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Ask Our Coaches:
My complaint: She can't stop complaining!
"My wife is a non-stop complainer
and, frankly, I'm sick of it."
This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to Tara@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.
My wife is a non-stop complainer and, frankly, I'm sick of it. No matter what it is, she always finds something negative to say. It's draining for me to hear this non-stop ranting about pretty much everything. I've talked to her about how this makes me depressed and that she needs to have gratitude and see the good in life.
When I do point out her complaining, she typically tells me that I just don't see things as they really are, and then she'll get offended and give me the cold shoulder. For a day or so, she'll lighten up on the negative comments and then it's right back at it. It's ruining our relationship. What can I do to stop her behavior so I can get a break from this? How can you get a habitual complainer to stop and to stop poisoning our marriage?
Denise responds …
A woman's complaining is actually her maternal skill set voicing fears. She is wired to protect her "bear cubs" and home. When a woman complains, her guy feels like a failure at making her happy and especially if the complaining is attached to blame. Complaining is actually a two way street, even though you may feel innocent and victimized by negative thinking.
Women need validation more than anything else. Try a small subtle shift by understanding her complaints are actually fears. Validate those fears by asking "What are your concerns about this?" The masculine skill set is wired to be the protector. You can provide safety by acknowledging the situations she's voicing concern about.
Teach her a small subtle shift to generate a different response from you, by stating to you, "You know what would make me happy is if you would address my concerns about…." If you ask her to practice communicating negativity as a fear then that gives you a chance to validate her which she may need. If you practice making her feel safe by acknowledging her very real concerns, then you will feel like her hero and protector which may be what you need.
Denise Wade Ph.D. | www.sweetharmony.net | 1.215.913.7997
Nina responds …
Your wife's negative focus is an opportunity to explore and practice your own capacity of allowing and forgiveness and to see where your reaction to her negativity is the same as her negative reaction to life. It's a gift in disguise.
You could respond with curiosity by asking her "What would you prefer?" or "How would you like for this to be?" That would get her thinking about what she actually wants in the situation and, over time, may train her to anticipate your question. A powerful source of comfort and protection may be to imagine placing a rose about arms length in front of you and consciously asserting that everything between you and the rose is you, and everything outside of the rose is NOT you. It's merely "Shakespeare's Theatre to Entertain You" and has nothing to do with you. This energy is scientifically measurable so don't underestimate its power.
A third practice is to breathe in the unhappiness she is experiencing and breathe out the emotion you think would most calm or help her. This process will transform the chaotic energy she is experiencing and create the peace and gratitude you prefer. Smile from your heart!
Nina Potter | ninapotter.relationshipcoach.org | 1.651.773.0732
Ann responds …
The truth is we're all complainers. It is said that the average person complains up to 30 times per day. Your wife's excessive complaining seems more than what's considered "average" and could be caused by a number of things.
Complaining shows dissatisfaction. Sometimes, the complainer is venting frustration or overall unhappiness – and the result is a complaint – about anything. Some people complain to shirk or avoid responsibility. Chronic complainers are often asking, and hoping, for help.
It sounds like you've addressed your wife's complaining with some complaining of your own. Be sure you make requests rather than complain. Try asking your wife to make an agreement with you – "From now on, if either one of us has a complaint or something negative to say, we promise to put it in the form of a request." If you catch each other complaining, request a request.
The communication disconnect between the two of you seems vast. I would recommend you secure a "Communication Map" available through any RCI Coach. With your coach's help, you will be able to begin a process of opening up the lines of communication, creating awareness and committing to positive outcomes.
Ann Robbins | www.lifeworksmatchmaking.com | 1.407.895.8222
Doris responds …
First, make sure your wife isn't reflecting your own negativity back to you. Even though we don't like to admit it, we magnetize people with similar issues into our lives so we can see ourselves clearly.
Since we are almost always the sum total of the five people we spend the most time with, you can easily discover the truth about your situation. Most of us are consistently negative when we feel afraid, inadequate, powerless or out of control. We don't realize we feed the roots of negativity by focusing more on what we don't want than on our preferences. Perfectionists have a deep fear of being inadequate.
Disagreeing with them causes them to defend their position. It's a vicious cycle. Trying to get your wife to change clearly isn't working. One option is to discover which of her needs aren't being met. Perhaps she doesn't feel safe or secure in some area of her life.
Maybe it's time for her to learn a different way to gain significance, like receiving recognition for her contributions. A relationship coach can help both of you identify your unmet needs, learn productive ways of communicating and develop a vision for your ideal future.
