Spousal Slander

by admin on September 28, 2011

Is there some polite way to ask married people to stop complaining about their spouses? Recently there’s been some coolness with my friend in the couple because I declined an invitation to socialize with them as a couple. Why would I want to socialize with the spouse I’ve only heard terrible things about? I don’t think this friendship can be mended, but I’d like some advice on how to avoid these problems in future. I don’t enjoy losing friends, married or not, if it can be avoided. 0726-11

I wouldn’t write off the slandered spouse until you met him or her and used your own perceptions and observations to determine whether you are interested in socializing further with the person.    We should never take great stock  in bad reports about others based solely on a word-of-mouth report.  You have no idea what the relationship baggage is,  who is really the aggrieved party or who is “poisoning the well” of potential friendships their spouse could have.

You can bean dip by redirecting the topic of discussion to more pleasant topics but that won’t work always.  Refusing to listen to gossip and slander means sometimes being direct by saying, “I really don’t think I should be privy to this kind of information.  Maybe a marriage counselor would be more helpful than I.”

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Mum with 3 kids September 28, 2011 at 4:58 am

I’d say: Stop being around people who only bad-mouth their nearest and (presumably) dearest if it’s at all possible. Of course, you could give them a second (third, fourth) chance by saying “I prefer not hearing that sort of things”, but if they’re not your family and they keep speaking ill of their spouse, just greet them in the street but stop inviting them.

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Chrysla September 28, 2011 at 5:02 am

This type of thing drives me batty! I am a teacher, and at work there is a gaggle of ladies that I tend to avoid when they are in their gaggle. They start talking bad about their husbands. Nothing too egregious but things like he never can find this, he never seems able to remember this, etc… It’s as if they are talking about incompetent toddlers. I just don’t understand this. Why would a wife want to display her choice of mate in a bad light, a man she supposedly loves? It is also a reflection on her. It also seems to be herd mentality. They were very surprised when I was asked about what my husband is lacking in. I replied that my husband was wonderful and I still get butterflies when he comes home at night. The response was silence at first, apparently I broke some sort of social code. Then I got laughter and a “oh, you just haven’t been married long enough yet,” answer. I had been married for seven years. I will never disparage my husband in public, I think that only serves to subtly undermine the marriage – even if he does things differently from me and he is human. And by the way, I STILL get butterflies, my husband is amazing.

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lkb September 28, 2011 at 5:26 am

I too have seen this trend — especially wives complaining of their spouses. I too am guilty of this and I am trying to stop. I acknowledge that I am what is making my husband a saint — He puts up with so much from me!

I think a lot of it is because of TV. For years so many of the sit-coms depicted the stupid father and the so-smart wife.

Perhaps we can reverse that trend by talking up our spouses. Couldn’t hurt….

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Lisa Marie September 28, 2011 at 7:35 am

I say things about my DH quite often. Like he is an idiot when it comes to home repairs or remembering things. I really think he is. BUT he is MY idiot and I love him anyways. I try to get that message across also.

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AMC September 28, 2011 at 8:42 am

I think Admin is right about this. I think many marrieds are guilty now and again (myself included) of complaining about their spouse. I love my husband. He is a wonderful, decent man, a great father and provider, and my best friend. The day we married was one of the best days of my life. But like many couples, we occasionally have our squabbles and get on each other’s nerves. When this happens, my first instinct is to run to my mother, sister, or friends and “vent” to them about all the things he does that push my buttons. What I end up leaving out though is that these disagreements happen only seldom, and the vast majority of time I feel extremely happy and satisfied with my marriage. So mom, sis, and friends end up getting a very negative and inaccurate impression of my husband. I’ve since learned to reign this behavior in and balance it by bragging about all the really great and loving things he does for me.
Admin is right on the money; it’s quite possible you are only getting one side of a very skewed story. If you call your friend out on her behavior, I bet she’ll stop.

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--Lia September 28, 2011 at 8:56 am

How terrible are the terrible things? Is this is a husband yelling and throwing things? A wife getting drunk and sleeping with everyone in town? Or are these the sorts of complaints most of us have about not picking up dirty laundry, talking too loud in the morning, and keeping a bunch of junk in the basement? It makes a difference. If there’s truly something horrible going on, the admin’s “maybe a marriage counselor would be more helpful than I” is spot on terrific advice. (Actually, if it’s truly horrible, an offer to call authorities and get the spouse or children out of danger is more in order.) If it’s a complaint about how the doofus forgot a birthday, you can change the subject or come out and ask “are you just blowing off steam when things are really O.K.? If that’s it, I’m not comfortable hearing anything so personal.” If the friend is being so open with you, there’s no reason you can’t be open in return.

