By Indika De Fonseka
I do it. You do it. We all do it. And it’s costing us in more ways than we might ever imagine.
What is it, you ask? It’s complaining.
It affects everything from our health and happiness to our relationships. Yet, it is 100% within our control, and something anyone can change in a heartbeat.
Here are just some of the ways in which complaining negatively affects your life and relationship:
Complaining makes you less attractive
Ever been around someone who’s grumpy and complains a lot? Have you noticed that they can suck the joy out of life and drain us of our happiness and vitality?
Now imagine, who in their right mind would ever want to be around someone like that, let alone go out on a date with them?
So the next time you want to do something to make yourself feel more attractive, forget buying new clothes or changing your hairstyle. Just stop complaining! It works and it’s free!
The more you complain, the harder it is to stop
You may have heard the saying that ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’. What this means is that our brains are geared to learn often repeated actions and make it easier for us to perform them.
So once you start down that slippery slope of complaining about your partner, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a habit that you just can’t seem to shake off.
Complaining makes you focus on all the wrong things
Have you ever noticed that if you focus on something (say, a blue sports car) and you start to see more of them everywhere?
This is because a part of our brains called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) acts as a filter, bringing just some of the information we receive through our senses into our conscious minds while ignoring others.
So keeping with our example, your RAS will bring more blue sports cars to your attention, while filtering out all other cars.
When you complain about your partner, you train your RAS to look for more things to complain about (and it will help you notice the tiniest things).
Meanwhile, your RAS will grow more and more accustomed to ignoring all the things you wouldn’t complain about—all the good stuff!
Complaining makes your friends and family hate your partner
What happens when you complain about your partner to your family and best friends?
At first, they might side with your partner and speak up for them, because they want to support your relationship with that person. But if you keep it up for long, things are going to change.
Your friends and family care about you, so they’re not going to like it if they feel that your partner is bringing you down. Pretty soon, they’re going to start hating your partner and seeing everything about them in a bad light.
Then they’ll even start saying things to your partner, which will have a hugely negative effect on your relationship. And once it hits this point, it becomes very hard to turn things around.
Complaining demotivates your partner
Very few people will keep going in the face of constant criticism. And eventually, most people, including your partner, will simply stop trying.
You can’t blame your partner for giving up, if everything you say and do highlights their mistakes and shortcomings. These things, while being extremely hurtful, also have the power to demotivate even those with the best intentions.
So how can you stop complaining?
Now that you know about all the harm and damage that complaining can do to your relationship, let’s talk about how you can stop and what you can do to repair the damage.
A study found that people who wrote down just a few things that they were thankful for every day (for a period of ten weeks) reported feeling more optimistic and feeling better about their lives.
So, just like complaining causes stress and unhappiness, gratitude brings peace and contentment.
Now you too can tap into the power of gratitude by simply writing out three things that you are thankful for daily.
Take time to think about why you're thankful. Remember, it’s the way you feel when you think about the person or the event that matters the most, and tapping into the why will help you generate those good feelings.
Research has also shown that people who were thankful and appreciative of their partners were more committed to their relationships and more likely to be in them over the long term.
So, writing a general gratitude journal will help improve your life in general. But if you want to take it up a notch, why not write about three things you’re thankful for about your partner every day? Better yet, tell them these things as you write them out!
Remember to tell your friends and family about all the reasons why you’re thankful for your partner, so they too can come onboard.
Learn to appreciate your partner
Practicing appreciation is a more real-time, in-the-moment thing than writing a gratitude journal.
To apply this technique, the next time you’re with your partner, look for things you like and appreciate about them. It could be something simple or something deep, such as:
Appearance. Do they make an effort to look good for you?
Punctuality. Do they show up on time or make an effort to do that?
Generosity. Do they bring you presents and treats? Do they offer to pay for dinner?
Care. Are they caring towards you? Do they try to help and support you?
Demeanour. Are they pleasant towards you? Do they make you laugh or feel special?
How they treat others. Are they pleasant towards your friends and family?
Once you start looking for things that are good about your partner, your RAS will kick in and give you plenty more things to notice. And pretty soon, you’ll find yourself falling in love with them all over again!
Praise your partner
Just like criticism has the power to tear a person down and demotivate them, praise has the power to do the opposite.
When you begin to praise your partner, they will feel good about themselves and about your relationship, and they will want to do more things and earn more praise. So you both win!
And remember to praise your partner in front of friends and family. You will find that everyone around you will praise both of you and respect you as a couple. And your partner will start to change right before your very eyes!
Learn to talk about problems in a helpful and constructive way
Life is rarely all about sunshine and rainbows. As adults in a long-term relationship, we all have to learn to address things that need changing and to solve problems together.
But how you do this makes all the difference.
Many couples will fight and argue over things. But you don’t need to pick a corner and fight when you’re on the same team and have the same goals.
Learning to be patient and to handle things with some tact and care will go a long way in helping to put things right.
So when you need to tell your partner about something that is bothering you, try approaching it in the best way possible.
Here are just a few things that might help:
Pick the right moment. Not when either of you is feeling tired, hungry or in a rush
Be honest and open without being hurtful. Say what you need to say but avoid the need to say hurtful things or be catty.
Hear them out. Try not to interrupt. Let them have their say and feel heard.
Address your own shortcomings. Talk about how you contributed to the situation and how you plan to change. It will make your request or feedback seem so much more reasonable.
And if after all this, you end up in an argument, take time to cool down and do your best to try and patch things up. Show that you want to move on and make things better. This will encourage them to do the same.
So there you have it! If you want to take your relationship to the next level, just stop complaining and start appreciating. And watch the magic happen!
Indika De Fonseka is a writer and self-confessed happiness addict. He gave up a career in law to pursue his dreams and is busy living happily ever after with his wife and daughter. You can find Indika at www.indikadefonseka.com
Book Recommendation: Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft
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