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When Your Friend Keeps Complaining About Their Spouse

Part of being in a relationship is being annoyed with your partner sometimes. When you’re annoyed, naturally the person you want to vent to is your friend. That’s normal, and most friends share their annoyances with each other. However, when your friend begins telling you only the negative aspects of their partner, it inevitably changes your perception of their spouse. It also impacts your personal friendship; you may experience anger that your friend tolerates their partner’s behavior, causing you to lose respect for your friend.

You may mean to be supportive by listening to your friend vent, but you also may be enabling them to be stuck in a cycle. So how much complaining is too much? When should you become concerned that you need to talk to your friend about the situation? Here’s three things to consider.

  • Determine how much of your friend’s venting is about their relationship versus other things going on. If it’s more than half the time you’re together or the sensitive details make you deeply uncomfortable, that’s too much.

  • Do they ask about your life? If their time with you is predominately spent complaining about their relationship, the friendship is becoming one-sided and you probably feel more like their therapist than their friend.

  • Do the same issues get talked about all the time or are they making changes? This is important because if nothing is changing that means you listening to their venting is enabling the problem.

If you determine that the venting is becoming a problem for your friendship, below are 4 suggestions that can help you with your venting friend.

  1. When you listen to your friend vent, echo back what you hear them saying. Sometimes when you’re feeling annoyed, you just vent without hearing what you’re saying. If you echo back what you hear, your friend may hear the issues their really upset about for the first time.

  2. Re-establish your boundaries. Tell your friend that although you enjoy your time together, you are concerned about the amount of time they spend venting about their partner. Remind them that your friendship belongs to the two of you, and she should talk to her partner about their issues.

  3. Suggest she talk with a professional and resist giving her advice about possible solutions. It’s likely that your friend vents because they think the friendship is a safe place to talk things out. However, if the talking isn’t motivating them to make changes, then the talking or venting is an obstacle to them getting the professional help they need.

  4. If you worry your friend is in an abusive or toxic relationship, then it’s important to get more involved. It’s one thing to be annoyed with your partner and another to be in an abusive relationship with them. If at any time you feel as though your friend is in harm’s way, offer to help them find professional resources where they can get help.

A healthy friendship has ups and downs and being able to share them with someone else strengthens the connection. But when your friend’s sharing leaves you dreading to be around them, it’s important to speak up. After all, what’s a true friend if you can’t be honest with each other?


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