As an aside– When I read the letter, I pictured a woman complaining to another woman about a man, but the words are ambiguous. It doesn’t make a difference to the advice what the configuration of sexes is, but it will be interesting to see what assumptions each of us makes.

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GEna September 28, 2011 at 9:09 am

I think it depends on the complaining. I’ll “complain” about my husbands inability to find anything, or his extreme cheapness, but it’s all in good fun. I don’t say anything I wouldn’t say in front of him.

However, some women (and men!) complain in ways that aren’t so light. He’s never home, he never does anything around the house, etc. Things that really start to make others uncomfortable, and make you wonder why on earth they stay with their supposedly worthless spouse.

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BeachMum September 28, 2011 at 9:12 am

I try to ensure that the only negatives I say about my husband are things I say to him. For example, he’s very bossy in the kitchen (did you know that there’s a ‘correct’ way to cut cucumbers?). However, I not only joke about it with others, I also say it to his face.

I, too, get uncomfortable when wives dish on how helpless their spouses are. Most of these men managed to live alone for years before their wives came along. Also, many of these men do just fine with their kids when their wives leave them, even though the wives complain about all that wasn’t done or wasn’t done ‘properly’ when they weren’t there. I don’t get it. What’s the benefit in making one’s spouse out to be incompetant. It would just inspire me to be more incompetant in that area.

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PhDeath September 28, 2011 at 9:13 am

Generally, I agree with the previous comments, so long as we’re talking about tiresome, but garden variety spousal complaints.

If I was hearing more egregious info – this person is an abusive, or thieving, or racist, or other “terrible-ness,” I wouldn’t want to be around her or him, either. The OP doesn’t read in this way, plus it sounds as if the author wants Friend out of his/her life, as well. Just a thought.

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Erin September 28, 2011 at 9:19 am

There are also levels of complaining – there’s a world of difference between “My husband leaves his underpants in the kitchen” and “My husband is such a loser!” If someone is always being hateful, that’s one thing – I don’t think someone should ever badmouth their spouse and mean it. Sometimes, though, complaining about the little things is just a way to turn a small annoyance into a joke before it becomes a big annoyance.

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Xtina September 28, 2011 at 9:33 am

I really hate being an unwilling referee to spousal issues. My SIL is probably the world’s worst about this; she seems to have no qualms at all about letting the world know her and my brother’s private business, and expects everyone to take her side. It makes family gatherings very, very uncomfortable that she can’t keep her mouth shut, and it is embarrassing to everyone BUT her.

At any rate, as for the OP–please keep in mind that you’re only getting half of the story from the one spouse. Don’t write off the other half of the couple until you have met or spent more time with them. If they squabble in front of you, or one or the other starts telling you too much, simply inform them that you don’t want to get involved and could we please change the subject. If they can’t do this and the fights/badmouthing continues, then and only then would I start distancing myself from them socially. Surely they will understand your reasons for doing so, if you have already been vocal about your discomfort!

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Twik September 28, 2011 at 9:48 am

I think it’s one thing to complain (with good humour) about an S/O’s foibles. I think most people are guilty of that at one time or another. But it sounds like the OP may be subject to something more. I don’t think a reasonable person would refuse to socialize with someone who doesn’t put the toilet seat down. But if the OP is being told that the husband is mean, abusive, unfaithful, bigoted, a substance abuser, a terrible husband and father, then I can see why it would then be very awkward to have the person telling those tales then introduce me to this supposed monster, expecting me to be pleased to meet him.

So, yes, I agree with her. Don’t tell me that you’re married to a demon incarnate, if you then want me to treat him as if he’s a pleasant human being when we meet.

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Maitri September 28, 2011 at 10:01 am

I have an anonymous blog where I rant about my husband – entirely humorous/satirical. He’s known about it from the day I created it, and he approves of it. He says that if I vent about him online (not using names or any identifying factors, of course), then I don’t nag him at home, and he’s right. We have a great relationship because neither of us gets bent out of shape over petty stuff like laundry. I just rant about it online and then let it go. None of my family/friends who know us know of the blog. It works for us.

