My question most generally is for those of us who have stressful jobs - how much time do you spend each day venting about work frustrations to your partner? Do you both vent about equally or does one person do it more than the other?
The reason I ask is that I want to set some reasonable boundaries for my discussions with LordL about his work. He legitimately works in a fast paced, fairly high pressure environment with a lot of difficult personalities. But he is also someone who tend to take his work frustrations home with him, especially when they pertain to difficult employees he has to work with. Sometimes he just needs someone to lend an ear so that he can blow off steam about a frustrating situation for 15 or 20 minutes. But frequently, the issue at hand is more long term frustrations and if I don't change the subject or outright cut the discussion off, it can literally go on for hours. He will start to pick apart details of conversation in a way that looks to me like he is persevering on his frustration rather than working through it. I find this exhausting, especially when a productive problem solving conversation about Situation A turns into unproductive complaining about Situations B, C, and D.
For example, LordL has been supervising "Bill" for the past few months. By all accounts, Bill has performance issues - he lies about completing tasks, frequently tries to pawn off his work on other people, defies direct orders, has very poor written communication skills (he writes in text speak), and has a bad attitude to boot. LordL has had many conversations with Bill about his performance, and when that did not resolve the problem he brought it to his boss who agreed there are issues and met with Bill himself. But for whatever reason, LordL's boss seems to want to retain Bill at least for the near future. If it was up to LordL he would never have been hired in the first place, and he thinks the guy should have been fired months ago.
So he's stuck trying to make the best of a bad situation as a manager, not having the authority to fire this guy. I sympathize; Bill sounds maddening. But LordL's frustration at the situation means that I hear all about Bill's glowing personality, from the big issues like "Bill broke the system that the entire company relies on for email" to the small stuff like "Bill rolls up his sleeves when he works and it looks unprofessional" (the office is very old school business formal, so this is indeed informal for the environment, but to me it's small potatoes in the scheme of things). It's obvious that above and beyond how his work performance affects LordL, the guy just gets under his skin, and I'm pretty sure it affects his dynamic as the his manager.
So what I'm looking for are ways to assert a boundary when I am starting to find the discussion of The Bill Situations draining, frustrating, and exhausting. It's like the stress of Bill comes home with LordL and then becomes my stress. I have suggested he find other outlets, like talking to other friends or going to the gym and hitting a punching bag, but other than calling his brother to vent maybe once a week he has not taken my suggestions. Is it reasonable to expect that I shouldn't be his only regular outlet for this frustration? How much of a role do you play in supporting your spouse through these kinds of challenges?