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March 06, 2013

A Note to Men: Don’t Ignore The Complaints…Even When They’re Not Spoken Directly

IStock_00silencemallI have to say that I have mixed feelings about what I’m about to say. You see, on the one hand it really is important to be tuning into the complaints that are made under a person’s breath or through their cold actions. On the other hand, though, it’s also important for people to truly speak what’s going on for them—clearly, respectfully and DIRECTLY. But, that’s a different post I suppose…

So...let’s focus on this post to help those of you who think everything’s fine when it really isn’t. I’m largely speaking to the men about this (although there are always exceptions) because in my experience women are often the ones who are complaining indirectly, while the men are often the ones ignoring those subtle (and not so subtle) complaints.

Women’s complaints often center around the men not being home, working too much, not talking, being too explosive, drinking too much, not playing with the kids and on and on. The men hear these complaints as proof that they can’t do anything right. More often than not, the men respond by either blowing up or blowing off the complaints, believing the women will “get over it.” And the truth is, the women do get over it…for a while. If the men get angry at their complaints, the women will often shut down. If the men ignore the complaints, the women often feel resigned and pull away or go underground with their resentments.


When complaints are ignored enough times, the women begin to think that nothing is going to change, that men never listen and that this is their fate. For some women, accepting this as fate isn’t really an option. Instead some women will start to look outside the marriage for fulfillment so at least they can have happiness somewhere. Other women will continue to stew, complain, cry, beg and plead for change…until one day they stop. When women grow quiet, the men often breathe a sigh of relief, thinking things are better…while the women begin to plan their exit.

You see there’s only so much each person can take—even the kindest, meekest, most people-pleasing person in the world. Most people have a breaking point. Unfortunately, the men don’t believe their wives have a breaking point, until they watch their wives walking out the front door.

So here’s my gift to the men reading this—don’t be fooled. Don’t for a moment think that you can ignore your wife’s unhappiness, pleas, tears, complaints and “nagging” for countless years without it taking a tremendous toll on your marriage. You can’t. Someday, she will grow tired. Someday she will give up. And, yes someday she will begin to make plans to exit this unhappy relationship that she would say she fought like hell to save. Do not wait for that day to wake up and hear your wife’s voice. If you hear her when she is walking out the door, you have already lost her.

Challenge: Be courageous enough to truly tune in to what your spouse has been trying to tell you over the years. If the complaints have stopped and things have grown quiet, ask her how things are going between the two of you. If she shrugs, ignores your question or quickly moves the subject along, I suggest you show her you’ve heard her by immediately changing the behaviors she’s been complaining about.

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Wow, that is exactly what happened in my 2nd marriage. Tried counseling too. then when i agreed to divorce (i was contemplating it; he brought it to the table). i think he was shocked at my calm agreement but wouldn't admit it. Things got ugly. He was extremely nasty and even sent incoherent ranting nasty accusational letters to me, and to my parents. ...To my parents!!??
I now second guess myself when it comes to men and relationships. it was a controlling situation. and I got frazzled. now I am guarded.

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