Hax: Complaining husband might need counseling

The Washington PostJanuary 18, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: My husband is a complainer. Always has been. His complaints often also encompass criticism, or what I perceive to be — usually of something regarding parenting our 5- and 3-year-olds (I’m a stay-at-home mom). His complaints and criticism very, very rarely offer any sort of suggestions or fixes.

This has been a frustrating cycle throughout our relationship, and I can’t figure out how to break it. I call him out, it seems to get better briefly and then starts all over again.

SAHM

Have you tried the super-simple “What I’m hearing is that you think X. Is that correct?” He either says yes, or clarifies with Y. Then: “I see. So you see X/Y as a problem. Do you have any suggestions for how to fix it?”

Depending on his answer, you follow it with either “Great, then please feel welcome to try that” or “Hmm. Well, if you think of anything, please let me know.” Then you carry on with what you were doing.

That’s the micro answer, obviously. The macro is that this is who he is, as your relationship has told you all along, and that means any changes need to come from you — be it to accept that this is who and how he is, or to decide a home with him in it is not a healthy one, or to find some workable point between these two extremes. Good, reputable counseling is a viable option, of course, either to get to the root of his negativity (if he’s willing to go) or to figure out strategies for dealing with him (if he’s unwilling and you go alone).

Re: Complaining: Two of the toughest things for me to get used to as a dad were that my wife’s parenting would not be like my parents’; and my children were not me and would require different parenting than I did.

Since hubby’s complaints are about parenting, the question of how he was brought up and how his children are being brought up might be broached.

ANONYMOUS

Such a great way to look at it, thank you.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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