When my husband is complaining about something, my tolerance for listening to his complaints really depends on how much he is complaining. If he's doing it day in and day out about every little thing, the stress of hearing the constant flow of negativity can be draining. Luckily, this doesn't happen with him very often, but if you happen to find yourself in this predicament, these seven sneaky ways to get your partner to stop complaining may just help quell the issue.
According to Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, a psychotherapist practicing in New York, too much complaining from your partner can be damaging to your relationship. "Complaining impacts a relationship in a not-so-great way. It can be really challenging to live with someone who is constantly complaining," she says. "It can be hard to listen and it also can make you feel like your partner is never happy."
Now, don't let the word "sneaky" fool you into thinking it's OK to be deceptive with your partner. That's not cool. But when you find yourself on the receiving end of a barrage of complaints, it might be necessary to evoke some low-key intervention that doesn't directly call out your partner by just saying "You HAVE to stop complaining," but still addresses the issue and stops the complaining in its tracks.
1. Re-Frame The Situation By Changing The Subject
Basically, if you hear your partner complaining, one thing you can do to try to stave off the negativity they're putting out is to point out something positive. This sneaky subject change acknowledges what they are feeling but steers the conversation into more positive territory.
"Often people don’t know how much they are complaining or how it sounds to those around them. Re-framing is a good idea because it can give them a sense of what is going on without making them feel bad or defensive," says Hartstein. "You can say something like, 'I know you are really unhappy and frustrated about XYZ, but do you realize that this other thing in your life is actually really good.' It can be very productive to help them move away from the things that they are upset about and move towards the good things in their life."
2. Do Something Different
A change of scenery may be just what your partner needs to stop complaining. Marriage and family therapist Laura Jordan, LPC, LMFT, suggests that people with complaining partners can plan a new activity to do or go somewhere new to help stop the complaint cycle. "Shake things up, do something different, new and novel in the relationship. Relationships in general respond very well to this, but it will also help to provide a distraction from the complaining and with rewiring those neural pathways," she tells Romper.
3. Brainstorm Solutions With Your Partner
"Help them to brainstorm. Can anything be changed about the situation? If not, it may force them to accept and try to move on naturally without much else in the way of intervention," Jordan says.
While brainstorming, she also encourages you to ask your partner one simple question. "Ask the miracle question, 'In an ideal world, what would this situation look like?' This not only helps with brainstorming but the act of visualizing a more positive situation helps to reroute pathways in the brain to elicit change," she says.
4. Set A Timer
When your partner starts complaining, see if they're open to a timed vent session. Set a specific amount of time for the complaints to occur in order to help the complaining not become an endless loop that drones on over the course of your entire day.
"Commiserate with them, but put a time limit on it so they don't remain stuck (and further entrenched) in the complaining loop. You may want to say something like, 'Man, that sucks!' or 'I'm sorry this is happening' to show empathy for your partner," Jordan says. "They will feel validated in their feelings and like they have your support. This combination usually helps with the process of being able to accept and let go of whatever they may be complaining about."
5. Give Them A Taste Of Their Own Medicine
This one is a bit tricky, but if done with a bit of finesse, Hartstein says it can be helpful.
"One idea that can help your partner stop complaining is to show them what it’s like," says Hartstein. "It might be a bit dramatic, but you can start complaining in an exaggerated way about problems in your own life. Not like you are making fun of them, but in a way that is notable to them. When they comment that you seem to be complaining a lot or [are] very unhappy, you can tell them that this is actually how they sound much of the time. Note that this should be done with a delicate hand as to not make them feel defensive or worse!"
6. Meditate With Them
According to Pat Kraemer, PsyD, LP, a psychologist with Park Nicollet in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, practicing mindfulness with your partner through meditation can be one low-key way to lessen their complaining. It's something you can do together, but doesn't outright let your partner know that you're actively trying to get them to stop complaining. "Mindfulness Meditation may be a skill to learn how to 'quiet the mind' and stay calm rather than complaining. This is a powerful way to connect our body and our mind and stay content," she tells Romper.
7. Suggest They Talk To A Therapist
If your partner is complaining over and over and over again, it may be a sign that something is actually wrong and they may need to talk to a professional about their feelings. As hard as it may be to approach the subject, doing so could help salvage your relationship without demanding that their complaints cease immediately.
"You can very directly talk to them and say something like, 'I don’t think you realize how much you complain. I’m not sure if it’s just a habit or if you are as unhappy as you really sound. If you are this unhappy, maybe you should talk to someone about it,'" Hartstein says. "Constant complainers aren’t necessarily miserable, but sometimes complaining is a sign that something is really wrong with their life. Talking to a therapist is a great way to deal with the situation head on."