It’s natural to want to complain about your marriage, but many of our common impulses – like ignoring the problem or complaining to our friends – can hurt the relationship rather than help it. Instead, use the following guide to complain about your marriage in a way that helps you and your spouse maintain respect.
Address Complaints Directly
Instead of: Complaining to your friends
Try: Addressing the issue with your spouse
Your friends are a great source of support. However, if they know more than your spouse about what bothers you in your relationship, there is a serious communication block in your marriage. Make sure you are talking to your spouse about what bothers you rather than continuing the cycle of complaining with your friends.
Tip: Friends can be an excellent sounding board if you are not sure how to address an issue with your spouse, particularly if you have married or partnered friends who have had similar problems in the past. Use them to practice the conversation or to gather a list of what you want to say to your partner.
Address Complaints Immediately
Instead of: Keeping your complaints to yourself
Try: Bringing up the issue as it happens or soon after
You try to let things go, but finally you snap and everything that bothers you about your spouse comes pouring out. Your spouse gets defensive, leading to a much bigger argument than the little annoyance serves. If this scenario sounds familiar, try addressing your next complaint right away. Remember your spouse is not a mind-reader; they cannot change a behavior unless they know it bothers you!
Tip: If your spouse is unaware something bothers you, mentioning it as soon as it happens will help them remember not to do it again. Waiting until much later increases the risk they will repeat the offending act and assume you do not mind.
Focus on Problems You Can Change
Instead of: Blaming your spouse for everything that makes you unhappy
Try: Focusing on what your spouse can control
It isn’t your spouse’s fault their hurtful comment occurred on the same day you had to deal with a big problem at work and heavy traffic on the way home. While it would be easy to blame them for not realizing you needed extra kindness after a rough day, all they may know is that their little joke about how tired you look made you fly into a rage. Let your spouse know their mistake bothered you and give them a chance to apologize and offer the support you deserve.
Tip: You and your spouse might want to work out a few verbal or non-verbal signals to address frequent situations. A simple text saying “Bad day” before you get home can help your spouse prepare to pamper you at night, or at least cut out the jokes that might get under your skin.
Some couples find scheduling a “State of Our Union” discussion periodically helps get everything on the table at once. This gives you both a chance to air those annoyances at a predetermined time. If you find you are still struggling even with these tips, a marriage counselor can help you structure the discussion in a safe environment.