Making a formal complaint to someone as close as your spouse requires lots of skill. In fact, I would say it is more like an art. If you need to express your dissatisfaction about a particular behavior of your mate, it is crucial to plan and prepare, or a simple misunderstanding could escalate into all-out war. In getting your point across, there are some practical steps that you must consider to avoid causing serious damage to your relationship. In my experience, I have found the following principles to be very helpful as you approach your partner about a delicate situation. It is a matter of managing context, tone, body language, and especially, finding the right time to confront the issue. All of these qualities must be wrapped in truth and covered with love.
Stick to the facts and do not waste time on fiction. Be real; do not make yourself the star in your own three-act play. You may have a very valid point in your dissatisfaction, but it is very possible you might have areas of improvement as well. Therefore, use your questioning skills properly. You might start out by saying something like, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems we have grown distant in this particular area?” Use the pronoun, “We,” as much as possible. State your concern firmly and explain the type of behavior that worries you the most. Do not bring issues of past battles into the current context. Confront the issue, not the personality; do not label your mate when describing behavior. Instead of saying, “You are an insensitive and inconsiderate parent,” try saying, “I need you to be more considerate regarding how we discipline the children.” Labeling hurts and will not elicit the response we hope to receive.
Pray and ask God to help you say the truth with love. Prepare the moment with the right pitch of voice. You want to sound clear and direct. The tone of voice usually gives away our emotional state. Do not let emotions overcome you and interfere with your message. Screaming or speaking loud does not give additional authority to the messenger. Unless you are a sergeant in a boot camp, your tone of voice should stay in a friendly conciliatory mode. However, avoid expressing yourself with a fearful voice. You need your spouse to know that you are serious regarding the issue to be discussed. Keep a nice tempo in your voice level. Wait patiently, listen carefully, and respond appropriately.
Our body language has many ways of exposing our hidden emotions. Therefore, we must be mindful of ourselves as we deliver a message. According to communication experts, body language accounts for more than 55% of our total communication. Thus we can express emotions like sadness, anger, unbelief, rejection, aggressiveness, fear and many others without using a word. As you approach a sensitive subject, make eye contact naturally. Make sure your body language is relaxed. Avoid any defensive moves. Do not use crocodile tears in order to gain attention or manipulate the encounter. Tears are fine if they are real. Remember, you are not acting as a judge or a school principal; avoid any body language that leads to intimidation. Treat your partner with the utmost respect and kindness.
There is really no such thing as perfect timing to discuss tough issues. However, it is best to find a time when you and your spouse can be fully devoted to working through your issues. You want to avoid dealing with these critical issues on the way to work, returning from work, and during dinner times. An adequate moment can be at least an hour after dessert; the high sugar level helps in accepting things more likely and in a friendlier manner. Be ready to forgive and build your relationship beyond the offense.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32