Not long ago I was in another city at a women’s event and heard a group of women near me talking over lunch:
Friend 1: “Tyler has been working so late, I never see him anymore. He’s only there for sleep and sex.”
Friend 2: “Girl, you don’t have to take that. I told Nate the other day that if he wasn’t home by 7pm from now on, he could forget about any action.”
Friend 3: “You’re lucky! I wish I could get some action! I’ve tried everything but that man just says he’s worn out. No testosterone.”
Friend 2: “Maybe we can siphon off some of Nate’s testosterone and give it to him!”
Friend 1: “Oh, wouldn’t that be every woman’s dream? Now THAT invention would make millions of dollars on Shark Tank!”
Friend 3: “That and a remote control to make him do the dishes when you want him to!”
They were howling with laughter by the end—and I was so sad. Because with all the research studies I’ve done on men, women and marriages over the years, I knew something these women clearly didn’t. There are 3 important reasons you should NOT gossip about your husband—and only one reason you should:
Reason #1: You Are Sabotaging How You Feel About Your Husband
I can almost guarantee that the reason you’re complaining about your man is that you’re dissatisfied, right? Well, in our research study for The Kindness Challenge, we discovered that the reason you’re dissatisfied is probably because you’re complaining about him!
Think about it for a minute: if you’re irritated, and you tell him you’re irritated, and you tell your girlfriends that you’re irritated, are you going to be more or less irritated? The answer is obvious. We just don’t realize that is what is happening!
Want to be less dissatisfied? Stop telling other people (and him) that you are and see what happens! Sure, there are sometimes very real and big issues that need to be dealt with. I’m not minimizing those. But there are almost certainly good things, too.
Reason #2: You’re Undermining—Instead Of Building—The Happy Marriage YOU Want!
We all want happy marriages. You want to love hanging out with your husband every day. But for that to happen, you need to completely change how you speak about him every day—not just to him but to others.
Why? Well, most of us have a subconscious idea that we feel a certain way and it is what it is—we can’t change it. But it turns out, neurologically, our feelings FOLLOW our words and actions. As mentioned before, what you SAY will actually change how you FEEL! So say the good!
Seriously, try it: resist the temptation to share in the negative gossip about how your husband never does the dishes or is always after sex. Instead look for and talk about how he is patient with your kids when they are squabbling or how sweet he was to spend all that time Saturday installing the blinds in the living room or that you love how he always holds the door open for you. Suddenly, you’ll WANT to hang out with him a lot more—and enjoy it! You’ll be closer together as friends. We found in our study of the happiest marriages that the secret sauce of a great marriage is, first and foremost, to be best friends with each other. And looking for those things that are (as the Bible puts it in Philippians 4:8), excellent and lovely and worthy of praise—rather than the things that are worthy of driving you crazy—is crucial to getting there.
Reason #3: You’re Helping Other Women Undermine Their Own Marriages!
I don’t know when we ever had the idea that gossiping and complaining about our men is okay—since we tell our kids that gossiping and complaining about people is not okay! But if we ever needed another reason to resist the temptation, this is it: by engaging in a griping, teasing, story-telling, “wait until you hear THIS one” session, we aren’t just hurting our own marriages—we are participating in the destruction of our friends’ marriages, too.
When I first realized that, it brought me up short. I was very, very convicted about those times I had engaged in what I viewed as a “harmless” gripe session. I knew I had a great husband. Despite various issues in our marriage in the early years, I knew he loved me. I knew he was a good man. And the men my friends were married to were good men, too. How dare I participate in egging on the gossip—merely by participating in it!—and tearing down the beautiful marriages they were longing for?
Our words have consequences. And I know all of us want those consequences to be good, not destructive.
Reason #4: Positive Gossip Changes Everything
I said I had 3 reasons you should NOT gossip about your husband—and only one that you should. And this is that one exception. “Gossip” has a negative connotation, but really it just means talking about, spreading news about and sharing things about someone behind their back. So share all the good things that you’ve been trying to focus on—and that others can focus on, too!
The next time you have a get together with girlfriends and one of them rolls her eyes about how her husband was soooo late in getting Johnny to soccer the other night, chime in with a smile, “How cool that he takes your son to soccer, though. What does your husband think about your son’s chances of continuing to play?” You’ve just changed the entire direction of the conversation.
Or brag on something your husband did the other day that was so cool and prompt others to do the same (“Didn’t you say that Ben was asked to give a talk at the school?”). Redirect to a positive spin and watch the gripe session—and your negative feelings—melt away. To be replaced by true gratitude for the man in your life.
Final Note: if you want to try redirecting your thoughts, feelings and actions in this way, I strongly suggest that you try the 30-Day Kindness Challenge. It is very simple but will help you build a habit at replacing the negative feelings with the positive ones and improving your relationship at the same time. We found that 89% of relationships improved! Give it a try—and enjoy the outcome!
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge demonstrates that kindness is the answer to pretty much every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.