You Just Can’t Have It Both Ways

When I was at the grocery store over the weekend, I ran into an acquaintance who I hadn’t seen in a while.

She asked how we were and I stuck with the usual, expected script that you follow with those you don’t know all that well… “we’re doing great … the kids are getting so big … Craig’s been traveling a bit.”

Then, I asked how things were in her world and she went on for fifteen minutes about what a jerk her husband is … he doesn’t empty the dishwasher, help with the kids, blah, blah, blah.  I honestly stopped listening and started thinking that she was a complete idiot.


Now, before you think I’m heartless, let me explain.

Of course we all need to vent.

But here’s what happens when you vent in a public forum to someone who barely knows you…

You say “he’s a jerk, he doesn’t understand me, he’s vacant, blah, blah, blah.”

I listen and I remember.

I then talk to you a few weeks later and you tell me that you’re doing well, your husband has been busy playing with the kids and doing household chores, etc.

But this is what I hear: “he’s a jerk, he doesn’t understand me, he’s vacant, blah, blah, blah.” Because you can’t unsay those things, especially when I don’t know you well enough to have a full picture of your life.   You can’t have it both ways; you can’t tell me one week that he’s a jerk and then weeks later tell me that he’s amazing.

My grocery store acquaintance isn’t the only one who I’ve heard disparaging her spouse lately.  I see it on Twitter, I overhear conversations of people on their phones out in public.  It’s everywhere.  And I honestly don’t get it.

I’ve actually witnessed a group of women competing with each other over who had the biggest jerk of a husband.  How do you win a competition like that?  I couldn’t figure it out. (Please know that I am talking about garden variety jerk-ness here, not abusive husbands.  If a woman is being abused in any way, she should tell everyone who will listen until someone helps her.)

Does Craig ever irritate me? Well, duh.  We’re married.  It’s inevitable that we’ll make each other crazy from time to time.  But the bottom line is, that’s between us.  

If you know me on Twitter, you won’t hear about it.  You also won’t hear about it here on my blog.  If I run into you at the market, nope, you won’t hear about it.  If you are my closest friend?  You might get a rare mini-rant.  Do you want to know who I tell that he’s acting like a jerk?  Craig.  Because I love and respect him, even if in the moment, he’s on my last nerve.  And those little things don’t come close to outweighing all of the great stuff.

And I know that if he was out golfing or playing basketball with friends and disparaged me in any way, I’d be mortified. 

Bottom line?  It’s unfair to offer only one part of the story and it will likely bite you in the butt if you do.

I won’t trash my husband because at the end of the day, he is the person I promised forever to.  For better or worse.  As sentimental as that may sound, it’s a promise that I made…not only to him, but also to myself.

I love him and I truly believe that love and respect go hand in hand.


  1. Kristi_Maristi

    excellent post! I've had a similar situation with friends. One friend in particular whom only came to me when things were horrible between her and her boyfriend and told me ALL the bad. Then they get married and I can't stand the dude and she wonders WHY?!

  2. Kali Capps

    I couldn't agree more. What's private is private. I have made my hubby the subject of many laughs on my blog, but he reads them all and laughs alongside me every time. If he didn't, there would be nothing about him – ever. I'm glad he has a sense of humor,m though, because he helps make the best stories I have, I think. :)
    And I agree that respect is vital in a relationship. I've always said that aside from love, respect, communication, and trust are the 3 major aspects of a relationship that are necessary. No one should bad mouth their spouse like that to some random acquaintance, in my opinion. Don't they realize that it makes them look more ridiculous than their husbands, anyways?

  3. Rachel

    Nichole!!! What a fabulous and beautiful post!!!! Love and respect do go together!! You have made me stop and think b/c my husband is truly the best. He does SO MUCH for our family and I think I tease him in ways about certain things that I probably shouldn't. Thanks for the little reminder!

