By Shana Aborn
When he doesn't fix the leaky faucet for the third weekend in a row, you gripe about it to your best friend. Or your mother-in-law casually remarks, "How come you and Ben are fighting over your vacation?" and you know he's been spilling.
What's the problem? Some venting is fine, even necessary, but too much bad-mouthing puts a lot of negative energy out there. Do you really want the world to think your marriage is a disaster? And focusing on what you don't like makes you forget why you got together in the first place. "Complaining to others can lapse into portraying yourself as the helpless victim," says Mira Kirshenbaum, author of The Weekend Marriage: Abundant Love in a Time-Starved World (Harmony). "You're missing out on an opportunity to get your needs met by talking to him." Another big no-no: unloading to the kids. Don't expect them to act as sounding boards or worse, take sides.
Cleanup time: Put the privacy back in your marriage by holding off on sharing every detail. If your friends start dishing about their husbands' flaws, be sympathetic but don't add colorful anecdotes of your own -- unless he comes out looking like a winner. Likewise, at family gatherings, nix airing grievances and instead take every opportunity to praise each other openly.