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Dorothy Bruce September 28, 2011 at 10:03 am

Had a “friend” that did that constantly. Reminding her that since she picked the guy in the first place, putting him down with your friends shows that you had the bad taste to pick him and that it reflects on her ability to make good choices.

Shuts them up every time!

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The Other Amber September 28, 2011 at 10:04 am

Or, quite possibly, the husband really is that bad and what the wife is saying is that she really needs a break from being around just him. My parents (before they divorced) were like this – alone my father was a tyrant and quite abusive, but put him in company and he put on such an incredible act that when my mother left him she was berated by their “friends” who couldn’t understand how she could leave someone so wonderful. Or maybe, if the OP is married, what she’s saying is that she’d like her husband to have the opportunity to socialize with another couple and perhaps learn how to behave. Or maybe the woman isn’t allowed to socialize without the husband present – I have a friend in that situation, her husband has now forbid her from talking to me because I’m a bad influence. She can’t have friends over if he’s not there, she can’t go for coffee with anyone without him there, she’s not even allowed to go online without him beside her to monitor it anymore.

And for people who say they don’t understand how women can say bad things about the husbands they love and they must love them otherwise they’d leave, here are 2 points on that:
1) No one is perfect, and I’m sure these husbands do have faults. My DH, for example, is useless with home repair. I’ve done every single bit of home repair on our house, all the power tools are mine etc. He can’t wash the dishes without breaking something. He’s banned from doing laundry because of all the things he’s ruined. Our neighbours think he’s incredibly rude because he never talks to them. He never takes the garbage out, or cuts the grass, and if I’ve got an armload of heavy things he’ll never offer to help. It’s just the way he is. He does however work about 80 hours a week, and he excels at his job.

Sometimes people just get so frustrated with something that they need to vent about it. And when all you do is talk about how wonderful your partner is, it makes it seem like you’re bragging. It’s like how you hear people say wow I am so broke right now, you never hear anyone say wow I’ve got so much money I just don’t know what to do with it all.

2) Sometimes people stay in relationships because they can’t easily get out of them. I have a friend – male – whose wife is quite a piece of work. He’s been talking with a lawyer for about a year trying to lay the groundwork for leaving her and getting custody of their child, as the wife is frankly unstable and he’s worried about the safety of the child when with her. He does not want to leave and then have her awarded custody and risk the welfare of his child – at least for now if he’s physically present in the home he can monitor what’s going on. My mother was unable to leave my father for several years due to financial constraints, and because he had her so afraid. He’d told her if she left that he’d take me and move to another country and she’d never see me again. If I ever decided to leave my DH I’d be in quite a spot – he makes literally 10x what I make, and yet all the credit cards we use are in my name and he’s maxed them all. The mortgage for the house is in both our names. Trying to sort all that out and not have my credit rating destroyed would be a mess.

There are many reasons people complain about their spouses. Most of the time it’s good natured ribbing. Some times it’s more than that. Sometimes what the complaints are really saying is “I feel like I need help”.

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Enna September 28, 2011 at 10:08 am

I agree with Admin – depneding on what the person is saying about his/her spouse the person could be venting, like some of the stories we get on here where the OP is clearly stressed about the sitaution and comes across as being rude. It depends on what is being said. Like admin suggested be direct saying that a marriage consellor would be more help. Is the person asking for your advice or just complaining? The spouse can’t be that bad if you’re being invited to spend time with “awful” spouse. Depending on how well you know the person, you could try making the point that 1) the firend has said bad things about thier spouse so it puts you off being around such a suposedly bad person and 2) you would feel uncomfortable as you have been told bad things about the spouse who will be unaware of it.

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SHOEGAL September 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

I actually think that among good female friendships – you should discuss things that upset you – get it off your chest and move on. Sometimes those things can be unflattering about their husbands but not malicious and the friend listens but doesn’t automatically take your side – offers advice – is a sounding board. All unflattering comments are taken with a grain of salt. I agree with others – we are talking garden variety complaints – not cruelty and abuse. I hear complaints about my best friends husband all the time – but I never repeat them and I wouldn’t refuse to spend an evening with him.

