In the beginning of your relationship, when you’re all enamored and in love – AKA the Honeymoon Phase – your partner is the best. You love almost everything about him or her and you let them know in every way possible: You touch and kiss and make love, you spend tons of quality time together, you speak words of admiration and appreciation. In short, they’re amazing, you’re amazing, your relationship is amazing, and your future potential is … well, amazing!
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At some point, your partner begins to show signs of being a mortal, like leaving their stuff everywhere, saying no to your advances, wanting to hang out with other people instead of another romcom on the couch with you. You begin to hear an edge to their voice, irritation with your habits, or sometimes even flat-out hostility that you totally hadn’t seen coming.
When that happens, what do you – or really anyone – do in order to make it better, to bring it back to love?
You talk about it! You mention it. You bring it up. You complain. Now, when you’re the one doing that, it seems to you that you’re merely bringing up a good point, in a calm and reasonable manner, so you can deal with it like adults. Right?
But rest assured, in the ears of your partner, it always lands as complaining, criticizing, or finger pointing. So we call it simply “complaining”.
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Complaining for change
You complain for a good reason, though. Why? Because you think it’s going to affect a positive change. The fantasy is that if you say, “You never listen to me!”, your partner is going to say, “Really? OMG, I’m so sorry, that’ll never happen again, I want to hear every word you say”.
Does that ever happen in real life? Nope, it doesn’t.
Instead, what happens? Your partner gets defensive, or shuts down, or goes away. Either way, they’re definitely NOT listening to you more. Hence, your attempts to improve the situation produce the exact opposite.
We call it Complaining For Change. It’s what start the downward trend of your relationship. It’s the slow, painful kiss of death for your love. It sours the mood in your house and in your own mind. And it’s imperative that you stop it.
Additionally, because most of us suffer from what is called “negativity bias”, once the honeymoon is over, we focus more and more on the negative stuff, the things we don’t want and don’t like. And we say something about it (i.e. complaining for change), and thus we start the downward spiral.
If you’ve been in any significant relationship, you know this phenomenon. Somehow, it just get harder and harder NOT to see the things that annoy or concern you. Often, you don’t notice till it’s too late that your increased focus on what’s not working simultaneously decreases your focus on what you love and appreciate. It’s a double-downward-whammy.
In order to create powerful, loving, satisfying relationship, we need to make a shift in how we respond. A shift from Reaction to Creation. Instead of reflexively reacting to what we don’t want (e.g. your partner saying no to your advances, or not listening as much as they should), we need to be able to consciously create what we want, consciously choosing a path that produces a better result for us.
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