Complaining is Good for Your Marriage

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:13

Borrowed this story from our friends, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott:

The Rev. Mr. Bowen was struck with an inspired idea while taking a shower.

He was tired of hearing the parishioners at his Kansas City church complain about everything from the choice of hymns at the Sunday service to the informal dress code at the church's Saturday night worship.

So, he asked his flock to take a pledge: vowing not to complain, criticize, gossip or using sarcasm for 21 days.

People who joined his cause are issued little purple bracelets as a reminder of their pledge to quit complaining. If they catch themselves complaining, they're supposed to take off the bracelet, switch it to the opposite wrist and start counting the days again from scratch.

I'd love to know how that worked out.

Pretty good idea, huh?

After all, who wouldn't like to eliminate complaining - especially from your own marriage? Criticism is not one of the Spiritual Gifts...go look it up.

However, a little known secret among marriage specialists is the fact that complaining is actually good for your marriage.

WHAT??! You read that right.

This is not one of those differences without a distinction. Complaining is good for your marriage. Research at the University of Washington has shown that complaining, at a moderate level, helps couples air their grievances and keep improving.

What isn't helpful to a marriage is criticism or the opposite, gunny-sacking where you just withdraw inward and all communication ceases.

So what's the difference between criticism and complaining?

  • Criticism almost always begins with "you" ("You always make us late!").

  • Whereas complaining almost always begins with "I" ("I feel so frustrated when we are late to something that matters to me").

This may seem like a small matter of semantics, but it makes a big difference in your marriage. Consider doing a little exercise over some issue and frame it each way. Then discuss how your response might be to either. You'll be surprised by the difference.

Do you have a reoccurring criticism you tend to make (beginning with "you") that you can convert into a complaint (beginning with "I")?

Now see if you can do it in real time.

Final Note

We teach a new way of talking without criticism, listening without judgement and connecting beyond differences. We would love to share this cutting-edge relational technology that transforms polarization into connecting and full aliveness with you. Let us know how we can help. Safe conversations make a difference.


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