Moaning can sound like a lighthearted problem, or something that’s not that serious.
And while there’s nothing wrong with the occasional moan — in fact, it’s usually positive and healthy to express negative feelings, if it’s constantly happening in your relationship, it can begin to have an effect.
On one level, constant moaning can create a really negative atmosphere in a relationship. The person on the receiving end of the moaning can find it exhausting, depressing or — if the comments are directed at them — damaging to their self-esteem. They may even end up ‘counter moaning’: meeting fire with fire so the relationship becomes a battleground.
The person doing the moaning may feel they’re trying to get a point across, but they’re not being heard. This can be frustrating and isolating.
Why are you ‘moaning’?
If you feel like ‘moaning’ is a problem in your relationship, the first thing to think about is: why are you moaning? What is it that’s causing you to feel dissatisfied?
A risk with getting into this habit is that we don’t actually express what’s on our mind: we just find things to complain about as a way of generally venting annoyance. But there’s usually a core reason behind negative feelings: being able to identify this is important if you want to address it.
Sometimes, we can find ourselves thrown off rhythm by big changes in our lives. These can be both positive and negative changes: losing a job, getting a new job, having children, children moving away, moving house, getting married, or bereavement. Regardless of whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’, change, it takes away the familiar and replaces it with the unfamiliar. This can be really de-stabilising. Sometimes, change affects us more than we realize — and we may feel we’re finding things different when we thought we’d cope just fine.
If changes in your life are the cause of your problems it can be tempting to look for someone to blame — our partners can often seem like an easy target. But, if they aren’t actually the source of the problem, then this is only likely to cause resentment and anger in your relationship, and may hurt their feelings.
Instead, try talking to your partner about things in a calm, honest and open way. Instead of moaning, just try chatting: being open and collaborative about what you’re finding difficult, and thinking together about ways you might address things. Even if you aren’t able to figure out exactly what’s bothering you or how to address it, talking about it might help you get a bit closer. Putting how you feel into words, and having a calm, honest conversation about your feelings can be enough to help you feel better.
What if your partner is the problem?
One of the other types of ‘moaning’, of course, is the kind prompted by problems in your relationship. You may feel that your partner has plenty to do with why you’re feeling bad. You may feel let down by them — that they don’t attend to your needs, or don’t show you enough affection or care.
However, even if this is the case, it’s unlikely repeatedly criticizing them will yield positive results. When you have a go at your partner — whether or not there’s justification for it —the most likely result is that they get defensive, or begin to attack back. This can mean conflicts just spiral further and further out of control instead of getting resolved.
Another potential result is that they just begin to tune you out — fatigued from hearing the same things repeatedly. This can be even more damaging than them retaliating, as it means they’ve given up trying to address the situation and instead are just trying to get used to it. When this happens, it can mean issues are left unaddressed for long periods of time — often until they reach a head and there’s a really big conflict.
Again, the better course of action is to try to be honest, positive and open. Find a time to talk when you’re not already feeling annoyed, and give the conversation the time and space it needs. Don’t phrase your criticisms as attacks, but instead tell them what you’re going through. And listen to what they have to say too: relationship issues are rarely all one-way, and you’re both going to have your own perspectives on things. It’s only really possible to resolve relationship issues once you both begin to understand what each other is going through.
We know it’s not always easy to talk about these problems, especially if you haven’t had much practice. But it does get easier with time.
If you’d like to talk to someone about your relationship or how to approach communicating with your partner, why not try calling Couple Counseling DC 202 270 3937 for an appointment.