As if you don’t already have enough to handle, the complainers in your life show up to dump more on your overflowing plate. Follow these tips to safeguard your emotional health when dealing with complainers during divorce – and maybe even turn those complainers into supporters.
On no, here they come the whiners, the complainers, the ingrates, and the critics.
All wanting to bend your ear about everything that is wrong in their life and the world. How do you deal with these negative people – especially when you’re already juggling work, single parenting, and locating all the paperwork and documents your divorce lawyer needs?
Actually, it is easier than you might think.
Dealing with Complainers During Divorce: 6 Tips
1. The first thing you have to recognize is that you can help change the perspective of these people rather than letting them drag you down to their level.
You have to understand that they probably don’t like themselves very much. Life tends to reflect how we feel about ourselves. If they don’t like their life, it is probably because they don’t like themselves very much.
You have to have some compassion and help them love themselves more. So the first thing out of your mouth should be a compliment. They won’t be expecting that!
They are looking for some companions to join their pity party. Don’t be that person! Go to therapy, take some personal-growth classes, keep a gratitude journal, do something that lifts your spirits every day. Take your recovery – and happiness – seriously! Schedule time to whatever you have to do to let go of the past and start embracing the future – and make this as much of a priority as going to work or a doctor’s appointment.
When the complainer appears in front of you, maintain a positive attitude and help them to break their negative patterns of thinking about themselves. Help them to find the opportunities in their challenges, the same way you’ve been doing since you committed to recovering from the trauma of divorce.
2. The second thing you need to understand is that you are attracting these people to you for a reason.
Do you have some emotional baggage of your own to let go of? Are you attracting others having relationship problems because misery loves company? Are you a gossip? Most complainers love to tell stories about others that demonstrate how bad and wrong the person they’re complaining about is: in other words, they’re gossips.
If someone approaches you to complain about something a third person has said or done, find the silver lining. Ask the complainer about anything positive they can say about the third person. Conversely, if the complainer is coming to you to complain about something you have done or said (a rare occasion, to be sure), be a compassionate adult: listen to them, and if there is something you need to change, take responsibility and change it.
Thank them for helping you improve. This will usually surprise them into shocked silence since most people would have immediately started to defend themselves instead of agreeing with the person who had called them out.
3. The third thing to realize is you are dealing with someone who has a victim mentality.
Life happens to them, never for them. There is a spiritual belief that we create everything we experience for the purpose of becoming better people.
When dealing with complainers during divorce, kindly and patiently assist them to take responsibility for their part of the situation and to become better people. Either they will change and become a better person, or they will stop coming to you to complain. Either way, you win!
4. Fourth, talk to the complainer in terms of emotions.
Ask them how they feel about the situation and what they could do to change how they feel about it. We can’t change what happens, but we can change the way we feel about it. This is the ultimate empowerment tool: to help people feel positive about what happens in their lives. Complainers are usually caught in an emotional loop that they feel depressed and they want someone to be depressed with them.
Instead of participating in their depression by taking on their emotional baggage, help them feel positive. Tell them you are impressed with how much they care, or how compassionate they are. Get their thinking off of what they are perceiving and on how they are feeling.
5. Fifth, ask the complainer what they think should be done.
They are looking for someone to listen to them and if you look for a solution with them, they will feel heard. Keep looking for a solution rather than focusing on their complaints. You can even validate how they are feeling without validating their victim mentality. Tell them “I can understand why you feel that way” or “Let’s figure this out together.” When you focus on the solution rather than the problem, you win.
When dealing with complainers during divorce, it is important not to let yourself be sucked into their negativity. In most cases, they are looking for sympathy rather than a solution. If their complaints are legitimate, brainstorm ways to correct the situation with them.
If their complaints are simply attention-seeking, look for ways to change how they are feeling. You don’t have to change how they are thinking, just how they are feeling about the issue.
If you can stay positive in the face of negativity, you will create a win-win situation for you and your (former) complainer.
6. Finally, if you have tried all these tips multiple times, and the complainer keeps repeating the same complaints every time they call or see you, you may have to renegotiate the terms of your relationship with them.
Explain that you are going through a tough time yourself and that you simply don’t have the energy to spare for someone who seems uninterested or unable to support you on your own healing journey. Tell them that you wish them well on their own journey, but that repeated exposure to negativity could damage your emotional or mental health, and you have to make self-care a priority at this time.
This will either shock them into realizing that you could really use their support instead of complaints or (and unfortunately, this is more likely), they will become defensive and/or angry about your refusal to be a dumping ground for endless complaints.
Whichever they choose, hold your ground: surrounding yourself with positive people who can help you up when you’re down is crucial to your recovery from the ordeal of divorce. Setting boundaries with chronic complainers will have the added benefit of showing you who your true friends are: who will be there for you through thick and thin.
This article appeared on Oct. 22, 2019 in Divorce Magazine.