Doris Helge, PhD | coachingbydoris.com/freerelationshipebooks |1.360.748.4365
Jianny responds …
I feel your frustration and agree that such negativity can poison your marriage. Part of the reason your wife may be so negative may be that she is feeling depleted. I suggest both you and your wife to prioritize replenishment and pleasure.
Focusing on replenishment and pleasure, on a daily basis, minimizes pain and counteracts sadness, depression, anger, loneliness and fatigue. It also minimizes self-medicating behaviors such as turning to food for comfort, caffeine for energy, and alcohol for relaxation. It reduces health risks such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and any stress-related illness. As individuals and as a couple, discover what pleases and pleasures you.
- Research what brings you pleasure -- white chocolate or dark chocolate?
- Create daily pleasure practices -- walks, massages, bubble baths.
- Dedicated an hour a day (can be broken up) specifically to your pleasure.
- Guard your pleasure breaks. Create time in your schedule to give her a break.
Instead of investing all your energies in problem solving, why not balance your time with playing together and pleasuring each other. Co-create pleasurable experiences. What can you do to add pleasure and fun to your marriage?
Jianny Adamo | www.fearlesslove.net | 1.954.495.4566
Udall responds …
Rick, first, I must emphasize is that you need to take care of yourself. Your frustration and anger appears to be building or has built to the point of your writing this letter. Do not allow your feelings or lack of satisfaction in this situation to fester and build. You do not want to find yourself in a position doing something you will later regret.
Take a vacation by yourself. Do boys night or a "you only" night out at least once a week. There could be many reasons why your wife complains all the time. It appears to be her way of coping with life. Unfortunately, her way of coping is taking a toll on you. Remember you cannot change a person only a person can change when they are ready to do so.
Seek professional help from a counselor trained to work with couples. Ask your wife to attend with you. If she refuses to go with you then go by and for yourself. Though it may be difficult, it is important for you to come to some resolution about this issue. It is time you decide what is best for you in this phase of your life.
Udall DeOleo | www.allaboutrelationships.us
Easy ways to Transform Painful Relationships into Powerful Partnerships
By Doris Helge, Ph.D.
In the Beginning
Remember the day you gazed into the eyes of your prospective partner and truly grasped that their excitement about you matched your fascination with them? You saw your idealized self reflected back to you in their soft smiling eyes. You were hooked like a fish attracted to a shiny new lure that caters to its most vulnerable characteristics.
Like the fish traveling nonstop to a baited hook, you ignored multiple warning signs. You were lured to your destiny in spite of personality differences, minor irritations and questions from friends and family. Flaming red flags were buried under a rapid current of hormone-fed infatuation. Trust and lust controlled your left brain's attempts to analyze and judge. Scorning due diligence, you lunged toward instant gratification with a voracious hunger and haste.
After the Lure
During the first part of your commitment to your new partner, you said goodbye to old longings and loneliness as you embraced new beginnings. When conflicts emerged, you eagerly re-embraced bliss ... or at least contentment. Disagreements were labeled "small stuff." Disruptive patterns were disregarded.
One day, the conflict resolution genie vanished without leaving a note promising to return. When you look at your partner's eyes today, you no longer see your idealized self. Instead of feeling larger than life when you are together, he or she mirrors your own imperfections back to you. Ouch!
Tender topics are inflamed when one person is already feeling inadequate and the other criticizes. Some of us combat the fear of rejection or abandonment by pushing our partner away. We try to protect ourselves by rejecting them before they can reject us. In this toxic ecosystem, resentment, fear, hurt and anger fester like untreated wounds.
What now? One choice is to run from the relationship pouring salve on our sore spots and swearing, "Never again will I attract a partner like this!" The problem with that approach is simple. When we walk away with unresolved issues, we re-create the challenge with someone new. This individual is really the same person even though they're wearing a different name tag. We're all enrolled in relationship classes in The School of Life. We cannot graduate to a higher level of relationship ecstasy until we pass our current course of study.
A second option for solving the dilemma is to make a sincere attempt to resolve issues with our partner by discovering how we co-created the troublesome scenario. When we make this choice, we eventually delight in a deeper level of self-love. We learn so many fascinating, valuable things about ourselves that we'll be more successful in every personal and professional relationship ... forever ... whether or not we stay with our current partner.
If you want to explore option two, you can discover the first step right now. We can play the "What if" game. Keep reading to learn how resolving unpleasant partnership challenges can be surprisingly simple, playful and fun.
What happened to Paul and Paula?
