Dating Your Spouse without Your Spouse Complaining

Dating your spouse is supposed to be fun and bring you closer.  So, why does your spouse ruin it with complaining? There is a way to make your dates go better.

changing dating your spouse for the better
If you keep trying and your spouse keeps complaining, it may be time to change the way you are dating your spouse.

Is dating your spouse frustrating and disappointing because of your spouse’s complaining? You can end your spouse’s complaining and improve your dates at the same time. To do this, you will need to realize that the solution is not in planning bigger, more elaborate dates. Couples who are in love can enjoy the simplest and cheapest of dates. Couples who are not in love are going to feel like something is missing from their dates not matter how elaborate or expensive.  The solution is not only to help your spouse feel loved in your marriage, it is also to take away from your spouse whatever is gained by complaining.  The fact is that if your spouse did not gain anything by complaining, he or she would not do it.

Why does dating your spouse lead to complaining?

Complaining almost always does more harm than good.  If people simply said what they do want instead of complaining about what they don’t, they would have much better communication in marriage.  If that is so, then why do married people complain, especially when their partner is going out of the way to treat them nicely? Complaining is generally done by people who are not happy for whatever reason.  For the unhappy person, complaining is:

  1. a way to bring our partner down to our  level of unhappiness (equality in misery),
  2. a signal of distress (wanting to be rescued),
  3. an attempt to control and improve one’s partner, or
  4. some combination of all these.

Providing a better dating experience is not going to have an impact on any of these reasons. This is why putting more effort into dating your spouse is going to create more frustration.

Complaining as an attempt to improve and control

Complaining can be an attempt to improve another person by pointing out all of their errors and hoping that will make them do better next time—much like a school teacher might point out all the mistakes on a spelling test.  Unfortunately, pointing out peoples mistakes and making them feel bad about them tends to discourage them rather than encourage them to do better. It makes people tend to give up rather than try harder. Unfortunately, even if improvement does happen this way, the complaining spouse will still find something to complain about. It is important to realize that your spouse’s complaining indicates there is a problem with your spouse and it is not a problem with you. Even so, you don’t need to just put up with it. There are proper ways to respond to your spouse’s blaming, complaining, or verbal abuse. (This article simply tells how to do this with dating).

Dating is necessary to keep your relationship alive

In another article, I talked about how to choose what to do on a date. Regular dating is vital to the health of a marriage. But, what if the dating process is just adding to the problems in your relationship?  When that happens, couples often stop dating and their relationship gets even worse.  Instead of that, either the dating process should be improved and the problems in the relationship addressed. Never simply give up and hope that things will get better.  They can, but you have to make them that way.  They won’t get better on their own.

An example of dating your spouse while dealing with complaints about the date

In the following conversation, can you imagine that Partner 2 is a happy person, who is glad to be going out with his or her mate?  Or is it easier to imagine Partner 2 as an unhappy person who would not be satisfied no matter what Partner 1 did?

Partner 1:  “Would you like to go to the new chicken place that opened up last week?”

Partner 2:  “No, it will be too crowded because everyone wants to try it now.”

Partner 1:  “Well, how about our usual Italian restaurant?”

Partner 2:  “No, I’m tired of eating the same old thing.”

Partner 1:  “Well, where would you like to go?”

Partner 2:  “I don’t care.  Just not the new chicken place or the Italian place.”

Partner 1:  “Ok, I know, let’s get some seafood at the family seafood restaurant.”

Partner 2:  “Oh, good, another noisy dinner in a brightly lit restaurant.”

Partner 1:  “If you don’t like that, then where do you want to go?  I’m not going to make any more suggestions!”

Partner 2:   “Ok, ok.  The Italian restaurant, I guess.”

Partner 1:  “I thought you didn’t want to eat the same old thing?”

Partner 2:  “That’s true, but it’s better than eating in a bright room full of screaming kids.”

On the surface this example conversation looks like an argument, but it’s not actually an argument at all.  In an argument, each partner would provide his or her own ideas and defend them as well as attack the other’s ideas. This example is pure complaining because Partner 2 points out the reasons why Partner 1’s ideas are bad, but offers no ideas of his or her own.  If your partner criticizes your ideas, but has none of his or her own, one thing you know for sure—it’s not your ideas that are the problem.

How complaining makes your partner feel like a winner

In an argument, it is possible to lose.  But the complainer never loses. This is because he or she doesn’t provide his or her own choices.  A win is guaranteed if the complainer later finds fault with whatever was chosen (“I knew this place wouldn’t be any good”).  This pattern will lead to an end to dating much faster than being indecisive will.  It creates a negative atmosphere right from the beginning of the date, which has to be overcome if you are going to be able to have a good time. You will need to find a way get your partner to stop complaining at the beginning of your dates…

Stopping your partner from complaining

You can’t immediately stop your partner from complaining, but you can make it so that your partner no longer wins anything by complaining.  That should take care of the problem over the course of a few weeks.  Considering that this problem can go on indefinitely, a few weeks is really a short time to make a major improvement for the both of you. The more often you date your spouse, the more chances your spouse gets to experience this change, and the faster things will change. Many people make the mistake of believing that change should happen from the first time they change the way they respond to their spouse. Be reasonable and don’t make the same mistake.

