Be Compassionate Not Complacent
We've all met the person who can't go an hour without complaining about something in their lives. Often, the topic is petty and it's been addressed before--maybe even in the same day. You've probably wanted to sit them down and say, "The world does not revolve around you. You will be fine." But what happens when it's your girlfriend or boyfriend who can't stop complaining? Can you be compassionate not complacent with them?
There are two basic responses you can use in these situations.
1. You'll be fine. Chin up, it could be worse!
2. I'm sorry it's been rough for you. Can we talk about ways to make it better?
Let's break these two responses down. Response number one (You'll be fine. Chin up, it could be worse!) might very well be true, but sometimes the truth is a little harsh. You know the person well enough that you're pretty certain they would either hate you for three days or run away crying to someone else about how much of a jerk you have been to them. Let's avoid this problem and talk a little about response number two.
Can We Talk?
Response number two (I'm sorry it's been rough for you. Can we talk about ways to make it better?) employs just enough compassion for the other person to feel validated in their feelings, but they aren't being pampered or condescended to at all. Maybe the worst thing you could do for someone is be so "nice" that they feel as if their feelings are childish. Adding "Can we talk about ways to make it better?" creates a forward-thinking moment for both of you. Not only are you being helpful and kind, but you are also enabling them to talk out the problem in a more logical manner.
The downside to response number two is that you might get caught in the middle of something much larger. What if your significant other wants to rehash the entire situation for the next hour? While they aren't complaining anymore, you are still hearing about the problem and nothing is being accomplished. This isn't helpful or productive for either of you.
Change Your Mindset
There is a solution to this issue, thankfully. When you are being conscious of your compassionate words, also keep an eye out for a complacent attitude. In other words, being compassionate not complacent. Are you speaking kind words and then sitting back passively, waiting for them to fix the problem alone, all the while believing that you are "helping" them? If so, try putting yourself in a different mindset, this time that of a thoughtful fixer. This doesn't mean you are making their problems go away; it simply allows you to actively participate in your loved one's struggle without being dragged under water by it.