“Hey Asia can you… find a different outlet to vent sometimes, please?” My boyfriend said to me earlier this year.
(My inner thoughts after he said those piercing words): “Excuse me? Vent to someone else? But… you’re my man. My confidant.
When you signed up to be my boyfriend, did you not read the fine print? It clearly stated you’d be there for the ups AND the downs. And now you say you don’t wanna hear about my downs? You’re clearly NOT a ride or die.
Just let me go like Rose did Jack and let me sink to the bottom of this cold, cold world all by myself…”
Dramatic much? Indeed.
But in all seriousness… I didn’t take what he said well. I really felt like he was supposed to be there for every single thing, big or small- bad day, mishap, annoyance, all of it.
I replied, “Fine. I won’t go to you for anything from here on out then. If that’s what you want.” *insert dramatic pout + crossed arms combo*
A few days after that talk, my inquisitive self decided to look a few things up on the internet regarding the matter. I.e. how common it is to vent to your man about everything, the benefits and consequences, etc (I really do this for every issue we run into- usually to see who’s in the wrong and if I’m overreacting lol).
This is what I found: Amongst the top reasons for relationship break-ups, number 3 was… *drum roll*
….aka dumping all your negative energy on your partner.
Sis… the more articles I read on the topic, the more I realized I was being a hypocrite.
Before he opened up to me about this, I actually cut a close friend off (for many reasons, but one of the main reasons was) because of her toxicity- she constantly dumped her negative energy on me and used me as an emotional punching bag.
And because she did, almost all of our conversations left me in a bad mood and feeling emotionally drained.
Why did I fail to realize I left my boyfriend feeling the same way when I dumped everything on him?
I realized that- often times, when people are stressed, the natural reaction is to lash out at who we feel the most comfortable with.
I was so used to telling my man anything and everything, that I simply forgot that all the negatives would transfer to him as negative energy.
Mind you- my boyfriend isn’t the type to voice his feelings often, so if it got to this point, he probably couldn’t take it any longer.
Don’t get me wrong, you’re supposed to communicate as partners. But there is a difference between communicating and dumping. And at the time, I couldn’t differentiate the two.
“However, some women (and a few men) use the principle of communication to unload on their spouse. They use their spouse as a dumping ground for every thought and feeling that comes along. That may place a burden on your spouse that is not their place to carry.”
– Dr.Carol Ministries writes in her article “When to NOT Discuss Things With Your Spouse”.
She continues, “Communication lets your spouse see and touch the difficult things in your heart. Dumping tries to force your spouse to carry what is yours to own.”
In fact, there’s actually a scientific term used for this. Julia Case-Levine writes about it in her article “If You’re Going to Vent About Your Problems, Do It Right”:
“Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as co-rumination—or consistent, excessive chatter on one topic. Co-rumination can be identified by an excessive focus on problems and negative feelings,” says Margot Bastin, researcher at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
“Research on co-rumination ballooned after a 2002 study published in the journal Child Development, in which Dr. Amanda Rose monitored friendships through questionnaires. Dr. Rose found that friends who spent time extensively discussing negative feelings reported destructive thought patterns and even depression.”
“What’s more, there was a contagion effect—not only did those divulging find themselves leaving discussions worse off, but their partners were also adversely effected, often experiencing depressive symptoms themselves.”
Researchers found that it’s not just in children, either. “Most studies have found that co-rumination is present in—and essential to—most close relationships. The safer and more attached two individuals feel, the more likely they are to engage in intense and emotionally charged sharing (of feelings).”
In a 2008 study, co-rumination has been found to even increase levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
Y’all… when people say “energy is contagious”- they ain’t lyin!
Did you guys think I was lying when I said I really do my research? lmao.
Anyways, back to my relationship…
In a follow up talk with my boyfriend, we realized that the term he initially used was incorrect– what he really meant to use was the term “dumping“.
From there (like we always do), we gathered up resources separately and then came together to find ways to meet in the middle.
Here’s what we found/agreed on:
We were gonna differentiate my “vents” according to this list below.
(This list was created by Judith Orloff MD. She’s the NY Times bestselling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, Thriving as an Empath, and Emotional Freedom. Dr. Orloff is also a psychiatrist, empath and intuitive healer, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty.)
