How To Have A Complaint-free Relationship
For many men and women, the thought of never having to hear another complaint sounds like heaven. In a complaint-free relationship, love is sure to grow. 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 is how you are sharing your complaints about your partner to your partner! A complaint-free relationship does not mean you can never complain; it means you don’t complain about your partner to your partner. You can still complain about other things.
Men and women are sensitive to complaints in different ways. When a man complains to a woman, it often makes the woman more overwhelmed. She will tend to give more in response to his complaints, but will feel overwhelmed and resentful as a result. When a woman complains to a man, it makes the man feel controlled. Eventually, he will stop caring about making her happy and give less to the relationship and to her.
Complaints are a necessary part of life, but we need to upgrade our skills in communicating them so that our partners can hear us in a way that makes them feel supported rather than unappreciated, rejected, criticized, or controlled. Learning to talk so that our partners can hear us is the most important skill in a relationship.
Why Complaining Doesn’t Work
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 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.
Many women have a tendency to feel overwhelmed in these high stress times. 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.
Here is my favorite: Change the complaints or blame to a positive.
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 gives him the information he needs 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.”
“Why can’t you pick up after yourself?”
“You didn’t do what I asked.”
"You ate all the cherries.">br /> “You didn’t call me to let me know you were late.”
“You only think about yourself.”
“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, a quality of his male side, so they 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 cherrries, then her complaint is much more annoying.
If a woman links a complaint to emotional unhappiness, then ironically, the smaller it is, the more annoying it is to a man.
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. However, when her complaint is backed with feelings of unhappiness, it affects him negatively.
A man’s male side primarily identifies with feeling successful. As long as he wants to succeed in making her happy, any complaint that is backed up with the emotional charge of her unhappiness pushes his most sensitive buttons. The right or wrong wording has some importance but the message communicated by the tone of her voice and her facial expression have a much greater effect.
When a complaint is expressed in a tone of voice that reveals her unhappiness with him, he will feel controlled. The message he hears is that to make her happy, he “must” spend more time at home or “should” never eat all the cherries. From his point of view, it can sound like a mother scolding a child. Her complaint sounds like a demand that he has do what she says if he is to make her happy.
On the other hand, 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.
In a complaint-free relationship, his gradual behavioral adjustments in response to her requests are his gifts of love, rather than obligations. 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.
If a man immediately yields to a woman’s every complaint, either to keep peace or to please her, he gradually begins to lose his sense of confidence and competence when in her presence. He no longer feels like he is making his own decisions but instead becomes overly dependent on her direction or approval.
Most of the time, a woman’s intent in complaining is not to control. However, to be happy, she does want his support. When she recognizes that complaining really doesn’t work, she can then be more motivated to stop complaining and instead wait until she is feeling happy and appreciative of his support. Making requests in small increments and then giving big rewards is the secret of getting more in a relationship.
CLICK HERE to read John Gray's book: Beyond Mars and Venus