Complaining about him or her – the boomerang effect


When people are asked about what they want from a relationship they usually say things like, ‘I want to be loved, appreciated, cared about and respected. I want to be with someone who I can trust and who thinks the world of me, someone who is good fun and enjoys my company’. We focus on all the positives that we want in our life and many of us are lucky enough to find these things but no sooner have we got them than we start focusing on what isn’t good, perfect or ideal in the relationship and start complaining about it.

We start to complain to friends, colleagues and family members and then wonder why a relationship that started so well quickly becomes unhappy. It may be because of the complaining as much as anything else.

What is complaining?
The dictionary definition is to express grief, pain or discontent. It makes sense to sometimes express these feelings if something has gone wrong. For example, in a restaurant it is not complaining to tell the waiter your soup is cold – it is a statement of fact and facts are neutral. If, however, you say something like ‘I can’t believe you bought me cold soup, this always happens to me’ that is complaining. Some people complain constantly because they have got into the habit of doing so rather than because there is anything actually wrong.

Research has shown that complaining is damaging to our physical and emotional health. There is a common thread in couples that are having difficulties in their relationship – complaining – they complain to each other and they complain about each other.

Problem focused
People complain to avoid action, they don’t want to take action to change the situation themselves so they complain to someone else. If you are struggling around an aspect of your relationship complaining about it to a friend isn’t going to change the situation unless that person can help you find a solution to your problem.

Go to the source
Talking to others outside your relationship only helps if what you learn is taken back and applied.  Developing better communication skills means starting to talk directly and only to the person who can affect the change that you seek – your partner. Tell the truth to the person who needs to know rather than complaining behind their back.

We all want to connect with other people so we complain as a way of opening a conversation. It isn’t the best way forward especially on a date. It is far better to connect on a shared positive experience than a shared negative one e.g. If you arrive at your date and it is raining it would be much better to open with ‘I’m so happy I remembered my umbrella’ than ‘ It always rains when I have to be somewhere.’

Like bad breath
Some people complain about everything, the service in a restaurant, the state of the world, the way they are treated – sometimes it can seem as though they are persecuted by life when in fact they are just in the habit of complaining. We all enjoy a good moan sometimes its when its constant that it can become a problem. Like bad breath you notice it more when it is coming out of someone else’s mouth but may not notice it so much when its coming out of your own.

How to stop complaining
Complaining can be damaging to relationships but how do we stop doing it? When you catch yourself complaining just make a mental note. Listen to yourself and imagine you are in your date shoes. Listen to what you say and what that says about you. Is it attractive, do you want to spend time with that person? Are the things you complain about in others aspects of yourself that you find hard to accept? If so you might find less to complain about if you practice some self-acceptance.

You cannot complain your way into a good, healthy relationship. Making a point each day to think about what is good in your relationship and what you appreciate about you partner is much more likely to bring you what you want in life and in your relationship.

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