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The Elf September 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

Sometimes, it helps to gripe or vent about one’s spouse. But this really should be limited to one’s nearest and dearest (Parent, sibling, best friend) and shouldn’t be frequent. I also think Erin nails it with the level of complaining – specific actions, or garden variety griping, okay. General disparagements, not so okay. One time I was very worried about something specific, and ran it by my best friend. She assured me that I was seeing something that wasn’t there, and she was right. Her advice not only helped me put the problem into perspective, but prevented a blow-up if I had gone to him accusingly.

This assumes that the person is generally happy in their marriage and that nothing is egregiously wrong – abuse or discussing possibility of divorce, that’s different.

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Ali September 28, 2011 at 10:46 am

Even if the ‘horrible’ spouse is actually pleasant and all reports have been false, who wants to hang out with someone (the original friend) that tells lies, over dramatizes, or is impossible to please? And what purpose does it serve to now have a good opinion of the spouse and have to listen to your friend talk badly about them on a regular basis?

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Vixless September 28, 2011 at 10:48 am

When I was a teenager, my parents realized that all of their couple friends were nasty towards one another. They made a decision to only form friendships with couples that *like* one another.

It changed the face of all of their parties and get-togethers after that. It was also a great learning example for me to see that couples can be kind and respectful to one another.

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Jojo September 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

Women complain about their partners to their friends for support and to be reminded that they are not alone in feeling frustrated that we live in a society where women are expected to not only work, do the brunt of the childcare and house work but run after their man too. It’s brilliant to be in a situation where your man does his part and you still have butterflies when he walks up the path home from work. I wish, between being a student, holding down three jobs, dealing with step-kids and taking on sick elderly relatives and finding a spare moment to walk the dog, that my ex-husband and I had been able to take time out to remind ourselves of this. It was far easier, however, to give a girlfriend a call and have a whinge about the fact my lovely husband had once again been a complete pain over something stupid. My friend would agree, share her own anecdote and have a laugh about it. Then we’d both go back to our lives better, more sane people. For the record, my spouse refused to come to marriage counselling to resolve our issues so sometimes all you have to turn to is your friends for advice!
I am now in a serious relationship with an absolutely brilliant man and our lives are far less stressful but I still tell my girlfriends when he winds me up in silly ways, just as he goes to his friends or sister to say how annoying I am! Our friends give us perspective and support in situations where we may have lost our own perspective and need to be reminded to work on our sense of humour. While I object to out and out abuse of a partner, I have only sympathy for anyone who adores their other half but every now and then needs a bit of respite from family life with people who can identify.

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ElegantErica September 28, 2011 at 11:08 am

I have a different take on this. I have seen (several) women totally rip their significant other to shreds, only to later find out that they are happily devoted to each other. Then there were two cases of women who told us stories that made us all jealous of their perfect and ideal husbands, but then both couples ended up in divorce… one quite messy.

I think that it is possible to truly be happy with someone but vent about their shortcomings to trusted friends. I also think it is possible to hide a terrible relationship or horrible significant other.

I try not to judge people until I meet them myself… emphasis on the try though (I am only human).

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AS September 28, 2011 at 11:10 am

I can understand a friend who is in a deteriorating relationship wanting to “talk it out” with another friend. Maybe their relationship is moving towards divorce, and they really need a place to vent, and who is better than a good friend? But as the admin said, I’d not cut off all ties with either of them until I find one of them to be very unpleasant or abusive. Two wonderful people can be quite incompatible for each other, and it is not always either of their faults.

But if one spouse badmouths the other all the time, chances are that the badmouther is the actual offender but acting as the injured party. Why else would someone keep saying something bad about the one person on earth whom they have promised to “love, cherish and honor”? I don’t know how a badmouthing relationship lasts, because it would be a deal breaker for both my fiancé’ and me (and it is not that we have never hit a rocky road).

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AS September 28, 2011 at 11:15 am

Adding to the first paragraph, some people may need to vent even if they are not in a deteriorating relationship. There is a possibility that your friend sees you as the good friend who can hear her/him. It is not clear from the story what exactly is going on here.

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--Lia September 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Other Amber– I’m worried about your friend. This is the classic set-up for domestic abuse. I’d even go so far as to say that her husband hasn’t started beating her up– yet. People wonder why women stay with husbands who use them for a punching bag, and this is it in a nutshell. By the time he hits her the first time, she’ll have no friends to turn to because he’s forbidden her from associating with bad influences. She’ll be convinced that she deserves the treatment because she’s had no reality checks from impartial parties. She won’t even be in contact with anyone who feels safe in a relationship.

