When we think of the person we love the most, romantically speaking anyway, would we put the word ‘evil’ in the same sentence? Most of us would not consciously undermine our most precious relationship, yet we are usually unaware of the kind of negative energy we unknowingly subject our partners to. My friends, meet your enemy, complaining, an insidious form of evil speech — it’s the uninvited guest that wreaks havoc on our relationships.
Sometimes we talk about things to make it better. There is no doubt that talking over a problem with a close friend or advisor can lend clarity to the situation and defuse some of the negative thoughts and emotions surrounding it. Other times, we are just complaining for the sake of being heard with no intention to create real change. Often, we just want someone to validate our feelings.
People do this ALL the time. It may begin innocuously enough, “I asked them to close the lid on the toilet because the dog drinks from it when it’s left up and it’s absolutely disgusting. I even left a reminder sign! Yet, every other day they leave the seat up! Why am I not being heard?!” Maybe the first time it starts off as a cathartic vent, you talk about it, you laugh about it and then you move on. But then maybe you talk about it again later, and you talk about it, and then you remember how they never turn off the light before they get in bed and that thought leads to the next thing, and the next thing and before you know it, you have concocted a litany of grievances against your partner! This kind of talk is dangerous. When people are frustrated with another person, often they seek the validation of their friends and when they get their emotional support over the perceived wrong that was inflicted, it fuels the feelings of victimhood. In this context, small issues become huge issues. Not only does this kind of talking fuel negative feelings from one partner to another, but it’s dragged in a third party (the friend) who now holds a ‘certain’ opinion of the one you have a grievance with!
Consider this idea as it pertains to relationships. Over time, your list of grievances becomes the theme of your relationship. Every time your partner messes up, you phone a friend and complain about your relationship woes, because your friend listens and you feel like you’re not being heard in the relationship. So instead of being in a great relationship, or an okay one, suddenly it’s filled with problems, because we’re not just talking about what’s bothering us, we’re giving the problems all of our energy. Notice how naturally our friends agree with what we feel and say? That’s no coincidence and we shouldn’t take it as validation that we are indeed 100% free of blame. One more thing to keep in mind, you don’t know anybody’s agenda. Often our friends do have our very best outcome in mind, but what if they don’t? This talk is dangerous if you are getting counsel from a friend who perhaps would prefer if you were single like they are! Maybe a little part of them is like, “You know what? You’ll be single. I’ll be single. We’ll go out.” We tend to choose people that are going to agree with us. We want to pick up the phone and call somebody who’s going to say, “Yeah, I agree with you. What they did was wrong. You’re so right.” This makes us feel good. I’m going to call that person again tomorrow, and the next day!
There is a problem with this. The next time you see your partner you aren’t going to act any differently, after all they don’t know what you just said about them, but there’s a distance, because you know what you just said. This is your most important relationship. This is the person you go to bed with every night. This is the one that you are supposed to spend the rest of your life with, but all day long you were throwing them under a bus, talking about all the things that they did wrong, or how they made you feel bad. And then you come home, and you want to make it intimate, but there’s an energy there that you’ve created. How can you actually connect to that person? It’s pretty impossible.
Imagine you’ve been talking about your partner all day long, and then they come home and you’re going to eat dinner together. You’ve been talking badly about them all day and now your consciousness is like that of a lion stalking its prey. You are primed to see their flaws. In fact, you are desperate for them to prove your point! Not only do we want to be validated by everybody else, but now we set that person up to prove that everything we were talking about all day is right. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot!
Unfortunately, feeling validated and having somebody agree with you feels better and is far easier than working with your partner to resolve the conflicts in your relationship.
I cannot state this strongly enough, realize that speaking badly of your partner to another person should never be an option.
On the topic of lashon hara (evil speech) Rabbi Shimon mused that it would be useful to have two mouths. One could be used for all the day-to-day words and one would be kept pure, used only for spiritual thoughts and words. (Ladies, imagine how many more tubes of lipstick we would all have!) Imagine that you could only speak to and about your partner with the mouth reserved for purity. How much would that change your relationship for the better?
Thought into Action
When was the last time you found yourself complaining about your partner? Remember what you were complaining about and constructively address it with your partner.3