When conflict arises in a marriage, it’s not uncommon for us to seek validation for being upset. So, we look for ways to strengthen our case and justify our complaint against the other.
If the issue has been building for a while, the temptation to globalise our complaint intensifies.
Globalisation is a form of exaggeration. When we globalise, we expand the prevalence or severity of our criticism beyond the trigger incident to make it more substantial, more complaint-worthy.
Statements like the following are globalised: “You’re never here when I need you!”; “This happens every time!”; “I do all the work!”; “You’re the worst parent ever!”
The giveaway of a globalised statement is the presence of words such as: always, all, every, everything, everyone, never, none, nothing, no one, etc. The use of superlatives is another: worst, best, last, first etc
While a globalised complaint may be an expression of our exasperation and hurt, objectively, it is rarely true. As Byron likes to joke about Francine’s globalised complaints: “I’m just not that consistent!”
Jokes aside, this is a common failing in effective communication, and it happens at the time when we need it most – during a difficult conversation.
We need to recognise that when we globalise our complaints, we are playing with the truth. We fortify our grievance by exaggerating its prevalence or seriousness.
The negative impact of globalisation in everyday conversation probably isn’t too serious. After all, there is a social tolerance for some exaggeration in the interest of more stimulating conversation.
Also, no one minds when someone makes globalised compliments: “She’s the best wife!” or “He’s always thoughtful!”
In the context of a difficult conversation, disagreement, or argument, however, globalisation generally has a negative impact. Like a dart dipped in poison, it takes a partially true statement, and arms it with a sting designed to score points against our beloved.
Is it any wonder that globalised complaints typically put our spouse on the defensive? It’s never easy to hear a legitimate complaint from our spouse, but when it’s laced with exaggeration, our impulse is to deny it.
Never mind if it’s generally true. It feels profoundly unfair to be accused of something that is embellished with exaggeration.
This sets off a vicious cycle. As our spouse becomes defensive, to push our point past their resistance, we double down. So we strengthen our exaggeration, or we dredge up ancient history to ‘prove’ the legitimacy of our globalised complaint.
It’s not hard to see how quickly the argument can escalate. With each globalised complaint, we’re justifying our grievance while adding another stab wound to the heart of our beloved.
The destructive impact of globalised complaints is not just on our long-suffering spouse. If our self-talk is laced with them, over time, it also has a negative influence on us.
For starters, it feeds self-delusion. We’re telling ourselves lies, or at best half-truths. Left unchallenged, we lose our capacity to discern what is true, and what is distortion.
We’ve had many conversations with people who hold a grievance against their spouse. It’s been fortified over years by self-talk that replays the global complaints to themself.
As an observer from the outside, it is evident to us that they have a kind of confirmation bias operating – self-talk along the lines of: “There he/she goes again! Nothing ever changes”.
At times, we’ve been guilty of this ourselves. We became so entrenched in our globalised complaints that we adopted a victim mentality. It kept us stuck in a grievance mindset that disempowered us, hindered our marriage, and made us miserable.
So, for our own sake, for the sake of our spouse and the marriage for which we long, let’s keep a check on the globalised complaints. It helps no one, least of all ourselves.
Originally published at SmartLoving. Photo by Karolina Grabowska.