How to Help Family Members who Complain About Their Marriage
It’s the holiday season! That means high stress, which sometimes leads to high conflict. It is more common than usual for people to complain about their marriage, or their significant other, during times of high stress. When a relationship is already strained, the additional frustrations of hosting large gatherings, shopping, a tighter budget, and other family matters really test the bond of any couple.
If a family member starts to complain (or lament, or vent), it could make for a very awkward dinner conversation. If that family member is truly stressed out, the best course of action is usually to ask the person if they want to have a private conversation in another room. That little “nudge” is often enough to make the person realize that their behavior is not the most appropriate for the current situation and could potentially end the issue immediately.
If that doesn’t work, the next best step is to try to re-direct the conversation. For example, “Steve never helps around the house,” can really be a segue into “But I love the new photos you guys hung up….”
If neither of those subtle tactics work (because your family member just isn’t getting the hint!) Then perhaps let them vent for a moment or two. Sometimes the person really only needs to get his or her feelings off of their chest. Ask if they are okay, and if they need anything immediately. As long as it’s not a serious, or emergent, situation, hopefully the conversation can move on to a less “sticky” topic. Then, when the timing is right, ask if they need help being referred to a professional. Many people could help lead the person to a more comfortable situation. They may want to speak with a marriage counselor, an individual therapist, a co-parenting counselor, a financial advisor, a lawyer, or any combination of those professionals. One of the most supportive actions you can take is to talk through your family member’s concerns with him or her and try to point them in the right direction.
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