Paula and Paul were magnetized to each other after a chance encounter. Enchanted, their attraction began to blissfully bind them like clothing sealed by a Velcro enclosure that feels "just right." Their friends often marveled at how quickly Paula and Paul worked through minor disagreements.
Over time, unresolved issues began to weaken the fabric of their relationship like lint clogs and deteriorates Velcro that isn't cleaned. Eventually, hurt, resentment and fear became so deeply embedded that the couple's original attraction could no longer seal them in serenity.
Paula complained, "Paul's such a perfectionist. He's always judging how I do things. I'll never measure up to his impossible standards. Our magic melted like a burned marshmallow when I realized that Paul needs a perfect partner. That's just not me. There is no gray area with Paul. Everything is either perfect or not good enough. Maybe he was always a control freak and I never noticed it before."
Paul was puzzled when he told his friends, "I hardly recognize Paula any more. I used to feel so special when we were together. Now she prefers her friends to me."
The "What If" Game
In couples coaching, Paula and Paul enjoyed playing the "What if" game. It's a non-threatening, non-accusatory way to communicate. Because our brains receive over 300,000,000,000 billion bits of information per second and only about 30 of those become conscious in even the smallest way, it's essential that all of us remember, "I don't know that I don't know what I don't know."
When couples play the "What if" game, because each partner makes a commitment to receive amazing new insights, they do. The partnership grows through communication at a deeper level than ever before. One by one, new topics are explored with the wide-eyed wonder of a small child.
Paul and Paula made a pact to be as curious and open-minded as a two-year old investigating a colorful new playground. An initial exercise increased their confidence that they would discover something unexpected, amazing and delightful about themselves and each other.
They made a promise to respect each other's feelings and to listen to feedback with an open mind. Their new game began with questions like:
• When my partner is irritated, what if he/she feels misunderstood, stressed or not heard?
• What would I be doing right now if I cared more about our relationship than about being right?
• I know how I'm feeling. I wonder what my partner is thinking and feeling right now.
• I wonder what my partner's positive intention is when they irritate me?
• I wonder what they need when they seem irritated, defensive or accusatory? What would happen if I helped them meet their unmet need?
• How am I co-creating our challenge?
• If what I'm doing isn't working, what's a more effective way to meet my needs?
• How can our personality differences become a core strength in our relationship?
• When I don't like our drama, I wonder how I can create a new story.
• How can we address our underlying fears that have been masquerading as flaws?
• What's the easiest, fastest and most fun way to transform our painful partnership into a powerful partnership?
Paul and Paula grew tremendously from designing and playfully exploring curious questions. Although they began their coaching journey from a painful state of mind, eventually, they were glad they had endured their discomfort. "Our relationship became as strong as super glue because we probed the weak spots hidden underneath our original Velcro flap."
Are you Experiencing a Couples Challenge?
The "What if" game is only one of hundreds of ways a qualified relationship coach can help you strengthen the vulnerable spots in your relationship so your partnership becomes a primary source of stability and joy in your life.
Copyright © 2011 by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Excerpted with permission from "Transform Your Painful Relationship Into a Powerful Partnership" by Doris Helge, Ph.D. All rights reserved in all media.
With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Doris has a proven track record of helping singles and couples like you turn painful relationships into powerful partnerships. www.CoachingByDoris.com/relationshipresources
7 Tips to Curtail Chronic Complaining
by Tara Kachaturoff
Complaining seems to be a national pastime. Everyone's doing it. We hear complaining on TV – whether we're watching a sitcom or listening to the evening news. We hear it on the radio. In fact, the best-of-the-best talk show hosts make their living from complaining and getting others to do the same.
We read it in the daily press, we read it online, and sometimes we even read entire books which are really one big complaint printed and bound for easier consumption. We may be married or partnered with someone who is a complainer. Or, worse still, we might be the complainer!
Complaining, like anything else with a negative bent and exacts a price – on everyone. It's a toxic spewing of unhappiness, discontent, bitterness, and hatred wrapped in a mislabeled package called "talking" or "having a conversation." Let's call it what it is – complaining.
It might serve a purpose if it were delivered in a different way – from a rational, informed point of view. It might make sense if it were positioned to make a difference in a positive way or to create change from which all could benefit. Unfortunately, that's not typically how it works.
It's especially challenging when we're in a close relationship with someone. We often can't just "turn it off" or "leave the environment" to escape it. And, if we're the one complaining, we may be unaware of the toxic toll it's taking on your loved one.