Please, go to your friend and urge her to call you if things get violent even if she hasn’t seen you in years. Tell her where the women’s shelters are, and let her know she can go there. If you can arrange for her to talk to a social worker in the field, do so. This is a tragedy unfolding as we speak.

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Abby September 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I’m a married woman. Sometimes my husband ticks me off. I vent about it to my girlfriends, because they understand I’m just letting off steam, and often they can commiserate. It makes us all feel better to know no one else has a perfect relationship so we’re not weirdos because we don’t; plus, we get to get things off our chest.

However, I don’t *only* complain about my husband. I will also talk about the good things he says and does, which far outnumber the annoying. My girlfriends know I’m happy in my normal, flawed marriage and are not uncomfortable spending time with my husband.

If the OP is that bothered by what this married friend is saying about his/her spouse, I wonder if they’re close enough friends that the married friend should be coming to the OP with his/her gripes (I wouldn’t want to hear about casual acquaintances’ complaints), or if the problems are deep enough the married friend should be taking that to a counselor instead.

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Paige September 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I would probably redirect the conversation a few times but if it persisted I would simply say “If you are having such problems with *enter spouse name here* then I suggest marriage counceling because frankly, I am tired of listening to you complain about it so much.” I am also known among my friends as being very frank. I have little tolerance for people who just want to complain about problems but not do anything proactive to change them.

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Sarah September 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I have a friend (K) who complains a lot- and often about her husband. It’s bad enough that if I tell my husband I saw K, his first response it to ask what K’s husband has done now. For the record, I know K’s husband fairly well, and he’s great (neither abusive nor an ass). From my point of view, the complaints are often ridiculous. My ‘favorite’ complaint was that he wears winter-weight polo shirts in summer and this is why she has to pick out his clothes. People who complain a lot about their spouses should think about how this comes across to others; I know I try to spend less time around K and others who spread negativity.

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The Other Amber September 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm

@Lia – believe me, if I could I would. Unfortunately we live in different countries so I’m not physically close to her and can’t get to her. I can’t call her because not only has he blocked my number but he’s also managed to put a requirement with their phone company that all incoming callers are required to provide their name and then they decide whether to answer the call or not – he gets a log of the incoming callers and any name he doesn’t recognize she gets grilled about. I can’t email her anymore because she’s not allowed online unless he’s physically beside her (we did manage to chat online about 6 months ago, so said “DH said I could talk to you on line as long as he is here and can monitor what I talk about.” and then I not a peep from her since then). I can’t send her mail anymore because it doesn’t seem to get to her. She used to talk about leaving him, I told her repeatedly she could come stay with me any time she wanted or needed to. The last time we chatted she just kept saying “It’s where I want to be” like it’s been programmed into her. I’m worried about her too, but I’m at a loss as to what I can do from here especially when she’s not allowed to have any contact with me.

But she’s a good example of why someone might complain about her spouse but still invite someone to socialize with them as a couple. In her case she has more than just cause to complain about him, and he isn’t someone I’d want to be around (I’ve met him), but I want to help and support my friend so if I were invited over but he had to be present I’d still go over, just so she could have some company.

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Athena C September 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I hope the OP comes back and clarifies. As other posters have observed, the appropriate response is either for the OP to stop being so sensitive, the OP to call the police and help her friend get out of an abusive marriage, or something in between.

@Chrysla – sounds like your marriage is working beautifully, and I’m happy for you. But I think you are wrong to copy+paste your values for your marriage onto everyone around you and judge them that way. Some of us (read: me) find the silly little “flaws” about our husbands to be adorable and one aspect of the total intimacy of marriage that it is socially acceptable to tell other people. So when I tell you that my husband misplaces things and then wants to know where I put things that he misplaced, you would be wrong to interpret that as “my husband is an incompetent toddler who would be useless without me, and I am a nincompoop for choosing him as my mate.” What most people seem to be saying from this type of “complaint” is “I love my husband, and I love the intimacy that we share that allows us to see the little wrinkles in each other.” It may not sound like that, but think about the mood among your “gaggle” of women – if they sound happy, then what they are really sharing with each other is probably closer to my version than yours.

But I am a relative newlywed (2 years) so take that with a boulder of salt.