Use a communication boundary

A boundary is not something your partner does or something that you threaten your partner with.  It is something that you inform your partner about, and you do without discussion.  Boundaries must be completely under your control or they are not boundaries.  In this case, your boundary will be your refusal to suggest more than one place.  That’s it.

You tell your partner about your boundary like this:

You:  “I’m going to suggest a place where we can go on our date.  If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but you will need to offer a different suggestion.  If you don’t, then we won’t go out.”

Spouse:  “Fine.  I’m not going out.”

You:  “Ok, that is your choice, and I respect it.” 

This is a predictable reaction because people who complain don’t like to lose. Don’t let it bother you. You will gain respect by being calm and not being hurt or angry.  Remember, you are changing a pattern and that doesn’t happen in one night.  The idea is to make your spouse’s complaining no longer work to bring you down.  So it is important that you remain loving. Just go out and do something by yourself or with a friend.  Then, try again in a week, and then in another.   If you continue to get dating refusal, then your spouse has a lot of anger and there are serious problems in your relationship.  Those need to be dealt with, rather than focusing on the dating.

The normal way that change happens

If your spouse’s complaining is mainly a communication style (a habit), then your spouse will change in one or two weeks to a different response, and you might have an exchange such as:

You:  “I’m going to suggest a place where we can go on our date.  If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but you will need to offer a different suggestion.  If you don’t, then we won’t go out.”

Partner:  “What if I don’t like where you choose?”

You:  “Then you choose a place—any place you like.”

Partner:  “What if you don’t like it?”

You:  “Then it will be my fault for giving you the choice and you can blame me for it.”

Wherever your spouse chooses, go and have the best time you can, even if it’s a place you hate.  Your spouse may intentionally choose a place you hate.  Don’t fall into that trap by refusing to go or by complaining.   Go through with it and stick with this style of date choosing with a boundary for a while.  You will both develop a new and better pattern for deciding where to go.  You may end up going to a couple places that you don’t want to go, but that is a small price to pay for a big improvement in your marriage.

The reason this works

The reason this works is that people continue to do what they are used to doing because it works, at least a little.  To help them change, you need to make it no longer work at all, while also providing a way that will work.  Once they have success with the new way (which may take a few weeks), it will start to get easier and go better.

Questions and answers:

 

 Q:  I am the one who usually complains because my spouse really does choose terrible places.  What can I do?

A:  Two simple solutions are to either work with your spouse to come up with an acceptable list of places to go, or to take turns picking a place to go.  Many of my clients like to take turns.  When they do that, they don’t need to worry whether their spouse will like it.  If they go on a date they don’t particularly like, they don’t mind it as much because they know that next time will be their turn.  After a while, spouses can even develop new interests this way.  It also helps people to break out of a dating routine.

Q:  It feels very controlling when I set a boundary. Also my spouse gets upset.

A:  People never like boundaries.  Keep in mind that the purpose of boundaries is to make the relationship better.  Although it may feel controlling, allowing a bad situation to continue is damaging.  Boundaries aren’t.  Also, when you use a boundary, your spouse has a choice of what to do.  In the above example, your spouse can choose to accept your choice,  offer another suggestion, or not go out at all.  The only thing you are controlling is yourself.  Your spouse has full control of himself or herself.

Q:  I tried this, but my spouse continues to refuse to date and blames me.  What do I do now?  Do I go back to the old way?

A:  Do you want to go back to the old way?  It seems that was just a symptom of more serious problems in your relationship.  Instead, try to have an open talk with your spouse about how to make your relationship better.  If he or she refuses to participate in that positive discussion, it is time for you to seek help. Something is going on in your spouse’s mind that you don’t know about.  He or she may be planning to leave you, for example.

Dating is part of the big three. Deal with it while you can.

The most important indicators of a long and healthy marriage are:

  1. Dating your spouse once a week
  2. Spending one on one time together each day at home
  3. Having a sexual relationship that is enjoyable by both of you.

When one of these goes, the relationship will slowly degrade.  When two of these go, the relationship will more quickly degrade. When all three of these are gone, you no longer have a relationship. Being busy every day is not an excuse not to work on your relationship. Every day, I work with people who have lost their relationship because they stopped doing these three things. Usually I can help them to regain their spouse’s love.  Even when we do, they always have a regret of the time they lost, not getting their spouse’s love sooner and letting years go by on a distant relationship. The good news is that is a regret you can avoid, starting today.

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