When I was in college I lived very near my grandparents and I would visit them often after classes. A curious thing began to happen as I spent time alone with my grandmother. She began to confide in me, as she never had before, about her disagreements with my grandfather. I was 18 years old and this was quite strange to me.
She took every opportunity to complain about my grandfather’s behavior, giving me examples of things he did that aggravated her. They had been, I thought, happily married for almost 40 years at that time. When I was a little girl, my siblings and I would visit them one week each summer, and during the holidays, and I never noticed any problems between them, so it was a bit disconcerting to hear my grandmother complain about my grandfather.
Being the naïve college freshman that I was, I gave her the only advice I could think of off the top of my head, “If you don’t like it, leave him.” It was a very simplistic thing for me to say. I was in way over my head; my mother never complained to me about my father.
What I didn’t understand is that my grandmother had no thought and no intention of leaving my grandfather; it wasn’t part of the way she saw the world. My grandparents believed in “till death do you part” and they lived together, happily or unhappily, until my grandfather died just after their 50th wedding anniversary.
I don’t know whether my grandmother was unhappy. I believe my grandparents loved each other very much. I now realize that my grandmother still has that habit of complaining about anything and everything. Despite this, I love her very much and still enjoy her company.
If you are familiar with William Glasser’s Choice Theory and the Seven Deadly Habits of External Control, then you know that complaining is one of the “deadly seven.” Complaining is one of the ways people attempt to feel better when they are not happy with something by getting someone else to do something different.
Have you noticed that you use this deadly habit frequently? You may believe that you have every right to complain, and maybe you do. But how does complaining help your marriage? Does it change your spouse’s behavior toward you for the better? Does your spouse avoid you, fleeing from your litany of complaints?
Here’s my challenge to you: take a week’s vacation from complaining. If you are a very skilled complainer, this may be hard for you. You can begin slowly by starting a journal of every complaint you make. Notice when your thoughts are complaints and write them down too. See how often you repeat yourself. Then begin with a pledge to spend a Complaint-Free Hour.
Build on this challenge until you can spend a whole day free of complaints. In your journal, write what changes you notice in your marriage and other relationships. Be sure to have fun while doing this. I wish you the best!
If you are worried about the state of your relationship, I want to help. Contact me to schedule a complementary Get Acquainted session.