Life is difficult sometimes, and only made more difficult when we do everything within our power to make our partner happy, only to be met with complaints. So, how do you stop this cycle?

We’ve all been there: we try to do everything we can to make our other half happy, only to forget to do something or to find that our efforts don’t meet their expectations. In turn, we are left feeling inadequate or even more stressed. When you want to make someone happy, but continue to fail, the result can be devastation. Thankfully, there is a way to break the cycle. Here are 5 ways to handle complaints.

1. Re-Frame the situation.

When you notice your partner beginning to complain, a really good way to course correct is to re-frame it, and in a way change the subject. According to Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, “Often people don’t know how much they are complaining or how it sounds to those around them. Re-framing is a good idea because it can give them a sense of what is going on without making them feel bad or defensive.”

2. Dig for the root cause.

While it may seem like your partner is complaining about the towels not being dry, or their food not being up to par, in reality, there is likely something else going on beyond the surface. For example, they may be under a lot of stress. While this doesn’t excuse their actions, it can give you more insight into what is going on and an upper hand to handle it.

3. Notice the behavior and point out how it makes you feel.

Oftentimes, when our partners send these ‘attacks’ towards us, they aren’t thinking about how we feel. When your partner is being harsh, bring attention to what they are doing. And put it into perspective by explaining to them how they are making you feel.

4. Brainstorm with them.

When you notice your partner is beginning to complain, commiserate with them. Rather than getting defensive, say something like, “Man, that sucks!” or “I am sorry that is happening.” Laura Jordan, LPC, LMFT says to ask them questions like, “In an ideal world, what would this situation look like to you?”

5. Give them a taste of their own medicine.

This one should be handled in just the right way, and if it is, it will work. Hartstein says to begin complaining exaggeratedly about your own life. Don’t noticeably make fun of them or anything like that. But, when they comment on your behavior, tell them that is how they typically sound. The emphasis here is to handle this with a delicate hand.

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