Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stop Bad-Mouthing Your Husband

Life coach Lisa Hayes offers some great advice for married women. It applies equally well to women involved in relationships they want to nurture.

Her title tells the story: "Bad-Mouthing Your Man Will Slowly Kill Your Marriage." Link here. Via Instapundit.

Why is this advice specifically directed toward women? Perhaps because it is so rare for a group of men to get together over coffee or brunch to complain about their wives. They are much more likely to bond over discussions about sports, politics or the market.

I would guess that the habit of bad-mouthing a husband or boyfriend comes down to us from Sex and the City. It seems to represent the vestiges of young women's emulation of Carrie and Co.

If so, it shows yet again why it is a bad idea to make life imitate art.

If bad-mouthing is merely a bad habit, that means that it does not necessarily reflect the state of anyone's marriage. And it does not reveal anything especially compelling about the people who are doing it.

According to Hayes, a woman may begin slowly by sharing a complaint with a girlfriend. Soon a group will form where all the women bad-mouth their husbands and boyfriends.

If each woman wants to feel like she belongs to this informal group, she knows that complaints are the price of admission. She will also know that she can improve her status within the group by offering more and better complaints.

Thus, it becomes a group-sustaining bad habit.

It will feel like commiserating. It will feel like an exercise in advanced empathy. It will also kill your marriage.

Of course, each member of the group will be telling herself that what happens in the group stays in the group. None would ever bring their bad-mouthing habit home to their husbands.

But that is easier said than done. As Hayes reports, one woman felt so thoroughly empowered by her gripe sessions with her friends that she confronted and nagged her husband more strongly than she had before.

Feeling like he was under attack, he withdrew and froze.

Even if the woman in question had never complained to her husband, I am confident that her negative feelings would have expressed themselves in numerous other ways.

As a side question, ask yourself this. If you attend therapy sessions where you are encouraged to bad-mouth yourself, your parents, your spouse, your children, or your friends, do you think that this attitude, so scrupulously nourished in therapy, is going to remain within the therapist's office?

Hayes' client improved her attitude and conquered her habit after her mother brought it to her attention.

As always, the best way to overcome a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Why not offer your husband praise, not blame? Praise is a much better motivator than blame and reproach.

The difficult part is that the woman in question felt obliged to withdraw from the group that was based on bad-mouthing husbands.

This is hard medicine indeed, especially if all your closest girlfriends belong to this group.

Alternately, the woman can try to change the basis for the group, first by complaining less about her husband, or even by taking a leadership role and recommending that everyone try to begin conversations with a statement of what they like about their husbands.

As a last thought, one that applies to everyone equally, ask yourself why you would want to spend your time and energy bad-mouthing anyone. There is no special virtue involved in finding fault with other people. At the very least, a critical temperament will make you less than likeable and less than a good friend.

And if that is true, there is also no special virtue in finding fault with yourself. If you do not like yourself, the chances are good that other people will not find much to like in you either.


Anonymous said...


My wife has remarked to me that she cannot "get along" with other women because she does not bad-mouth me, her husband.

Not because I am so sterling, I certainly have my faults, but because as she puts it:

"I chose my husband and I am not stupid. I make good choices."

Of course she is The Best: "I am not stupid, do you think I would have a stupid wife!? Look at me! Who would not want me?!"

Sheer innocent bravado still goes a long way.

As we grope into the future we discover the old ways are the good ways.


RileyD, nwJ said...

My wife specifically avoids such groups and/or conversations. She is very pleased with the women's group in our church family because there is so little "husband bashing" (her words) ... I do my best to make sure she knows how much that pleases me.

switchintoglide said...

"women do this..." "women do that..."
Your writing is full of generalisations and refuses to treat women as individuals.