I can already hear you saying, "Of course I have to complain, my spouse never listens." If this is the case, you may have been asking to have your needs met in the wrong way. In fact, lots of times people think that they are requesting a change from their partners when they are doing nothing more than complaining. Although complaints result from frustration, it doesn't help us get any closer to our end goal. Instead, it turns people off and build resistances. What we want is to initiate a spirit of cooperation.
I learned this firsthand in my own marriage.
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My husband, Jim, works very hard and often likes to relax on weekends. I, on the other hand, am a fairly active person who likes going places and doing things. This has always been a major difference between us. Early in our marriage, I sat Jim down and told him I wanted to talk to him about something. I said, "You never want to do anything on weekends. It seems that all you enjoy doing is sitting around, watching TV and hanging around the house. Yes, you'll go out to dinner occasionally, but that's it. It's not very exciting."
Sure enough, Jim got defensive and told me that I should do whatever I wanted but that I should stop bugging him. I got really upset; after all, I was just trying to make our marriage more enjoyable for both of us. Therefore, I defended my actions and wondered why he was being so defensive. The more I defended myself, the more he attacked.
Out of pure frustration, I finally said in a loud voice, "I don't know why you're getting so upset! All I really want us to do is to go into the city once every four to six weeks and do something out of the ordinary!" To which he replied, "Well, that's fine! Why don't you just say that then?" He caught me by surprise. Why, I wondered, if he's so willing to go into the city with me, did he put up such a fight when I approached him about it? The answer was simple. It was how I approached him that made all the difference.
In the beginning of our conversation, although my intention was simply to state the facts in an attempt to justify my asking him to change, I was actually condemning him for being who he is. Naturally, this strategy bombed. When I simply asked for what I wanted without complaining, he was much more ready to oblige. Funny how that works! From that point forward in our marriage, I worked hard at simply asking for what I wanted rather than telling Jim about all the reasons I was miserable.
Are You Complaining or Asking For What You Want?
Although you may feel convinced that you've already asked for what you want without good results, you may have inadvertently been doing what I had been doing - complaining. I was certain that I was being clear and concrete about my wishes when, in fact, the only thing I was being clear and concrete about was how Jim was disappointing me.
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