I’ve known so many people over the years who really seem to all believe one thing: As long as you don’t complain about something aloud, you aren’t really upset about it. And because you’re not really upset about it, nothing will happen.
And most importantly, they won’t have to deal with the fact that you were upset. Disappointed. Or hurt.
The key then is making sure you never get a chance to voice your complaints about something they did. And if you do start to do it, by this logic, it’s important to shut down the conversation as quickly as possible.
There are a variety of techniques they use: Sometimes they will interrupt you, talk over you. You know, the adult version of the child’s strategy of plugging your ears with your fingers and yelling “la la la, I can’t hear you.”
Other times they will let you get the thought out but will respond to it dismissively. They’ll make ad hominem criticisms that they hope will shift the blame. They’ll tell you that you’re overreacting. That you’re dramatic. Or perhaps they’ll invalidate you by telling you that that’s not how you actually feel.
The important part is that the complaint isn’t heard. That it isn’t taken seriously. Not by them and certainly not by you. Because if it’s real, then they have to deal with it. Then they’ll have to work through it with you. Or change their behavior. Do something.
Or suffer some sort of consequences. A situation that’s working just fine for them — and them alone — might have to change.
Change is hard. If you’re getting along just fine, if what’s happening isn’t bothering you personally, it’s easier just to make sure that the disappointment that fills your partner’s heart isn’t really heard. But you take a risk that you do this. Because that disappointment is undoubtedly felt, even if you refuse to hear it.
I can’t help but think of that old philosophical thought experiment: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?