It makes sense that if you tell your partner what is bothering you that it may help resolve the problem. Except complaining to your partner often backfires, for both you and your partner.

Complaining about your partner to your partner can weaken intimacy and closeness. And distance is typically the last thing you want more of in your relationship. Instead you long to feel closer.
Let’s first define what complaining looks like and identify how it is different than communicating. To complain is to express negative feelings, such as dissatisfaction with something or someone. Complaining about your partner is typically being critical or negative about your partner and may include a “you always or you never.” On the other hand, communicating does not address or shape your partner’s behavior. Communicating would simply be telling them about yourself or telling them how you are going to meet your needs better.

Here are some ways that complaining more than communicating contributes to more distance in your relationship. Have you ever experienced any of these?

1. Negativity: We all get negative sometimes, but holding onto a negative mindset is an internal stressor. If all you can see is what isn’t working, what is missing, or what you don’t have, you will feel miserable. The more you are caught in your head fighting your own negative thoughts, the more you will miss seeing what you do have, what is working, or what you are receiving. Because what we focus on grows.

2. Conflict: It is easy to get sidetracked by focusing on getting your partner to see what they are doing. But over-focusing on your partner’s behavior leads to feeling more and more dependent on changing their behavior to make you happy. Then you complain to try to solve the problem, but it backfires with an argument. And to deal with the tension, one or both of you gets more distant.

3. Distance: Either one of you may deal with the conflict by shutting down or pulling away. Or maybe you don’t complain to your partner, but you are complaining internally. As a result, you pull more and more into yourself. Instead of moving closer to your partner or meeting your own needs better, you are more and more withdrawn. Negativity fuels conflict which in turn fuels distance and the circle continues.

You don’t have to be stuck in this negative circle, where you feel like you can’t get out of your own head. Complaining keeps you stuck trying to figure out how to change your feelings by trying to change your partner’s behavior. In doing so, you miss seeing opportunities for connection.

So if it’s time to get out of the negative circular thinking in your head. Instead get curious about yourself, your spouse, and relationships. You can focus on the solution more than the problem. And you can focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do.

Marci Payne, MA, LPC is a resident of Lee’s Summit, MO who offers marriage counseling for one for men and women at 816-373-6761 ext 2. If you are struggling in your marriage and want to find a better way to connect even if your spouse doesn’t come along, schedule your free 15-minute phone consult with Marci at