The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a company employee in my 20s on maternity leave. I’m plagued by my husband’s whining.
Whenever he comes home, he starts complaining about his job. He goes into detail about his complaints or spits out things like, “I’m exhausted,” “It’s boring,” or “I hate them all,” as if he’s talking to himself.
His whining seems to have become a routine, as it continues from the time he comes home to when he goes to sleep, and then again from when he wakes up to when he leaves for work.
At first I listened to him, but over the last two months, he complains almost every day, even on his days off. Listening to him has begun to stress me out.
If I express any thoughts that sound like advice, he gets even more pessimistic and says, “You are not on my side but support them, huh?”
I want him to relieve his stress by venting his complaints, but I also want him to listen to things like how our baby is and about myself.
I’m frustrated by his complaining, and I don’t know how to interact with him.
T, Saitama Prefecture
Dear Ms. T:
Your story reminded me of a female student of mine who “complained” to me that she couldn’t stand listening to the customers she waited on in her part-time job when they were complaining or bragging. I ended up lecturing her, saying, “Your salary comes from listening to their complaints, and that type of job is called ‘emotional labor’ in sociological terms.”
Just like doing household chores, you’re engaging in emotional labor without being paid, but you can’t charge your family. You also don’t want your husband to go to hostess bars or cry on another woman’s shoulder because you don’t like to hear his whining.
It would help if you could view his moaning at you as a sign that you’re loved, but it’s also true that it’s stressful and irritates you. As one technique, try listening vaguely or pretending that you’re listening, just like you’re soothing your baby. Another way is to make him watch the baby in exchange for you listening to him complain, instead of charging him money. It’d also be good to suggest doing something fun together.