Constant negativity is something most people, male or female, can’t tolerate.  I read somewhere recently that women need to realize what it does to their man when all he hears from her is negativity and complaints from her — whether it is talking about not having a thing to wear (but your closet is full?), not having enough money for this or that or whatever, how much she hates so and so, what the dog did on the carpet today, the problem junior is having with math, etc… often accompanied by a rapid fire checklist of tasks that need to get done and how she wishes they could get done right away.  The guy wants to solve and when the issues are piling up, he gets overwhelmed.  The complaints can be legitimate, serious or trivial or mundane, but sooner or later it’s going to seem like that is all he hears.

I was out for my usual Sunday morning breakfast with my daughter this past weekend when she told me how frustrated she was the night before.  She had spent all afternoon with her mother and aunt, and her aunt was so negative that she couldn’t stand to be around her any more.  I had noticed how quiet and withdrawn my daughter was when I got home that night, a rarity for her to be that way, and I had guessed that might be the reason for her funk.  I have known her aunt for more than twenty years, have experienced the same frustration at her persimmon sour perspectives, thanking heaven above that she lives several states away.  Alyssa looked like I had felt many times over the years.  As I listened to my daughter talk about her aunt, I had to fight the temptation to talk to her about her mother.  Why?

Let’s just say negativity runs in the family.  Listening to my daughter, coupled with what I had read about how a wife’s negativity affects her husband, made me realize why I am having such a hard time sitting alone with my wife.  She is constantly piling it on me, problem after problem after complaint after issue after failure failure failure.  After a while she makes me feel like a complete failure.  Her life is an utter mess and I have done nothing to deliver her.  No wonder that years ago I quit being her prince.

Our daughter is a college freshman.  I started a new job a few months ago, allowing me an extra hour or so in the morning before going to work, where I can sit for a quiet breakfast with my wife, who also has more time due to a new job and less responsibility around our house with a daughter away at college.  At first, I welcomed those morning moments with the hope that maybe we might find something in those early mornings that will draw us together.  We need that, our relationship so strained that thoughts of divorce are very real.  In the evenings after our daughter left for college we sat down at the table, occasionally sharing a meal together, talking about our day and actually having some good moments together.

Somewhere in those times together, a pattern started to develop, especially as the strain of my wife’s new job started to hit her.  Every conversation started with a complaint that snowballed into a barrage of complaints.  Never one to take responsibility for a task very well, my wife suddenly became unwilling to do even the simplest of tasks herself, instead calling me to come ‘help’ her (do it for her) — even if I am asleep or meditating in the throne room.  One morning, after she had woken me up to complain about our son’s grades and had followed me into the bathroom to talk about that and a few other things while was taking a shower, then continued as I tried to have a quick bowl of cereal, I asked her to stop for a second.

“Please, can we just have some quiet for a few minutes?  I want to listen to you, but it seems like all you are doing lately is complain.  It’s really dragging me down.  I am at the point where you are overwhelming me.”

And she was.  And she was offended.  Angry.  After all she needed to unload.  So she did not stop.  I put my shoes on, grabbed the back pack that I take with me to work, stood up without a word, and walked out the door, left for work early.

Instead of sitting with her in the morning now, I find myself fleeing out the door.  Most evenings are the same.  As I listen to her, I can feel a tightening in my chest, the stress of listening to her complain making me sick.  There is just too much.  One thing is fine, but how in the world can she worry about so many things at once?  It is impossible to solve everything, no matter how much I want to.  Many of the things she worries about, such as constantly monitoring our high school aged son’s grades to the point of being in daily contact with several of his teachers, I do not agree with — and years ago disagreeing with her became so frustrating that I gave up.  That weakens me and also takes away my ability to solve or offer any type of active listening.

I do not feel like she is reaching out to me.  She never touches me.  She never does anything to try to make me feel special.  Her main focus is our children, her sisters and friends, her job.  I am no where close to the top of her list.  No wonder I feel overwhelmed by her problems and complaints.

No one should ever expect their spouse or significant other to change.  My wife sees everything through an obsessive gray lens.  That is her personality.  I will not ask her to change, but the negativity expressed to me has to stop and I will tell her so.

Geez, I think I have complained enough…..

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