It never fails. You have a fantastic day at work, come home and are immediately greeted with a deluge of complaints. While you can cope with an occasional valid complaint, your wife's whining about the way the garbage truck set down the can in the wrong place on the curb is grating on your nerves. In the face of such complaints, maintaining your own positive attitude is essential while you deal with your wife's behavior.
Act positively, no matter how negative your wife's words. In the face of cheerfulness, complaining is often exposed for the destructive behavior that it is. Just as turning on a lamp vanquishes darkness, turning on a good attitude will illuminate her complaining. With luck, she'll hear how negative her complaining sounds against this positive backdrop and change her words. Even if she doesn't, you'll be protecting yourself from the effects of unrelenting negativity.
Resist the urge to attempt to solve her problems. Professor and wit Mason Cooley once said, "Complainers change their complaints, but they never reduce the amount of time spent in complaining." For example, if your wife complains that she doesn't like her job and you suggest she find another one, you are setting the stage for new complaints about how the town you live in is lousy and doesn't have many opportunities.
Listen sympathetically and empathize. For example, after hearing your wife complain about how awful it is to go grocery shopping with your toddler, let her know that you understand how trying it can be to try to buy groceries while keeping your son from knocking boxes and cans off the shelves. Validating your wife's feelings can turn off complaining quickly, says psychologist Guy Winch.
Ignore the complaining as much as possible. "Feeding" the complaints by arguing or attempting to point out why they are invalid is likely to lead to an argument. Instead of getting into a long discussion about why the neighborhood is going downhill, change the subject.
Refuse to cater to her negative mood, advises clinical social worker Leslie Vernick. Doing so means that you'll be walking on eggshells. Instead of canceling a trip to the beach because your wife is complaining that the weather is too cold, go without her. You might say something like, "I'm sorry the weather is too cold for you, but I'm still going. Hopefully, you'll reconsider." When you don't allow complaining to alter your life, it begins to lose its power.
Encourage your wife to seek counseling. Complaining is often due to a genuine feeling that the world is a bad place and that one's life is harder than most, notes Winch. Talking to an objective third party can help your wife to see that her life is not any more difficult than that of most other people in the world and that she can change the way she views and reacts to the world. Seeing a counselor can also help your wife to rule out clinical depression, which can underlie a negative attitude.
Remember that your wife is responsible for her own happiness. If she chooses to view situations from a negative world view, it is not your fault. Do what is in your power to create a happy home and life and let your example inspire your wife to change her attitude.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.
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