The Unforeseen Truth
While deep down we really love each other, all couples inevitably have ‘complaints’ about their spouse. They can be as simple as annoying habits, inconsistent behaviour and frustrating personality traits. Often, the very characteristics that first attracted us become the most infuriating ones of all.
You fall in love with his sense of humour, but after while you wish he wouldn’t joke around so much. You used to admire the way she could have a conversation with anyone, but now you wish she’s quit talking once in a while. So the fact that my spouse can be annoying at times is not the problem… it’s inevitable. The problem arises from how I respond.
One of the most destructive ways that couples deal with these annoyances is by complaining and criticising. Some people think that they have the right, even a duty, to correct and ‘improve’ their spouse by pointing out their faults. Often the complaining degenerates to name calling or character assassination. So he doesn’t just leave his dirty clothes on the floor, he’s a ‘slob’. She doesn’t just overspend, she’s greedy and selfish. Complaining is almost always ineffective in getting our spouse to change for the better.
We think that our criticism will communicate our disapproval and inspire a more acceptable behaviour, but the more we nag and cajole, the more entrenched the behaviour typically becomes… and the more our spouse pulls away from us as we become less fun to be around. But there is a better way. Start by making a personal commitment not to nag or complain.
Respond With Love
Instead, take your complaint and rework it into a respectful, achievable request. For example: “I would really appreciate it if you could place your dirty clothes in the laundry hamper each morning” is respectful, doable and much more likely to get results. “I’m worried about our finances. Can we spend some time this week working out a budget?” is more likely to be received and put into action. We want to please each other… we just need to find a smart way of helping each other into what is important to us.