As a person who genuinely enjoys staying busy and has difficulty saying no, I’m used to walking through life with a never-ending to-do list. I’d love to say I handle the hustle and bustle without complaint or that I don’t let others see me sweat, but those closest to me know the truth. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me, and as my husband-my safety net-can attest, I let off steam via a passionate vent session.
Talking to others provides an unequivocal sense of relief and helps me maintain emotional balance. But I am fully aware of both the virtues and vices of venting. I recognize that constant complaining only adds fuel to the fire and can exhaust the person hearing the vent. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, putting a serious dent in some of my closest relationships. I do try to stay mindful of how often I let it all out. So, it’s because of this that I was caught off guard when my venting became a topic of discussion during a recent marriage counseling session.
My husband expressed his annoyance toward my unconstructive sharing. In his eyes, if I was going to take the time to flush out my frustrations, I might as well attempt to fix them. Looking back on our conversations, he did often brainstorm solutions to my problems, and I’ll be the first to admit that I almost always ignored them. I wasn’t venting for answers. I was venting to get things off my chest. But that motive wasn’t clear.
I anticipated my counselor telling me to stop sharing altogether, but instead, he suggested that I ask myself this important question before opening the frustration floodgates. “Are you venting to share or venting to solve?” There was merit in opening up to a trusted friend or family member, but he wanted me to state my intentions out loud, allowing the dialog to proceed with transparency.
It may seem simple, but pausing to reflect on this basic concept has helped in more than one way. Sometimes it stops me dead in my tracks, ending the superfluous gripe session before it even starts. Other times, it helps me seek input. The best part is that I can apply it in many settings, not just in discussions with my husband.
So, as I tackle my constant, mile-long to-do list, I’m thankful to have this question in my back pocket. There is validation in talking about the daily stressors of life. Using this phrase helps me navigate the conversation.