Before we go there I want to let you know three important words to remember in communicating. Intentional, Curious and For. Good communication just doesn't happen. You have to actively and intentionally seek it out and grow into it. Be curious about your spouses soul. There are universes to explore in there. Be for the other person. This can be tough sometimes in dealing with the anger of an affair but do your best to be on the same side as your spouse. Be for him or her. Be intentional, be curious, be for.
The first possible element in destructive griping is Mind Reading. Mind reading is assuming you know what your partner is thinking or intended. You might have a good guess at it, but it is always best to check with your mate. Sometimes, you will be way off.
Here are a couple of parts about mind reading to remember. The silent treatment leads to a LOT of mind reading. If you are silent and give a blank slate most people will project something onto it. And most often, especially if there is tension in the relationship what is projected onto it is negative.
In reminding the essence is that you speak for your partner.
So try to say what YOU think and feel, not what you think your partner thinks and feels.
A second element of destructive griping is Character Assassination. This assumes a trait about a person rather than a problem behavior. In other words a person becomes known as their worst behavior. You can hear the name calling. You're such a (fill in the blank). But let me ask you, do you want to be know as your worst behavior?
We don't tend to character assassinate our own self. We do tend to over attribute to traits, aspects we do not like about others when this is often not the case. We paint others as totally evil or good when it is usually a mixture of dignity (good) and depravity (bad).
A third piece in destructive griping is Catastrophic Interpretation. It’s so big, there’s no hope.
I often see this compined with escalation. Couples who use 'you always' or 'you never' statements are an example of this. 'You never fill up the car with gas. You always leave it on E.' In truth sometimes the spouse forgets to go to the gas station, but many times the tank gets filled.
Always and never statements are almost always wrong. This is an example of black and white thinking which can be a cause of depression or anxiety. Many situations are both/and and not either/or. Learning to accept some gray in life can go a long way towards healing. You and your spouse will have different ideas on many issues and there generally isn't a right or wrong but just a difference of opinion. Is there really a right or wrong whether mashed potatoes should be more creamy or lumpy? I vote lumpy but my wife isn't wrong because she likes creamy. Just to be clear I'm not talking about obvious moral issues like affairs. Affairs are wrong but that doesn't make the person all bad. That would go back to character assassination.
Finally, there is Blaming. The partner is at fault for the relationship issues. "It's all your fault." "If you hadn't done so and so our marriage would be fine." Remember, you are a team. It takes two to have a bad relationship and two to have a good relationship.
Do you see yourself in any of these four? Seek to limit your destructive griping. If you catch yourself falling into it a humble attitude and apology to your spouse can go a long way towards easing tension.
Remember to sign up for the Marriage Conference on Jan. 27-28 in Warrensburg, MO. A bargain at $50 with lunch and childcare included. Those attending the marriage conference will be eligible for 50% off a four-day intensive in the summer.