I have grown up to believe that happy couples do not fight, do not complain, and most of my life in almost all of my relationships, I have borne the brunt of this misconception. In my marriage, when differences accrued I thought its over, other than that it had become stale.
Until recently, I carried this belief or rather misbelief cursing myself for complaining, regretting that why I could not compromise enough, adjusted enough since I was made to feel guilty for my disagreements. I agree, sometimes I went all ballistic, hurting the man for paltry reasons and those incidents could have been avoided. But to say one cannot complain at all is idealism!
Complaining is healthy! Complaining is juicy! Complaining is catharsis!
You’re allowed to complain; it feels good sometimes! We can’t be grateful all the time. Gratitude is deeply important and healing, but we also have to make room for complaints. There’s a reason we have ten words for “complaining” in Yiddish. It’s a valve release. It’s a way to still feel like you have a say over your life when you don’t control squat.
But a lot of us try to control our urge to complain about the fear of starting an argument. But holding in our relationship dissatisfactions over time creates a build-up of frustration and resentment that is toxic to our relationship. And then, when we finally do blurt out our complaints we do so in tones and words that are too harsh for our partner to absorb, leading them to become defensive and angry, a response that only convinces us to continue holding back our relationship-related complaints going forward, creating even more frustration, resentment, and negativity in our relationship.
To avoid this vicious cycle – to hold back – explode – backfire – hold back again, we should not stop complaining but instead, learn the art of complaining.
We can be grateful and complain. We can be accountable and slack off. We can be peaceful and loving and we can talk shit and blow off steam. Complaining is a survival tool. Use it wisely. It will help us cope during the uneven phases of relationships. Complaining is juicy. So make your complaints good.
Complaint Sandwich – The tool for complaining in the right way 😊
We all love sandwiches right! How about turning your complaint into a delicious homemade grilled cheese sandwich? The first slice of bread in the Complaint Sandwich is a positive statement called The Ear Opener. Its goal is to lower the recipient’s defensiveness and allow them to absorb the complaint to follow.
The filling of the Complaint Sandwich is the actual complaint. The ‘filling’ should be lean like a slice—that is, keep it to a single incident and single complaint.
The second slice of bread in the Complaint Sandwich is another positive statement called The Digestive. Its goal is to motivate the recipient to respond positively to our complaint by assuring them that this complaint is for the betterment of our relationship, for the betterment of us.
Okay, you got the complain sandwich ready but do not spoil it by serving these small mistakes alongside it. There are reasons our complaints don’t get us what we want.
- We don’t think about what we want to achieve.
We complain because we want something, right! So before complaining, take 5 deep breaths, pause and think through what it is we want to achieve before we speak up. Figuring out what we want might be obvious when we call a customer service executive to remove a late charge on our credit card. It’s much less obvious when we’re complaining to our spouse/ partner. Take a moment to figure out what will make you feel satisfied through complaining.
- We allow anger to distract from our message.
We usually complain when we are frustrated, hurt, or irritated. Feeling angry is fine if it we are in control of our emotions and communicate reasonably. But when our voice gets too loud, our tone too harsh, or when we start cursing, accusing, the recipient’s attention will go to our anger and not to our actual message. As a result, we are much likely to encounter a counter-argument or resistance than a satisfactory resolution.
- We include more than one complaint at a time.
Hearing complaints always makes people defensive, so we have to voice our problems in ways that do not overwhelm them. It is far more effective to voice one complaint and get a result than to voice three and get nowhere. Tempting as it might be to air all your accumulated irritations at once, don’t: It doesn’t work.
- We don’t complain to the right person.
Surprisingly, we rarely voice our complaints to the person who can actually do something about them. We vent to our friends about our partner. If a complaint really irritates us, we owe it to our own peace of mind to address it to the person who can do something about it.
- Make your complaint as specific as possible
Do not generalize it into a criticism. Complain is about a situation, criticism is an ad nauseum attach on the character of the person. For example, “You forgot to call my sister this evening.” will make the same point and be far easier for your partner to hear than “You said that you will speak to my sister but you never give any importance to my feelings.”
Make space for other people to vent aloud. It often expresses their feelings of loss and longing. They know that they are powerless and they have to accept the situation; venting gives them the illusion that they have a say. It’s best to just let it pass and not try to reason with it.