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Have you ever shared your frustrations about something in your life only to have the person immediately respond by telling you what to do? I don’t know about you – but it drives me absolutely crazy. Sometimes I just want to bitch and moan, and have someone validate my feelings and say, “damn, that sucks.”
The same is true with your spouse. Just because they complain to you, doesn’t mean they want any advice.
If they come home from a shitty day at work, it’s possible they just want to vent and have you validate their feelings. Sometimes they just want to know that you’re there to listen and tell them everything is going to be okay.
Honestly, this applies to all of your relationships.
Don’t Try to Fix Everything
I am super guilty of this as I’m pretty damn opinionated.
And sometimes it can be mentally exhausting to hear similar complaints over and over. But if it’s exhausting for me – it’s even more exhausting for Mike. Plus, I’ve been known to complain about something more than once… let’s be real.
Hold Space For Your Partner
It’s definitely easier said than done, but practice holding space for your partner. Just listen to them vent without offering any advice, unless of course, they ask for it.
If you’re constantly offering unsolicited advice, it’s possible your spouse will interpret it as criticism of how they’re handing a particular situation and it will actually cause them more stress.
But, My Spouse Complains About The Same Thing
Believe me, I get it. As I said, it can be mentally exhausting to hear the same complaints over and over. But, try to put yourself in their shoes and look at the situation objectively.
Of course, there are times when you’ll just want them to take responsibility for their part in the situation and do something about it. And there are probably times when that is true. But before you go badgering them about how they should take action, think about what it really means for them to do so.
For instance. I’ve been known to complain about my job, and how we have trouble focusing and sometimes I feel like I can’t be truly successful because we have shiny object syndrome. It’s ingrained into the company culture, so there isn’t much I can do about it – though I keep trying! For someone (my husband) who hears me complain about this constantly they might think, just go get another job!
It Might Not Be That Easy
But let’s be serious, that’s certainly easier said than done. Looking for a job is a full-time job, and if you’re trying to leave an unsatisfactory workplace, you’re likely going to be a bit more picky in your search. I mean, you don’t want to trade one devil for another, right?
Plus, on the whole, I actually enjoy my job, the people I work with and our company mission. It’s also an amazing learning opportunity and I’m constantly challenged. All good things in my book.
The same thing happens with Mike. He runs his own business and can sometimes get frustrated with his clients. It would be easy for me to say, “just do something different and move on!” but he’s built a successful business. And if he was super quick to quit every time things got a little uncomfortable, what would that say about his character?
What To Do Instead to Support Your Spouse
There really is no hard and fast rules here. Every situation is different and unique, but I urge you to take a step back and see things from their perspective first. If your spouse complains about the same thing a lot, look beneath the surface and figure out if it really is as simple as you’re making it out to be – before you judge them, offer unsolicited advice, or expect them to “fix” it quickly.
If you really can’t deal with hearing about something again, just be upfront and tell them that. We all need a break sometimes.
It’s okay to tell your partner that you need a break on a particular subject. Chances are they’d much rather hear that than have you react in a way that helps neither of you or potentially starts a fight.
We talked about this when we shared our lessons for a happy marriage, and how important it is to either be present in the conversation or to just tell your partner you don’t want to talk about it right now. That lesson applies here too.
How to Help Them Make the Change
We’ve already talked about how you shouldn’t try to change your partner and we stand by that. But, if you know that they want to make a change, you can certainly support them in doing so.
Ask them what they need
Since we’re not offering unsolicited advice, ask them what they need from you. Maybe they already have a plan, but they’re not sure if you’re going to be okay with it.
This is especially true if it comes to something like quitting their job or starting a side hustle. They may be afraid to even bring it up. By asking them what they need from you, you’re opening the door for an open honest conversation. But it’s up to you to honor that for them.
Make a Compromise
If it is a life-altering decision, see where you can meet in the middle. Maybe you’ll take on more of the chores at home to give them more time to work on their exit strategy. Or you’ll take the kids out of the house to give them some peace and quiet. It might even be an adjustment in your budget to free up funds for a new venture.
Whatever it is, remember that this is ultimately for both of you and your spouse deserves the benefit of the doubt.
It’s worth it to make sacrifices now for a better future together.
If They’re a Chronic Complainer
There’s a definite difference between someone going through a rough patch and another who is a chronic complainer.
It’s one thing if that complainer is a friend or co-worker, but a whole other when it’s your spouse. Constantly being surrounded by negativity has a way of permeating your attitude and outlook on life as well.
Gratitude is always a great antidote to negativity, but it’s not a magic bullet for a true chronic complainer.
This article has some great information about how to handle a situation like this, but if you find it’s putting a strain on your relationship you should seek professional help.