“I just can’t take it anymore” is a complaint we hear often in our work with couples, and understandably so. But why complaining about your marriage doesn’t help? When you’ve been in a dysfunctional relationship for a long time, as many of our clients have been, it’s not easy to put into words what it is that is driving you absolutely crazy or to the point of despair.
We help clients put those feelings and vague complaints into words and specific statements so we can identify and address the problematic behaviors. Most people focus solely on how their partner makes them feel rather than the specific behavior that causes them to feel a certain way. Dr. Hawkins explains how to turn your complaints into boundaries that actually create change in your relationship.
Why Complaining About Your Marriage Doesn’t Help
Have you ever found yourself at your wit’s end in your marriage, uttering the words, “I just can’t take it anymore”? If so, you’re not alone. Many individuals experience moments of frustration, disillusionment, and overwhelm in their marriages. While it’s natural to express these feelings, it’s essential to understand that vague complaints may not lead to the desired changes in your relationship. In this article, we’ll explore why complaining about your marriage doesn’t help and offer a three-point approach to make your concerns more effective.
A Complaint is Just a Complaint
When you declare, “I just can’t take it anymore,” it’s undoubtedly an honest expression of your emotions. However, it’s also a vague complaint. Vague complaints lack specificity, making it challenging for your partner to understand the root of your frustration. To effectively address issues in your marriage, you must move beyond vague expressions of discontent.
Imagine a scenario where a person is feeling overwhelmed and says to their partner, “I just can’t take it anymore.” While this communicates their distress, it leaves a crucial question unanswered: What is “it”? To make your concerns more productive, it’s crucial to identify precisely what’s bothering you.
The Concern Must Be Specific
To be effective in addressing issues within your marriage, complaints need to be specific. Specificity is the key to communication. When you express your concerns in precise terms, it allows your partner to understand what actions or behaviors are causing distress.
For instance, instead of saying, “I just can’t take it anymore,” try pinpointing the specific issue. You might say, “I can’t take being dismissed and invalidated when I express my thoughts and feelings.” Now, you’re addressing a particular behavior or pattern that’s causing you distress.
Follow Your Specific Complaint with a Natural Consequence
The final and most crucial point in this three-step approach is to follow your specific complaint with a natural consequence. Expressing your concerns is the first step, but for change to occur, there must be a clear understanding of what happens if the issue persists.
Let’s consider an example: if you’re concerned about your partner’s angry outbursts and name-calling, saying, “I just can’t take it anymore” won’t lead to resolution. However, if you say, “When you talk angrily to me, raise your voice, and call me names, I feel diminished and disrespected,” you’re providing a clear description of the problem.
Now, to make your complaint more effective, follow it up with a natural consequence. You might assert, “If you continue to call me names, I will step away from the conversation because I don’t want to engage in disrespectful interactions.” By doing this, you’re setting clear boundaries and outlining what actions you’ll take if the behavior persists.
In conclusion, while it’s natural to express your frustration when you feel like you can’t take it anymore in your marriage, vague complaints may not lead to the desired changes. To effectively address issues in your relationship, follow these three key steps:
- Recognize that a complaint is just a complaint. It’s a starting point, but it’s essential to move beyond vague expressions of discontent.
- Make your concern specific. Clearly identify the behavior or pattern that’s causing you distress, allowing your partner to understand the issue better.
- Follow your specific complaint with a natural consequence. Communicate what actions you’ll take if the problem persists, setting clear boundaries and expectations.
Remember that change in a relationship takes time and consistency. You may need to repeat this process several times to disrupt long-standing patterns and see significant improvements. By following this approach, you can communicate your concerns effectively and work toward a healthier, more fulfilling marriage.
Also read: The Path to Emotional Maturity
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.