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My Husband Complains About Me: How to Get Him to Stop Being Negative

When Tom Papa said, “Oh, I married a talker!” during his stand-up special, John and Laura both laughed.

But when they were getting ready for bed that night and John said, “Oh, I married a talker,” it didn’t seem so funny to Laura anymore.

Was he complaining about his wife talking too much? Why did he have to ruin a good time by saying something so negative about her right before bed?

Early in their marriage, that was just the kind of complaint that would have had them staying up to hash out exactly what he meant, which could have turned into a cold war with no talking for days. Again.

That’s how this couple ended up in marriage counseling and eventually on the brink of divorce years ago.

It’s hurtful and maddening when your husband complains about you or is stuck in a negative loop, always focusing on your faults.

But through utilizing the 6 Intimacy SkillsTM to navigate even the most discouraging comments, this couple now feels like they have superpowers that make their marriage a soft place to land instead of an exhausting slog on a Stairmaster.

The day they watched Tom Papa, they kissed goodnight and went to bed connected and happy. Thanks to these Intimacy Skills, the peaceful, playful, passionate atmosphere between them continued in the morning and throughout the week.

Here are the secrets they used to get here that you can use too:

1. Listen for His Heart Message

As a mere mortal woman, when you hear the words, “Oh, I married a talker!” you might feel the urge to defend yourself. You may want to say that you talk just the right amount, and let him know how rude he was.

You might want to complain about his complaining and be negative about his negativity.

Instead, take a pause and ask yourself, “What’s his heart message?”

A heart message is what you hear when you listen with a generous ear, knowing that your husband has good intentions and never means to hurt you. You’re trusting what you know to be in his heart, regardless of what it sounds like right then.

So if he swears and says to you, “Stop yelling from the other end of the house! I can’t hear you!” you could certainly be upset about his harsh tone. Or you could choose a positive interpretation like, “He values my words and wants to hear what I’m saying.”

If that sounds like a stretch, well, it is giving him the benefit of the doubt, but you may both benefit.

Like when John parroted Tom Papa’s joke. Was it just to crack them both up again? Was she just tired and taking it the wrong way?

That seems plausible, which meant there was no need to get upset.

The heart message she heard was, “I’m trying to make you laugh because I know you love to laugh.”

Once you develop the superpower of listening for a heart message, you can turn even a complaint into a connecting moment.

2. Say “Ouch!”

Another powerful way to defuse a negative comment or complaint from your husband, preserve your connection, and likely even get an apology is to say, “Ouch!”

When John said he married a talker, Laura initially heard it as an insult. Saying, “Ouch!” would have been a vulnerable way to express that without attacking him or becoming defensive.

That sounds crazy because when your husband complains about you, there’s nothing more tempting than to attack him or defend yourself. Saying “Ouch!” is just the opposite of that.

It feels awkward to be vulnerable because then he’ll know he hit a tender spot. That’s the opposite of human survival instincts.


But you and your husband are on the same team, and choosing a tender response is a good reminder for both of you that you trust him. You wouldn’t have married him otherwise.

If you don’t defend yourself or attack him, all he can hear is his own conscience. Knowing he just hurt the woman he loves is just as painful for him as when your toddler says “Ouch!” because you caught their skin in the car seat buckle. You can’t apologize enough, right?

Your vulnerability will bring out the same tenderness in your husband.

3. Start a Culture of Gratitude

When your husband complains, consider the possibility that it could be an awkward plea for appreciation.

Of course he could do a better job saying it! But a complaint like “I have to do everything around here,” which sounds like a criticism, could be his way of saying, “Am I making you happy?”

You can find out how important your happiness is to your husband by experimenting with thanking him for three things a day.

These could be small, everyday things you express appreciation for. He took out the trash, did a school dropoff, and worked hard to support the family (even if you do too).

You might think there’s hardly anything to appreciate because you do everything. That’s how the wife in this story felt, too.

But deciding to experiment with three gratitudes a day for your husband may change your perspective. He might be doing more than you realize to improve your life. And the more you thank him, the more he may want to do.

You can experience a culture of gratitude where you’re always thanking each other. You both can feel appreciated and supported.

When you find yourself feeling angry, hurt, or discouraged about your husband’s complaining and negativity, it’s easy to go down the dirt road of complaining and being negative too. Instead, consider instead experimenting with an Intimacy Skill.

Whether you choose to listen to a heart message, be vulnerable with an “Ouch,” or express gratitude, you might be surprised just how peaceful, playful, and passionate you can make your marriage.

For more about the 6 Intimacy SkillsTM visit https://LauraDoyle.org.

First For Women partners with external contributors. All contributor content is reviewed by the First For Women editorial staff.

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