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Twik September 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm

There’s complaining and then there’s complaining. If the OP’s friends are really telling her something “terrible”, such as abuse or infidelity, they’ll have to face that it then becomes difficult to bring their S/O into social situations without their other friends being aware of that baggage. So, if they must speak ill of their partners, they must choose their listeners wisely. If a friend of mine tells me that her partner abuses her in various ways, and then a week later expects me to double date with her and S/O, she may find that I’m not my normal friendly self.

(This reminds me of a college roommate and her Horrible Boyfriend, who did not appreciate the fact that I did.not.like.him. The fact was that I cannot find it easy to chat happily with someone who I know the night before hit a friend of mine. She might be trying to forgive and forget. I wasn’t about to.)

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WildIrishRose September 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm

I’ll bet there’s not a person on the planet who doesn’t complain about someone he or she loves at some point–whether it’s a spouse, sibling, parent, child. Sometimes it’s just blowing off steam; sometimes it’s a sort of cry for help. Sometimes it’s a matter of I-have-no-idea-what-t0-do-and-am-looking-for-a-little-advice. If you don’t want to listen, don’t. Most people can find an outlet. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a situation of needing to sound off about, say, your boss and can’t find anyone who gives a damn.

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Random September 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I can understand occasionally talking to friends about something a spouse has done to vent or get advice. Everyone needs that sometimes. My problem would be if a person only ever seemed to insult their spouse and never had anything nice to say about them. Also, there is a big difference between just confiding in people you are close to and shouting about how dumb your spouse is in front of everyone.

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Cat September 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I have a half sister to whom I have never spoken other than hello and good-bye-by her choice, not mine. I was adopted at birth and it took me thirty years to find her-and nine others. I found another niece first and made the mistake of telling her how to locate a half-brother who was adopted by the same parents as I was. He’s a sociopath, but I felt they were his family as much as mine. I was honest about what he is and how he behaves, but, as they are adults, I thought they, and not I, should determine if they wanted a relationship with him. I saw no reason to shut him off from them if he and they wanted to know one another.

One of the behaviors of the sociopath is to be charming and wonderful to those who don’t know what he is. (Who would have gotten in a car with Ted Bundy if he acted like what he intended to do to them?) I don’t know what lies he told them. I do know the lies he habitually told my adopted family, and I told our birth family the kinds of lies they could expect from him.

Several family members have told me that my half-sister and her daughter make up lies about me and say the most hateful things. They believe every thing he told them and feel they can add to them. They even told a newly-found half sister, also adopted out, that “I didn’t get along with anyone in the family.” She was shocked to learn that I had never met, spoken to, or communicated with any of the people they had mentioned. When she told me that she had been told I didn’t get along with anyone, I exclaimed, “Get along with them? I wouldn’t know them if I passed them on the street. I have no idea of who they are or where they live!”

It has taken ten years for their lies to catch up with them, but I am finally getting to meet family members who refused to meet me based on what they had heard. Please don’t give anyone else control over who you know or don’t know.

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WrenskiBaby September 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm

The next time the spouse-bashing gets to be too much, you might say, “Tell me what it was like when you first met.” Or “Do you know anything about his childhood or family background?” Or “Tell me what you like about him.” Or finally, “Sounds like you’re not a good match anymore.” I had a friend who seemed to detest her husband. She confided that she wanted to “threaten” him with separation–so I told her to be ready in case he agreed to the separation instead of being sorry and promising to be more loving, etc. My advice shook her up badly. Suddenly he didn’t look so bad.

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Hilary September 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I’ve run across a similar situation recently – one of my coworkers, who I socialize with outside of the office, has a husband who sounds like a complete clod. She doesn’t criticize him at all – quite the opposite. She talks about how smart, accomplished and kind he is, but from some of the stories she tells he sounds like a complete jerk. For example, he refused to go with her to a family wedding recently because he wanted to go to a tailgaiting party with his friends instead. He regularly refuses to accompany her to company events (like the Christmas party) because he doesn’t want to have to talk to strangers. She’s very outdoorsy, but he won’t go camping, hiking, fishing, or biking with her. Ever. He loves poker, and makes her leave the house when he hosts the poker games.

The worst one is his obsession with a certain band. He and a friend follow this band around the country, going to as many shows as they can. His wife is not invited. And he prefers to go to yet ANOTHER concert instead of doing something as a couple on holiday weekends or for special events. He even went to a concert on their anniversary.

