The thought of never having to hear another complaint sounds like heaven, right?
But complaints are a part of life. To not complain is to hide a part of our authentic self.
Sharing complaints is actually not the real problem; it’s how you’re sharing your complaints that creates a problem or provides a solution.
This blog explains how to upgrade your communication skills to be able to share a complaint with your partner in a way that makes them feel supported rather than criticized or controlled.
Why Complaining Doesn’t Work
Learning to talk so that our partners can hear us is the most important skill in a relationship.
What men and women think they are saying when they complain is often not what their partner hears. For example, when a man complains to his partner, “You are not home enough,” what a woman hears is that she is not being a “nurturing,” “cooperative,” or “loving” partner.
Her reaction is to feel that he doesn’t understand all that she tries to do. What she hears is she has to do more to make him happy. She is also turned off because she feels he is being needy, and in order to be nurturing, cooperative, and loving she has to give more. In most cases, she feels that she is already giving as much as she can so to give more makes her feel overwhelmed.
In my book, Beyond Mars and Venus, I give many examples of how a man should communicate with his partner to keep the relationship complaint-free.
My favorite: Change the complaint to a positive.
So if a man doesn’t like something, he should wait until he is not feeling annoyed or upset and briefly make a request letting her know what he would like from her in the fewest number of words.
If the complaint in his mind is: “She is too busy and doesn’t spend enough time at home,” then change it to a positive request and say: “Let’s plan to spend more time together. Let me know when you can go over our calendars.”
You could also say something like: “We have been so busy lately. Sometime soon, I’d like to schedule something fun we can do together.”
Or you may ask that she just consider a request with a statement like: “Would you think about ways we can spend more time together? I had so much fun when we went for lunch that time.”
If a woman says to a man: “You are not home enough,” it affects him differently than when a woman hears it from a man.
It gives the message that he is not giving enough and, therefore, he is not succeeding in making her happy. She doesn’t realize that; instead of hearing that she loves him and really appreciates being with him, he hears that he is not good enough, that once again he has failed to make her happy.
If she wants him to spend more time at home, then her communication would work much better if she simply said, “Let’s plan to spend more time together. I love being with you. Let me know when you have time to go over our calendars.”
Hearing that she loves being with him raises his testosterone and makes him much more willing to sit down and plan some special time together.
A non-demanding request motivates a man best because it provides the information he needs in order to give more in a relationship without saying that he has failed her in any way.
A Man’s Greatest Vulnerability
Criticism affects men and women differently — depending on where we are most vulnerable.
A man’s greatest vulnerability has to do with feeling controlled. Even a small complaint or criticism expressed in an emotional tone of unhappiness is kryptonite to a man.
Here is a list of complaints — big and small — that will affect a man:
“You are always working.”
“You only think about yourself.”
“You ate all the cherries.”
“You didn’t call me to let me know you were late.”
“You are not listening to me.”
“I don’t feel like you love me anymore.”
“You left the light on in the living room again.”
Each of these complaints is about his competence and strike him where he is more vulnerable. Feeling attacked, he will become defensive and to various degrees minimize her message, discount it, complain back, or simply push her away and stop caring about anything she says.
It is often surprising to women which of these are the most offensive.
If she links her complaint to emotional unhappiness, then, ironically, the smaller it is, the more annoying it is to a man.
If I am two hours late for dinner and I didn’t call, then I can easily understand why she is upset or unhappy with me, but if I left the light on in the living room, or I ate all the cherries, then her complaint is much more annoying.
If a woman simply comments, without any emotional charge: “You are not around these days. I miss you,” or “Hey, you ate all the cherries. Next time, save some for me,” then it doesn’t upset him, and he is better able to validate and remember her needs or request next time.
A non-demanding request frees him to decide on his own to adjust his actions. This supports his independent, assertive, and problem-solving masculine side. Even if he does not fulfill that particular request, he will feel more inclined to support her in other ways.
A man will always give more when the message he gets from his partner is that he is already a good and loving partner and that she needs his help.
Grow in love,