Death by Complaints!

Growthtrac Marriagec Medic

Q

Since when did men have to do so much to get some appreciation from their wives? I read so much about men being emotionally abusive, angry, and difficult to live with. But, what about men such as me who work hard to maintain a great home for our families, and get little to no appreciation for it? When I ask for fewer complaints and more compliments, it works for a while and then things just slip back. Help!

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A

You certainly make a point for hard-working men! Our society has been going through a “male-bashing” phase. Obviously emotionally abusive, angry, and difficult men exist, but there are many more who work hard yet get insufficient praise and honor for their efforts.

You make another worthy point—complaining is never productive or helpful. Our kindergarten teachers have learned something the rest of us should take to heart: Compliments and encouragement are far better behavior modifiers. Your wife would do well to take note of that fact.

Unfortunately, when we’re disgruntled with something or someone, we complain. It’s as natural as breathing. Don’t like the way things are going? Complain. Angry with the way someone is treating you? Complain. Most of us do it far too often; we’ve forgotten the fine art of either overlooking an offense (Proverbs 19:1) or seeking to sort out problems in a mutually respectful manner.

Scripture is replete with suggestions about this phenomenon of complaining: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:14,15).

Let’s consider the impact of complaining. It:

Builds resentment. Complaining is like drinking poison, creating a negative attitude within ourselves and certainly breeding resentment toward the other person, and them toward us.

Creates resistance. A complaint often provokes resistance for the one hearing the complaint.

Dissolves collaboration. Complaining dissolves a collaborative connection between a couple.

Creates conflict. Complaining sets conflict into motion, most often leading to a small or large fight.

Reinforces old behavior. Complaining reverts a conversation into old, dysfunctional behavior patterns.

Destroys the opportunity for connection and change. Complaining creates disconnection and inhibits the possibility of working effectively together for change.

What you can do as an effective response to your wife’s complaints?

Listen for the problem behind her complaints. Complaints, as unhealthy as they are, are a cry for help. Your wife wants to be heard and believes that complaining is an effective way to get what she wants. While it certainly is not, you would do well to listen to complaints and the message behind them.

Respond effectively to her complaints. While it is tempting to recoil from her complaints, you would do well to lean into them and hear and respond effectively to their message. Directly tackle any aspect of the complaint that fits, taking responsibility for what is yours to accept.

Ask for encouragement. Gently let your wife know you appreciate her concerns, but that you could hear it more easily if they were stated in the form of a direct request or even better, as encouragement for what you are doing right.

Model encouragement yourself. Practice what you preach!

Respond with vulnerability. People always respond better when we speak from our most vulnerable self. Tell your mate your feelings are hurt by her criticism and that you respond more positively with encouragement and appreciation.

Notice progress. Notice when your wife makes movements in the right direction. Catch her doing it right. Share with her how much you appreciate her offering correction in a positive way. We all want to be noticed for the efforts we make, and your mate is likely no exception.

In summary, no one wants to be around a complainer. We all respond more effectively to encouragement, and when practiced, this positivity is contagious. Try it and see if your mate and others don’t “catch the bug.” I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome reactions by contacting me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com.

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