I have to read between the lines to find these faults with their marriage – she never complains about him. But it makes me want to avoid socializing with the two of them because I have such a terrible impression of him!

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Echo September 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Like PPs said, it depends entirely on the level of complaining. When two people live together (be they roommates, family or partners), there are bound to be clashes. My girlfriends and I use each other to vent about all those stupid things that it’s not worth fighting about. “…and then he put the Vegemite in the fridge! Who does that?!!!! Ah, that feels so much better.” The key is discretion in who you vent to. I have three friends who I’ll vent to, because they know how much I love my fiance and how awesome he is, and won’t be swayed by the occasional complaint.

WrenskiBaby’s advice is great.

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Boca September 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm

My wife died several years ago. I have gotten along well since but miss her. I have been invited by a couple for dinner and table games often. These people are always “at” each other. They complain and argue about everything yet seem content to be together. They seem to think it is amusing to argue. I suppose it is banter but loud and aggressive. I am upset by this and have decided to stop going over to their house. I have tried to laugh along but don’t really feel it. What I would give for one more quiet day with my dear wife. I certainly wouldn’t spend it hollering at her.

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bunnyface September 28, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I’m having some problems with the verbs used in this topic: she “can’t,” “isn’t allowed to,” I “can’t get to her,” etc. These are all individual choices. These people are choosing to be told what to do, or making excuses for why they don’t do something. The only person that tells you what to do is YOU. Choose what YOU want, or what someone else wants. It is your choice.

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bunnyface September 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm

To Sarah- Is your husband present when your friend is complaining about her husband and his winter-weight shirts, or are you telling him what she said? If the second, why are you repeating what she says? That is also spreading negativity, as you said, and violating your friend’s confidence. If she’s talking about it in front of you both, then that’s her own bed to sleep in.

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Angela September 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I would say that the determining factor is how the other person feels about whatever you are talking about. My husband and I joke about how I’m not very neat and he’s never on time, but I wouldn’t joke about something he’s really sensitive about and he wouldn’t do that to me.
OtherAmber: Those are some serious red flags and it’s too bad she can’t or won’t do anything. When women make up their minds, though, they can be resourceful. A good friend is a psychiatric nurse at a hospital. Some years ago, a man brought his wife in. While talking with them, she picked up on something just not clicking and managed to get the woman away from her husband under some pretense. The woman told the psych team that her husband had been abusing her, it had gotten very bad, she thought he might kill her and the only way she could escape was to persuade him that she couldn’t do things the way he wanted because she was mentally ill and needed treatment. When my friend came out and told the husband that his wife was gone, that she had been taken away to a safe house, his reaction was such that security ended up escorting him away.

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Athena C September 28, 2011 at 9:25 pm

@WrenskiBaby – I love your idea. It’s a great way to turn the conversation positive if it starts to feel negative. Also, a good way to segue into that topic is to share something that I do (that I know my husband doesn’t like) and talk about how understanding and sweet my husband is with silly things I do.

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Marna September 28, 2011 at 10:33 pm

What I would give for one more quiet day with my dear wife. I certainly wouldn’t spend it hollering at her. <—Boca

My husband and I both lost our first spouses to cancer. After the losses, what we wouldn't have given for just one more day. Life's too short for all that bickering, folks. Take it from us, who have experienced that hard truth.

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David September 29, 2011 at 1:43 am

Once while relaxing at a party, I was accosted by a friend( Bertha) of my girlfriend at the time (Clara). Bertha had had a glass of wine or two over what should have been their limit and wanted to discuss with me my shortcomings in the boyfriend department as told to her by Clara. The litany of my faults was extremely long and Bertha made mention of some traumatic things that I had told my Clara in confidence, which this friend found very funny.

When I brought this up to Clara she said; ” So? All women complain about their boyfriends.” We split up a short while later.

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Edhla September 29, 2011 at 6:06 am

Boca- I’m sorry about your wife. I feel similarly to you but not about partners- about children. As someone who is “circumstantially childless”- I am (probably) fertile but nearly 30 and not even close to finding someone to share my life with- it seriously upsets me to get together with friends who have beautiful little children, and then spend all their time yelling at them or complaining about how being a parent is just so haaaaaaaaaaaaaard. Poor them! Not!

