Quick Step: Four Ways Complaining, Nagging and Pouting Can Actually Help Your Relationship
What it is: Four simple tips from relationship expert and wife, Robyn D’Angelo, on how complaining within your relationship can actually enhance your connection with your spouse. Married Folks – This is for you!!
Why You Need This: Every interaction with our partners provides an opportunity to connect with or distance from them. How you choose to respond to their complaining, nagging or pouting can predict the outcome of the interaction. The next time you and your partner seem to be getting close to conflict, ask yourself “Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?” and see how that impacts how you decide to respond to them.
Estimated Time: 2-3 times per day, that’s it!
How to do it: Read below, carve out 10 min a day to practice with your partner, and watch the magic happen.
1. Complaining = Connection.
Every time your partner (or you) complains, know that beneath that complaint is a need that is not being met. We complain when we’re trying to connect with our partners to help us with something. Help us to get something done, help us to feel supported, help us to understand something, or help us to simply feel like we can vent without someone having to fix something. Next time your partner complains, take a moment and think to yourself – what are they really trying to tell me right now? What is it that they need? And then CHOOSE between being right or being happy.
2. Maintain Mutual Respect.
Avoiding what Dr. Gottman refers to as the 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse helps cultivate respect between you and your partner. The 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse consists of criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling or ignoring our partners. If you can avoid doing these when your partner complains, your relationship will start to increase in closeness and conflict will not feel so heavy.
3. Check in.
Sometimes just taking a deep breath to pause and ask your partner “What’s really going on right now? Are my socks on the bathroom floor really what’s bothering you?” Your empathic checking in, provides a fantastic opportunity for the two of you to lovingly come together and discuss your partner’s true unmet need. (Which may be more like “I feel that my hard work to keep the bathroom clean goes unappreciated when socks are left on the floor.”)
4. Offer Support.
In every instance of conflict or potential conflict (i.e. complaining, nagging or pouting) there’s an opportunity to step outside your urge to get defensive, contemptuous, criticize or plain ignore your partner. In order to do this, gently and lovingly ask “What do you need right now?” This is different from “What can I do? Or How can I fix things?” When offering your partner this support, it creates an environment of emotional safety where they can start to open up and talk about their unmet need that lives just beneath their complaint. This simple question also releases you of the pressure to fix things. Win-Win!
Experiencing complaining is never enjoyable but it can definitely provide a moment for the two of you to deeply connect and address what’s truly going on so that you and your partner feel heard and understood.
The 4 steps are simple but they are not easy. This kind of behavior takes commitment to practicing and being gentle with yourself (and your partner) when it doesn’t always go as you expected.