. Here is where principle five came into play. Things went wrong and turbulence was created. A few weeks later, my friend FaceTimed me and she basically told me how she was with the boy I liked and told him everything that I had told her. Her reasoning was that she “couldn't lie to him.” Obviously after hearing this I was upset, but what was more upsetting than him knowing was now realizing that my trust had been broken and this wasn’t as good of a friend as I thought. She knew it was wrong, but she went ahead anyway and told my private information. I responded in a calm way because I did not feel like we were close enough friends for me to show my feelings or express anger. From that day on, I did view our friendship differently. It halted the growth in our friendship and even as we got older and moved past silly things like this, I still kept her at arm's length knowing that this probably wasn't going to be a long-lasting friendship. Using this theory, I could predict that this was not going to be a person I could wholeheartedly trust with anything important again.