Everyone knows my husband is a great guy. My parents know it. Our friends know it. The teachers at school know it. I wrote a love story about him in the paper for goodness sakes!
But! There is a drawback to having a universally well-liked partner…
When I get annoyed with him there is no one to vent to! I’ve tried dropping little hints of annoyance about his lack of devotion to our household cleaning appliances and my friends look at me like I have 3 noses. They are incredulous, saying things like, “JEFF?! Really?!” followed by a pfffttt sound with their lips. They say very sincerely, “But Jeff cooks dinner. That is so amazing!” Or something irritating like that.
I tried complaining to his sister once, thinking she has got to understand. She grew up with teenage Jeff, he must have annoyed her and she will remember that feeling. Right? Wrong. She was very defensive of her dear brother. I was left with no one.
Except for Michelle
Michelle has been friends with Jeff longer than I have and also gets frustrated by his quirks. Their relationship reminds me of a sibling relationship– equal parts love and annoyance. She is the only person with whom I have found a landing for my launched husband-complaints. It helps that she is deeply unhappy in her marriage, so is always ready to jump right into the Whine Soup with me.
We have cathartic phone calls, texts, playdates, and girl-dates where we sit and whine and whine. And then we whine.
Aahhh… just like therapy.
Last year though, Michelle’s complaining finally came to a head. She and her husband split up and she and her kids moved away. No more Michelle. My kids are sad and Jeff and I are sad. We used to celebrate the holidays together. We played; we talked. We were so close. Now the friendship is over. It’s no one’s fault and there is no one to yell at.
Certain friends play roles in your life
Even if they don’t move away, friends come and go in everyone’s life. Of course I’ve known that for a while. Just like I’ve known people have friends who fill different roles — drinking buddies, Mom Friends, the go-to birthday cake maker, and the all-important whiner friends.
Not too long ago, whiner friends were my favorite! I had two toddlers, no money, and was getting no sleep. There was a lot to complain about.
And I love a good whine. I don’t need any judgment with my whine either. Just whine along with me. Michelle was one of the best and I will miss her a lot.
Without her around I noticed something else that was missing in my life. Without someone to wallow in my complaints with, I didn’t stay bugged at my husband for very long anymore. In fact, it seems I had been doing a lot of my complaining to keep up with Michelle’s complaining; trying hard to relate led me to nitpick things about Jeff which didn’t really bother me.I didn’t think I could be so easily influenced by negativity. But, it turns out I am. Click To Tweet
Once I was aware of how complaining sours my attitude, I started noticing that 2 of my other girlfriends complain a lot. Where usually I like to focus on the bright side of things, when I hang out with them it feels easier to wallow in the negative.
Hmm… I really don’t want to break up with these ladies. I love them! But I want to be careful about how much time I spend listening to them complain. And be especially careful about whining along.
I like the idea of spending my time intentionally with people who are generally positive and proactive. I want to hang out with girlfriends who love their partners! If we are the total of the people around us, I want to raise my total — to increase my contentment score.
I already apply this mindset to acquiring material things. When I go looking for household items I shop with intention — looking for quality and durability. I want only things that make me feel happy in my home. The same is true for my relationships. I will choose to hang out more with fun-loving, satisfied people.
Decluttering my social life may be a great idea in theory. But calling it decluttering seems weird and even cruel. So I like to think of my new approach as decluttering my schedule instead.
I still have friends who whine, yes indeed. But my days aren’t spent largely with them. I have found little ways to cut our time together short or skirt around it when I’m feeling in a slump already. At those emotionally saggy times I text or call the many ladies in my life who are positive and make me feel terrific.
What’s your response?
Talking about this can feel weird and heartless. My purpose in writing is to share that this small “schedule” change has made a big difference in my general attitude. It’s true my children have grown, my business is successful, and I get plenty of sleep now. So, the complaints are much fewer than they used to be. But I don’t think that’s the only reason I feel lighter.
My view of my marriage is better and my feelings about my life are more positive as well.Objectively my life is pretty stinkin' great! I bet objectively your life is, too. Click To Tweet
Maybe my story gives you ideas about social things you could declutter from your schedule.
Can you relate to this story of losing a friend that wasn’t so good for you? Or have you ever edited your social circle on purpose? Do tell!
Thank you for reading and joining in the conversation.
- The Harsh But Honest Truth About Friendship Decluttering: Lifehacker’s excellent take on the topic
- Five Truths to Ease the Changing Season of Friendships: Turning to God for help in dealing with a lost friendship
- How friendships change in Adulthood: A lovely essay in the Atlantic
Also published on Medium.