I have known people like the OP describes. They are emotional vampires. The problem is, if you choose to point this out, you need to put the friendship at risk. At some point, being with such a negative, complaining person becomes so emotionally exhausting that you’re prepared to let the whole relationship go.

When I was a child, my mother’s friend’s husband cheated on her and then left her for a woman nearly 30 years his junior. My mother tried to be supportive of her friend, but months turned into years and the only time this woman ever had time for my mother was when she wanted her shoulder to cry on. It was difficult, but eventually my mother had to distance herself from this person. She clearly had bigger problems than those that could be solved by a cuppa and a chat. (And yes. She was in counselling.)

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starstruck September 29, 2011 at 10:42 am

personally, i don’t see what the big deal is. lots of my friends have dealt with things from their spouses and really just needed soemone to talk to. i mean, your telling me you have never, or expect to never go through something woth your spouse that was difficult, and that having a close friend to share it with wouldn’t make it feel better? i find that ridiculously hard to believe. sorry iam not buying it. i certainly understand however, if the person is bath mouthing them just be mean or spiteful. like, i had a friend once that called his wife stupid and other not so nice words behind her back cause she wouldnt let him play golf. but generally , discussing matters with close friends is somethings we will all do at some point, unless your hermit who doesnt talk to people. so i think we should just give each other a break and be there to listen. you mentioned you don’t like loosing friends. well, then be a good friend

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Twik September 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm

I think the “big deal” is what you’re complaining about. I wouldn’t be uncomfortable socializing with a friend’s husband if she complained that he didn’t pick up after himself or hogged the remote control. But if she were complaining that he was sleeping with other women, abusing her or exploiting her? I would feel very awkward being asked to socialize with someone I had previously been told was truly despicable.

I had a friend once whose boyfriend deliberately broke her arm, by twisting it until it snapped. No, that didn’t convince her to drop him, but boy, it sure affected how I viewed him when we met. You simply can’t treat someone the same, after you learn that they’re able to do such a thing.

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JennJenn68 September 29, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I am uncomfortable hearing anyone complaining about his/her significant other in a way that is quite obviously not teasing and is not affectionate in the least; sadly, however, since others seem to find me a good listener it happens all too often. It also drives me absolutely insane when married friends of ours insist on bickering in front of us. Some things should be kept private, folks. That also includes serious complaints one has with one’s spouse in an otherwise happy marriage–the person to talk with about it is the spouse, not your best girlfriend who, face it, is going to support you no matter what convoluted version of what you see as the truth you come up with. That only adds to your sense of aggrieved self-justification and that doesn’t do any marriage any good.

It floors me whenever I hear a woman say, “Oh, I could never complain to my husband about that!” Really? Then why are you married to him?

Do what I do–smile, shrug, change the subject, and absolutely, positively, do not offer advice. They won’t take it and generally in the end they will blame you for their difficulties. My father said to me at the beginning of my marriage, “If you have a problem with him, tell him first and tell him privately. It is humiliating to yell at him in front of other people. Would you like him to do that to you?” I have never forgotten that.

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Gracie C. September 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm

@The Other Amber – your friends situation sounds horrible! How awful to not be in a position to help. I’m sure it would weigh heavy on me in the same circumstance. One other sentence in your original post made me raise a brow though. You wrote: “If I ever decided to leave my DH I’d be in quite a spot – he makes literally 10x what I make, and yet all the credit cards we use are in my name and he’s maxed them all.”

Not making any kind of judgement or commentary on your marriage – I obviously don’t know you. But he makes 10x what you make and he’s maxing out all the credit cards in YOUR name? You say you’d be in quite a spot if you ever tried to leave him (I’m assuming you mean you wouldn’t be able to, because of the finances), but what if he ever decides to leave you? You’d likely be in financial ruin. I’d urge you to work toward correcting that scenario even if you have the happiest, strongest, most likely to live to a ripe old age together marriage.

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Mabel October 3, 2011 at 7:45 am

I understand if a person needs to vent a little to friends if her husband is making her nuts, but there’s a difference between that and badmouthing him to every single person you meet. I have run across this also and it really bugs me. Besides being extremely uncomfortable, it makes me angry because if you call them on it, they say “Oh but he’s so great, blah blah blah.” Really? Then why are you always so mean about him?

I would give anything to have a husband to complain about. So be quiet and have some bean dip!

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