The Marriage Spoiler: The Problem with Complaining

Steve Pavlina is a personal development blogger. He wrote “Personal Development for Smart People.” He says,

“Complaining, like all thought patterns, is not mere observation. Complaining is a creative act. The more you complain, the more you summon your creative energies to attract something to complain about. Your complaints may seem fully justified, but realize that whenever you complain, you are placing your order for more of the same. Complaining is not merely about the past. Whenever you make a complaint, realize you are setting an intention — a goal — for the future.”

Steve is onto something. Basically what he is saying is if you spend the mental energy on pinpointing the negative in one circumstance, you’ll form a habit of detecting the negative in every circumstance. It becomes addictive. Complaining goes beyond an inital negative reaction to an unfortunate event – it ruminates over and over about that event and moves on to surrounding circumstances, until everything looks bleak. It clouds your focus and dampens your mood. Pretty soon it seems like everything is going wrong and you’re caught in a vicious cycle.

Complainers are never happy people.

Complaining doesn’t just hurt the person complaining, however. Complaining destroys relationships and marriages, too. Lets say your spouse accidentally threw his red shirt in with the whites this morning, leaving all your clean white socks and undies an unsightly shade of pink. Nobody is going to convict you for getting upset. However, if you think about it all the way to work, then tell every coworker what he did, twitter about it, write about the event on your blog, and then whine to your mother-in-law; you are planting a seed of discontent and resentment in your own heart. When you get home from work, not only will you still be upset about that pink load of laundry, but you will discover that throughout the day, you added to your list of complaints about your spouse. You told your coworkers how he said it was not a big deal, you twittered about how “dumb” he is, you blogged about the last time he ruined your clothes in the laundry (that shrunken sweater?), and you told his mom how mean he is when you don’t cook the chicken just right. Last night you were married to a wonderful man, but tonight you’re married to a jerk. Only he didn’t change — your attitude towards him did. Why? You complained about him all day. Now, not only is your relationship suffering, but you’ve given your friends and family a negative view of your spouse, which may affect his relationship with them as well.

You may be thinking – how else would I react?

The answer to this problem is to forgive, forget and flatter. Go ahead and express your frustration to your spouse or to whatever problem you are facing. Take steps to fix it if necessary, but after all is said and done, if there is nothing you can do to further improve the situation, put it to rest. If you find yourself in a crummy mood because your socks are pink, for example, make a point to tell your coworkers about something nice your husband did for you in the past week. Then twitter about how sexy he is. Blog about his big promotion. Tell his mom what a nice cook he is. Then come home and realize that your marriage is just too good to take for granted, especially over a load of pink socks and undies. It goes against every impulse, but it works. Focus on the positive, brag about it, blog about it, make a movie about it if you want — and the negative will melt away (or just won’t matter as much.) Your husband will smile and probably breathe a sigh of relief, and so will you.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
–Ephesians 4:29
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