Do you ever wonder what your day would be like if it were complaint free? What type of communities could we build if people weren't constantly complaining about world events, people, politics, and everything else under the sun?
What type of relationship could we be enjoying with our loved ones if we could reduce complaining and replace it with more meaningful words? There's a way to find out – stop complaining and begin to experience the changes around you.
So what if you're a complainer? Many people are. If you want to stop whining, grumbling, and ranting, here are some easy tips to help you get started.
1. Acknowledge that you complain. A problem defined is a problem half solved. Before you can acknowledge something, you need to be aware of it. Perhaps a loved-one, friend, or colleague has pointed out that you have a bad attitude or that they're tired of your complaining. Don't just nod your head. Instead, really listen to what they're saying.
Other people are our mirrors; they can help us to grow if we just look to them and see how they see us. Once you're aware of your complaining, watch your behavior. Notice when you complain and what prompts you to complain. Then, acknowledge it. Admit that you're a complainer. You've completed step one and now you're on your way to making change – in a new direction.
2. Change your behavior. Changing behavior is easier said than done. Every one of our habits started with repetition. In this case, you're going to retrain yourself to do something else rather than complain. Instead of complaining, what else can you do? You have all sorts of options. Consider adding a compliment rather than something negative.
Or, consider that old adage, "If you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all." This should be a stand-by behavior at all times. It's said that it takes 3 weeks or 21 days to create a new behavior into a habit. The sooner you start, the sooner you'll be able to install a happier and healthier habit.
3. Watch the company you keep. Have you ever noticed that complainers love to hang out with other complainers? If you have friends who complain, you might want to try changing the subject or interjecting something positive.
Be bold and tell them that you don't care to listen to the complaining and steer the conversation in a new direction. They'll either get it or they won't. If they don't, it's time to branch out and make some new friends. You'll be amazed at how wonderful you feel when you're in a more positive and uplifting environment.
4. Don't do it alone. Get a complaint buddy. No, this isn't someone to sit around with to share complaints. It's someone who will gently point out to you that you're treading down the wrong path. Sometimes this can be very helpful. Because complaining is a habit like anything else, we do it unconsciously.
An accountability buddy can help surface that unconscious behavior so you can change it. You may already have this feature "built-in" with your family and friends as they might be the ones who initially pointed out this behavior. When you have a partner, it's easier to be held accountable. If your buddy is also a complainer, then both of you benefit. Double win.
5. Change your environments, change your results. Sometimes the people, things or ideas with which we surround ourselves are actually fueling our complaints. If there isn't fuel, nothing burns – including toxic comments. Are you constantly complaining about your job? Do something about it. Either reframe how you look at your job or move on to something else. Feeling negative when you're around certain relatives or friends? Change the conversation or limit your time with these folks.
Tired of hearing yourself complain about your messy home or office? Clean it up and enjoy a refreshed environment. You can make simple changes in your physical, mental, relationship and other environments which can dramatically affect how you feel and, thus, will affect the amount you complain.
6. Read about it. Purchase a copy of A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted by Will Bowen. This book is a wonderful read filled with inspiration to help you stop complaining in 21 days. In reality, according to the book, it takes people many months before they reach 21 days, in a row, complaint-free, but the rewards are well worth it.
It's not easy to get through one day without complaining, but you need to start somewhere. And you keep on doing it until you get through day one. Then you tackle day two. Be gentle and start now.
7. Reward yourself. How you feel about yourself and how others enjoy you once you reduce your complaining seems like reward enough. Now take it a step further. Connect something positive to your changed behavior. Decide on how to reward yourself once you make it through one day complaint-free. Think of another reward when you've completed 5 full days and so on.
Be creative. It's important to reward yourself for creating change so you continue with it. One step at a time, in the right direction, will eventually lead you to your destination. Just as important as it is to reward yourself, be forgiving when you do complain. Notice it. Acknowledge it. Move on. Start again. You'll be pleased with the results.
There it is – seven easy tips for starting on your way to a complaint-free day. Curtailing your complaining will do wonders for you relationship. You'll feel better about yourself and so will others. Create environments around you that attract the people and things you most desire by speaking words that build up rather than tear down. This way, everyone wins.
Copyright © 2011 by Tara Kachaturoff. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.
Tara Kachaturoff is a Master Certified Coach for Singles. Since 2003, she has coached hundreds of single men and women to create better dating relationships through her onsite and teleseminar courses. Tara is also the newsletter editor for the Relationship Coaching Institute (RCI). Her personal site is www.relationshipplanning.com.
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