(These are real examples I’ve run into)
Former friend to me: (this complaint was repeated almost every week mind you) “Oh my God my roommate came in late last night and stomped her feet around the house AGAIN. She is so inconsiderate. When I come in? I’m as quiet as a mouse. She really doesn’t give a sh–t about my sleep. She is literally the worst. And on top of that, she left a few dishes in the sink from last night- am I your maid? I’m just supposed to clean up after you huh?”
^that was [dumping]
Now, let’s see the “venting” version of that (the version I would’ve preferred)
Former friend: (First complaint ever of her roommate) Hey Asia, got a minute? So my roommate came in super loud last night, like stomping her feet loud- should I say something about it? Or what would you do in this situation?
^that was [venting]
- stuck to one topic
- this was the first time she ever brought it up and it wasn’t repeated complaining (repeated complaining *without trying to come to a solution* that is)
- looked for a solution/open to finding a solution
- doesn’t feel draining
Let’s try another example.
A girlfriend to her boyfriend: “Oh my God. I swear my boss hates me. He gave me a pile of papers to get through today knowing damn well I have so much work to do already. Can you believe that? It’s like every day it’s “Let’s see how much work I can pile on Asia day.” Give me a break. And remember when I told you what he did at the last meeting? He didn’t even let me speak. Like helloooo, the world doesn’t revolve around you John. I swear he hates me.”
A girlfriend to her boyfriend: “So today John totally interrupted me in a meeting, I didn’t even get out what I needed to say.”
Boyfriend’s reply: “Wow really? How rude of him. Did you say anything about it?”
Girlfriend’s reply: “No I didn’t. Should I have said something?”
Boyfriend’s reply: Maybe say something like this next time, “John, I value your suggestions. But, could you let me finish my thoughts and then we’ll have an open conversation about them? Thank you.”
Once I was able to differentiate dumping and venting, I was more mindful of what I spoke to my boyfriend about.
Over time, I also came up with a few different “outlets” so that my boyfriend wasn’t the only go-to for air-out sessions.
Here are the things I used as alternatives
When I’m worked up, I…
Get Physically Active
- Go on a run/walk
- Take a group fitness class (yoga, kickboxing, OrangeTheory class)
Change My Attitude
- Stopped overthinking every single thing (I actually wrote a post about overthinking, you can read it [here])
- Set “worry periods” – only allow myself to stress out for a short period of time a day instead of the whole day long (i.e. set a timer for 5 minutes)
- Deliberately reframe life’s challenges- asked myself what opportunities they might present
- Engage in active problem-solving
- Find lessons
- Put my problems into perspective- “Will I really care about the present difficulty in a month or a year?” avoid perfectionism
Transform My Thoughts
- Here we go again → I can handle this
- It’s never going to change → I trust that I will be okay
- What an idiot! → They’re having a bad day
- Nothing ever works out → There is a higher plan
- I can’t do anything right → It’s okay to make mistakes
Rate My Problem
This is a photo used by elementary schools for the same reason. (I decided that I won’t go to my boyfriend unless the problem is a 4 or a 5)
Use My Stress-Relief Tool Kit
- Walk in nature
- Watch/listen to a comedy
- Contact one of my best friends
- Have a good cry
- Enjoy some music in the bath or in the shower
- Practice mindfulness
I find this list of things equivalent to a mom’s technique to get her baby to self-sooth themselves to sleep when they wake up crying in the middle of the night.
The reason I compare the two, is because when we look for an outlet for our stress, we’re essentially looking for comfort (just like a baby is when they wake up). When we find other things that’ll bring us comfort (other than our men), we can self-provide rather than rely on an outer source.
I realized that practicing this will benefit me later down the road- say, if my boyfriend and I ever break up, and I’m single, or if he’s not available at the time that I need an outlet. I can always rely on myself and my list of things to get me through whatever is bugging me.
Do you know how I’m growing as a woman? I’m taking constructive criticism from my partner, not as a personal shot- but as a way to better our relationship.
The old me would’ve been appalled that he even said something about my venting (okay, I was appalled at first, but not for long lol). I would have totally brushed off what he said and stuck to my ways.
The older I get, the more I realize that relationships are partnerships.
Your partner should aid you up the mountain of life and guide you through valleys of adversity.
Partnerships enhance. They challenge. They bring humility.
You are a team.
I am so grateful to have a relationship that is mature enough to sit down and be like “Look, this is our problem, and this is how we are going to fix it.”
If you enjoyed this post, you’d love my [How Knowing Love Languages Changed My Relationship] post!