By Scott Christian
Why cutting back on your complaints is a healthy move for any relationship.
I’m a complainer. I always have been. It’s probably one of my greatest flaws. And though I’ve gotten a lot better over the years, not complaining is still something that I consistently have to work at. Because it’s like a reflex. Something bad or stupid or annoying happens, and my mind wants to give voice to it. A pathological urge to vocalize the transgression rises up from the depths of my lizard brain, and it takes everything in me to keep it from leaping out.
All of which to say, if you’re a complainer, I feel your pain. If you’re not one, then God bless you, you’re a much better person than I’ll likely ever be. On the plus side, my years of complaining has given me a bit of insight as to why we complainers do it. And it somewhat falls into the category of “misery loves company.” But it’s more than that. Complaining, besides being unpleasant to listen to, is a deeply self-absorbed act. And it mostly comes from a place of insecurity.
Complaining, more than anything, is a cry for validation. The complainer not only wants to point out the bad thing that happened, the complainer also wants everyone within in earshot to commiserate over said injustice. Basically, it’s a vocal request for love and acceptance. When you complain, you want to be elevated above the person or thing that’s bugging you. In your mind, it’s almost as if the bad thing happening is a chance to show the world that you are worthwhile. After all, elevation can only be achieved by people agreeing with/validating you.
It’s a toxic way to live, and it’s especially dangerous within the context of a relationship. Because complaining doesn’t solve anything. In fact, it often makes things worse. A healthy reaction to an annoying or angering thing is to feel annoyed or angry. But then you have to let it go. Especially if it’s something you can’t fix; like traffic or bad weather. You feel the emotion, you acknowledge it, and then you move on. When you complain, however, you don’t let it go. You hold onto it, you marinate in it. You give it far more weight than it deserves. And then, even worse, you end up drawing your partner into that toxic marination.
The key to avoiding such toxicity is to not give voice to the thing that’s bothering you. Don’t entertain it in anyway. It’s perfectly okay to feel angry or annoyed. In fact, that’s healthy. What’s not healthy is extending the lifespan of that feeling. And complaining can extend its lifespan indefinitely. If there’s nothing you can do about it, move on. When you move on, you end up purging a lot of that negative energy. Which means you don’t bring other people down by constantly voicing negative things. And you also don’t hold yourself down by stewing on them.
A relationship that’s empty of needless complaining is one that allows for joy and positivity to infiltrate it. With time, that joy and positivity can actually begin to take up more and more space. The less you complain, the less you’ll actually want to complain. Because the brain is all about habit. And, much like any other bad habit, the more you avoid it, the less you’ll want to return to it.
Trust me, it takes practice. And you have to give yourself grace for failing, because you will. But it’s worth it. The world will look like a much better place when you stop complaining. And your relationship will be infinitely better for it.