Help a Martian deal with a Venusian complainer.
September 27, 2011 6:36 PM Subscribe
I rarely vent (except about philosophical or political matters) and don't see the point in complaining about my day. My wife behaves differently. Often she gets mad that I "have no response" to her complaints. How should I deal with these situations?
posted by anonymous to human relations (57 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I've read about and heard a lot of the common Men Are From Mars advice. The general theory seems to be (apologies to any Venusians [or Martians] I offend with this stereotype) that women want empathy, while men try to provide solutions. I find this extremely difficult to avoid, since I would rarely want empathy if I was going to complain about something. In fact, empathy of the form "Oh that sucks. Don't worry, things will get better" tends to anger me, because I know that the other party is basically just acting. They know nothing about the situation, so how could they know it will get better?
Still, I try to avoid the problem-solving mentality. There are only so many times I can say "Wow that sounds terrible, I'm really sorry" before it sounds like a broken record. What other position am I supposed to take? Here's a typical phone exchange:
V: "I'm on the way home."
M: "Great! How was your day?"
V: "It was awful. TerribleThing happened, and I hate my job."
M: "Oh man, that really sucks. I'm so sorry!"
V: "Yeah, I am really getting fed up with it. JerkFace is acting all Jerky and I want them to stop."
M: "Yeah that's pretty Jerky. At least we can have a nice dinner when you get here!"
V: "Yeah, great. I'm just so tired of this. Why won't AssHat stop causing RedTape?"
M: "I dunno, that sucks."
V: "And JerkHead is annoying me too. He did AnnoyingThing all day."
M: "Yeah, that sucks." ???
V: "It was really annoying, because then I had to catch up on BusyWork after AnnoyingOtherThing."
M: "Yeah, that sounds...lame"
You get the idea. Other times, she will give a long rant about something, and I hesitate for a couple seconds while I try to suppress my problem-solving instinct. I'm trying to think of something better than "that sucks" and I just freeze up. That elicits a "so you have no response?" To which I wittily reply "I dunno what to say, that really sucks."
I can't wrap my head around complaining about stuff that you don't want any input or solutions to. I'm at least not trying to offer solutions at this point, but I don't have anything else to fill in the gaps with. Everything seems like I'm just faking it, like an actor reciting a script. How do I genuinely engage in these conversations?
TLDR: How do I engage in a conversation in which my wife complains about her day and I don't have anything to offer other than "that sucks"?