It starts innocently enough.
A few girlfriends, sitting around the table, maybe sharing a bottle of wine (or three.)
One throws out a good-natured barb at her husband.
“Oh my gosh, you guys won’t believe what Phil did yesterday!” she exclaims. The story is related, as peals of laughter make their way around the table.
What starts out as innocent fun quickly becomes something a little darker as one wife recounts how she is fed up with her husband’s inability to pick up his dirty socks; another quickly fires back that her husband won’t stop pestering her for sex.
Before you know it, it’s a no-holds badmouthing fest. And it might be more harmful than you realize.
I would be lying if I told you that I hadn’t been an active and willing participant in any woman-to-woman griping session about our spouses; get a bunch of women together and some kind of marriage complaint seems to come up. It almost seems natural.
But it took a serious wake-up call for me to see that there’s nothing natural about it.
A few days ago, I confessed that there was a time in my marriage when I was a very unhappy woman; I dwelled on all the things that I felt were wrong with my husband and I felt like because I was unhappy in my personal and work lives, that he should treat me with some kind of magical marriage kid gloves and solve all of my problems. The more I dwelled on everything that I thought was wrong with him, the more unhappy I became.
So of course, I felt like I should express those feelings. Because I’m a woman and that’s what women do, right? We talk to our girlfriends about our problems!
I talked to nurses that I worked with, my sister-in-law, cousins, even my mother-in-law. I sighed and complained about how overworked I was and how men just don’t get it.
And because I’m a writer, I even — and this is hard for me to even admit — I wrote about my husband.
That’s right. At the lowest point of my unhappiness, I somehow found it acceptable to “humorously” write blog posts and articles about the differences between men and women, or “funny” posts about marriage.
Until one day, my husband read one of my posts. And he was so deeply hurt by the words I wasn’t saying to him, but still felt acceptable to be shared with the entire world that I wished I could bury myself (and my laptop) in a hole under my office with the baby’s dirty diapers forever.
The truth was, I wasn’t putting energy into fixing any problems in our relationship or talking to him about my feelings because I was too busy simmering in negativity and badmouthing him elsewhere.
I finally realized — like a smack on the horrible-wife forehead — that all of those griping sessions and all of my “therapeutic” writing sessions were doing absolutely nothing to help my marriage or resolve any issues we might be having. Instead, they were making it worse, primarily because every time I badmouthed him, in person or online, it made me start looking for things that were wrong and honestly, put me in a bad mood. It’s like it created this bad marriage aura cloud that just insisted on sticking around as long as I insisted on badmouthing.
And like Carolyn pointed out in her article, constantly complaining about your man to your friends paints him in an unfair light, too. Unless you are constantly singing his praises too, all anyone else hears is the negative qualities. Everyone has good and bad qualities, but we don’t necessarily share the good ones, do we?
I’m embarrassed to admit that it took hurting my husband’s feelings in order for me to jump off the badmouthing train, but it did. Put simply, there is nothing good that comes from badmouthing your husband in any form, even on a small scale.
If there’s a problem that you feel is warranted to complain about, than it’s a probably a problem that you need to talk to your husband — and only him — about.
Image via J & J Brusie Photography