Life can be hard. There’s no doubt about it. Everyone has problems every single day–large and small. But too much whining and complaining can make everything worse, including your love life. That is the subject of this week’s Love Essentially column, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.
Complaining: The Fastest Way To Ruin Your Love Life by Jackie Pilossoph for Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press
Let’s say you’re grocery shopping, or you’re at the gym, or you’re running an errand and you happen to see someone you know. What’s the first thing you’re probably going to ask him or her? “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” “How are things?”
My dad taught me at an early age that when someone asks you one of those questions, you should always reply with “fine,” or “good,” because no one wants to hear your problems.
But does this same concept apply when answering one of these questions to your spouse or when on a date? According to my parents, who have been married for 58 years, yes.
You might disagree, thinking, “But my husband/wife is the person who is supposed to care about me the most and be supportive of all my problems. While this is true, there is a big difference between supporting someone’s complaints, and supporting the actual problem.
For example, let’s say a person continuously complains to their spouse about how much they dislike their job. Most likely, the spouse will become tired of hearing it and roll his or her eyes every time the subject comes up. Why? Because for the first 100 times the spouse complained about the job, the person might have tried to be supportive, perhaps offering suggestions on job searching, only to be told in a defensive tone, things like, “You just don’t get it,” or “I can’t quit.”
Too much complaining to a spouse without taking action to either fix the problem or accept it could lead to a few things:
• The spouse might stop listening and become burned out. The whining will then go in one ear and out the other.
• The spouse could become frustrated by the complaining, and possibly angry and or resentful
• The spouse might lose respect for the person, viewing them as lazy or afraid of change instead of trying to make things better.
• The spouse might lose interest in or attraction to the person because of the negative attitude.
How about complaining on a date? What if instead of first-date behavior – flirting, compliments and attempts at witty humor, someone was going on and on about how unhappy they were at their job? Think they would be asked out again? I’m saying no. People go on dates for two reasons: to have fun and/or to possibly find love. It’s hard to have fun with or love a whiner.
Everyone has problems, and we all have those days when we feel frustrated and just want to vent. But there is a difference between venting and complaining. Venting is a one-time deal. Venting means getting out your frustration so you can be done talking or thinking about it, and can then later either figure out how to make it better or accept that it isn’t going to change and learn to live with it. I think it’s reasonable and even healthy to vent to a spouse or even on a date. No one should have to hold feelings inside.
What’s unhealthy and unattractive to others is constantly talking about what you wish you had, what you regret, how difficult other people are and how hard your life is. Why not try focusing on the good things that happened in your day? The beautiful blue sky you looked up at when you took a walk, the delicious slice of pizza you enjoyed for lunch, something your kid said that made you laugh until tears streamed down your cheeks, or that sweet, soft kiss you got from the man or woman who unconditionally loves you every day.
Last week in yoga class, my instructor referred to the common saying: “When it rains, it pours.” That phrase came to mind recently when in a two-week span my air conditioner broke (for good), my washing machine broke (for good), I became an identity theft victim, and I could barely walk for seven days due to severe back pain. I felt like it was hell week. There, I vented.
But why can’t “When it rains, it pours” be something we say when good things happen? Because if you think about it, there are countless miracles happening for us every second – so many more than there are things going wrong. We just notice what’s wrong more. Really, it’s always pouring. Not rain, but rather gifts.
“I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining…” Click here read the rest of the article, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.
Like this article? Check out my article, “Feeling Unappreciated?”
My husband and I don’t have sex, ever. We did see a therapist together for a long time and from it i heard his pain and frustration, what he felt (& I acknowledged) was troubling him about us and our marriage. I worked hard to change those perceptions and to change what I was doing to him, taking the brunt of the responsibility. Since graduating from therapy, we still have not had sex. I discussed it separately with our therapist and she recommended sex therapists and doctors for him to speak with. He never reached out to any of them. I also asked him to see his gp and endocrinologist to discuss the myriad of meds he needs to take. He needs the meds so the best option was to exercise, get those endorphins going. He hasn’t exercised. Says he will but won’t.
I’m almost 50 and am logically looking at the next chapter of my life. I’ve been seeing our therapist alone to discuss my next steps. Our kids are 13 & 17, I’m onto a new career and fulfilling career path, and am looking to what makes me happy. It’s a slow process and that’s OK. I love him, we’ve been each other’s best friend for almost 30 years. It’s painful to even consider divorce (a word that has been bandied about in my head but one I’ve never uttered out loud) but I know in my heart of hearts that if I stay, our relationship will stay at the current status quo.
I am not so foolish as to think I’ll find someone else with whom I can find that passion but I do know I’d rather be alone than lonely.
We’ve talked ad nauseum about our relationship and sex, I’ve also told him that I don’t want to resent him in the long run. I once even asked if an outside lover would be the overall solution (for me) to which he gently smiled and said that he would not allow for that.
Divorcing him would be hard on all of us but I believe it’s the best thing in the long run.
I just don’t know how to start the conversation. It’s a scary one. Can you recommend pointers? I know everyone is different but this is my best friend I’m talking about..how do I do this?
Your question is one that I thought was a common one that not too many people are brave enough to ask. So I did a video with your answer because I know it will help a great number of people. Best wishes to you!
Laura Richardson, Life Coach, Family Law Attorney and Certified Advanced Mediator
Here’s the video – CLICK HERE: https://www.facebook.com/laura.dianne.richardson/videos/1085552694832610/
Good post Jackie — I saw more of myself here than I wanted too. I never learned to celebrate success — always on to the next problem. This despite a lot of success in my life. Thanks for always putting it out there. I enjoy your writing very much.
Thank you, Jackie! Finding the right balance between over/under sharing is difficult – and the acceptable level of sharing can fluctuate daily. But sharing personal challenges can be healthy, and your post highlighted some simple considerations to make in deciding what to share and with whom.