  4. The Lungos

    I SO agree with everything you said here! I think my husband is pretty great and I will put that out there on the blog/twitter. But he is not perfect and I would never say that or say anything negative on twitter.I respect & love him too much to put him down behind his back to a bunch of strangers. Great post, well said.

  5. Nichole

    You just can't forget that stuff.
    And once a person trashes their boyfriend/husband then tells you they're great, then tells you they're horrible, it's like crying wolf.
    Thanks for coming by!

  6. Nichole

    That's the difference, though, laughing with your husband, not laughing at him.
    Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. So happy to see you here!

  7. Nichole

    Thank you, Rachel.
    Life is never perfect, but mutual respect certainly helps! :)

  8. Nichole

    Thank you so much!
    I so appreciate you coming by!

  9. Mad Woman behind the Blog

    Another gem!
    I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I found that if I sought out reasons to complain about my spouse, I would find them. And all the negativity that comes with the complaint. Yes I'll bemoan his avoidance of a dirty diaper but only because I see the humor in the situation and adore him nonetheless.
    Thank you for continuing to inspire.

  10. I wonder about people who are willing to trash their spouse in public. Are they really surprised that they aren't living up to their expectations.

  11. ksluiter

    Nichole! I think this post is PERFECT! So many times I see people husband bashing on facebook, twitter, in the lounge at school. I don't get it. I never put anything like that out there about Cort. I would be DEVASTATED if he ever publicly vented about me. When we have issues we talk to each other, not the social media world! Thank you for such a wonderful post!

  12. 2old2tap

    I love that Promise you made to him AND yourself. People forget that.

    I work with a woman who one day is talking divorce, then the next day going on about the great sex they just had. Causes my eyes to roll.

  13. Cate

    I agree wholeheartedly! Like you, I might mini-rant to a close friend now and then, but it's rare–and that friend always has more than a basic knowledge of me, my husband, and my relationship with my husband. I have a certain friend who's very fond of disparaging her boyfriend via facebook status updates, and I'm always appalled! My husband would be FURIOUS if I said such negative things about him in such a public forum, and vice versa. It's just plain bad manners.

  14. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    I also really don't get why you'd blast your husband via twitter, facebook or a blog. It definitely shows a lack of respect. No matter what your feelings are, once they're out in cyberspace, they're out there forever. And if your kids know how to work a computer, they can also see it. If my husband ripped me in any public way I'd be devastated, and I owe him the same respect. Well said, my friend. Well said.

  15. Nikki

    I agree with you on so many accounts. I personally believe that the women who trash their husbands publicly are the ones who need to have that outlet because they can't or won't do it privately to their own husbands. I never say anything to someone that I wouldn't say directly to my husband nor do I do anything that I wouldn't tell my husband about. That's just how I stay honest to him.

  16. Elizabeth Flora Ross

    I am absolutely 100% with you on this! Sure, there are moments when it would feel really good to vent, but I refrain. And not just because my hubby follows me on Twitter, FB and my blog. ;) Because it is not something I am comfortable doing. That's what girlfriends are for. We can talk on the phone or in person and get those frustrations out. We understand that it's just a moment and know we have a strong, positive relationship with our husbands. Other people may not. Plus, airing marital issues publicly is bad form. IMHO I am surprised by some of the stuff I see out there. But, to each her own. I do what is most comfortable for me.

  17. KLZ

    I hear you but….

    My husband? Stops speaking if you even raise your voice at him. Sometimes, it's better to have a quick vent to my sister so I can speak to him in a level voice. She sees everything anyway, so why pretend I'm not irritated? Why make the situation worse by snapping at him when I can let out a little steam and then talk rationally with him?

    But to strangers? Hell, no.

  18. Cyrene

    Everything you said here? So spot-on! I know we don't live in a perfect world, and no one's marriage is perfect. But to go lambasting your spouse in public has got to be one of the stupidest things a person can do. Seriously. It just says to me that they don't have an open, honest relationship with their spouses and would rather air their dirty laundry in public where the other one can't defend him or herself. That and there is just no respect left and that is just sad.

