Relationships

Sniping couples are no fun for anyone

Special to The TribuneFebruary 26, 2013 

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REBECCA HALL/KRT — KRT

Sniping couples are those duos who make snarky, derogatory comments to each other in public. For example, a husband may complain at a family gathering that his wife can’t boil water. A woman announces to the guests at a dinner party that her husband is a horrible lover.

Of course, sniping has a negative impact on the marriage. Couples feel unappreciated and unloved. They seem to loathe being in each other’s presence.

Their actions reflect the contentious choice of words. Spouses are more likely to be impatient with the partners’ foibles. Loving touches are replaced with grabs and jerks. They seldom sit beside each other, preferring opposite ends of the sofa.

Sniping also creates a downward emotional spiral. One derogatory statement elicits a second. A third snarky statement is sure to follow. The couple is soon caught in a negative tailspin from which they can’t escape.

It’s equally distasteful to anyone within earshot. Folks cringe when they overhear the hostile salvos. They’re embarrassed and not sure how to respond. The public airwaves are contaminated by the destructive energy. No one feels good or emotionally safe.

Kids who hear the bickering are especially vulnerable. They hate listening to their moms and dads quibble. Even if they’re grown, they still cringe when the verbal barbs start.

Worse yet, the offspring are likely to follow in their parents’ backbiting footsteps. They witness the loveless squabbling and think that’s how husbands and wives interact. They may inwardly detest the pattern. They might secretly vow to be kinder to their mates. Unfortunately, the impact of environment is far-reaching. It’s a good bet that they’ll do the same.

Sniping couples may report they’re not particularly angry. Instead, griping appears to be the norm. Rather than speaking in a loving or at least neutral manner, they’ve devolved into a nasty repartee.

The good news is that all bad habits can be broken. It’s never too late to make a change. Even if your partner continues sniping, you can alter how you respond. Your relationship will drastically improve, and you’ll be more enjoyable to be around.

Want to break the sniping cycle? Follow these tips:

• Make a decision to stop sniping. Decide today that you want your marriage to be better. Throw bickering in the trash. The very act of committing to the process makes anti-sniping closer at hand.

• Elicit feedback. Tell your partner you want to start treating them nicer and that you need his or her help to get it done. Say, “I want you to tell me if I sound cross or harsh.” Be receptive to the response.

• Don’t expect your partner to change. Spouses may rationalize their sniping behavior by saying, “I’ll stop when he (or she) does.” Don’t wait. Do it now. Be the agent of change in your marriage.

• Compliment your mate daily. Start focusing on positive characteristics. There are always plenty to choose from. Tell your partner something you’re proud of. Or recall a great moment the two of you shared. You’ll feel instantly better. They’ll bask in the kudos tossed their way.

• Turn a deaf ear to derogatory remarks. Stop responding to your partner’s sniping. Better yet, replace it with kind words of your own. You can’t control the other’s behavior, but you have complete control of your own.

• Express your adoration publicly. Let others know you think Hubby’s the greatest. Give your wife a big hug and kiss in plain sight of the kids. Your feel-good quotient will soar sky high. Others will share in your good vibes.

• Accept your partner. Period. Each of our partners has foibles. Sniping at them never helps. If a partner is good enough to stay with, he or she is good enough to be kind to. Rising above the petty irritations improves everyone’s life.

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