  19. Sherri

    Perfect, Nichole….I couldn't agree more! I have several friends who go on and on like that, then seem to expect me to join in. And I never do. They probably think I'm odd, but I just think my hubby is the best thing that ever happened to me, a wonderful provider, husband, dad, and friend….and if I have a beef with him then, well, it's a beef with HIM.

    Thank you for starting my morning on a positive note! I knew I liked you…

  20. You know, I think my favorite part is where you say that the person you tell that your husband is bugging you is your husband- I love that! Do not get me wrong, I am sure there have been occasions where I'm frustrated and have said something to my sister or a very dear friend. Or jokingly say something about how he did something and ay yi yi- but it is never something serious or of a true issue. I am not against a light vent about something insignificant and not central to the relationship and all (ie ack, he forgot to go to the store, now I have to run in the rain type vent). To me, that's not disrespectful (as long as nasty comments aren't tied in of course). It's one thing to make comments in a light-hearted manner and another to go out there and say you hate your husband. You never know who is going to read- or remember- that.

    Generally, I agree with your principle here!

  21. tulpen

    Oh yes. I only ever complain about my husband to my best friends and sister. And even then, it has to be some spectacular screwup he has committed that just begs to be shared. I don't want him running around complaining about how much I annoy him, which I'm sure I do. So do unto others and all that crap.

  22. Mommy Lisa

    Ugh. I need to re-think some things now. I don't pick on him often, cuz he is pretty awesome though.

  23. Christine Marie

    I'm another who agrees. Tomorrow is our 5 yr anniversary and I cannot picture my life without him. He may have his flaws, but I do, too, and our marriage is strong because we accept each other that way. And if something bothers me, he's the one who hears it. Even though this woman may have been overwhelmed, she should have chosen a trusted source to vent to. Or even discussed her problems much more carefully had she felt that badly. Maybe "I'm frustrated with my husband lately, do you have any advice to get him more involved?" would have been better.

    Regardless of what someone says…I agree…choose your words wisely because this is very true. If you go spouting off anything that is bothering you during random run-ins, you may regret what you've said later. Great post!

  24. Mostly I agree with what you are saying, but I don’t think this woman really thought of your conversation as completely public. She was after all just speaking to one person. It is you who has made the conversation truly public by posting it here on your blog and by tweeting about it. This woman sounds like maybe she was overwhelmed and sadened by her life. I hate to think how sad reading this will make her.

    And if ever we meet again I must remember to keep the topic strictly on the weather.

  25. Nichole

    You hit the nail on the head. There's a difference between being silly about a diaper and painting your spouse as a horrible person.

  26. Yes, I never know what to do with those.

    Of course, everyone has moments when their husband (or wife, or whomever) really irritates them. And I will jokingly complain about something HImself has done to irritate me. But, it's never a serious thing, it's never calling him a jerk, it's never something pervasive that is negatively impacting me.

    Because 1) I should talk to HIM about anything that truly hurts me, and 2) United front, people!

    Yeah, I don't get badmouthing. If he's so bad all I can do is complain, how can I expect anyone to like him? And I will be giving my friends emotional whiplash when they see me next and I'm waxing rhapsodic.

  27. Hutch

    For some reason as the single friend, I hear a lot of this from the married ones. My husband does this, says this, is this. It's gotten to the point where I've told them they need to talk to their husbands and if they don't feel comfortable doing that, then see a therapist! I know they think they're venting to a friend, but there's venting and there's airing dirty laundry. It makes me uncomfortable. Friend or stranger, do you really want someone else to think your husband is a bad guy?

  28. Nichole

    I completely understand being frustrated. But, I treat my husband the way I want him to treat me. I wouldn't want him to speak poorly of me to anyone.
    Thanks for coming by! :)

  29. Nichole

    Thanks, Katie.
    Talking to each other or a super close friend just seems like the most respectful choice.
    And Cort? An angel anyway! ;)

  30. Nichole

    I just think that some people need to trash other people so that they feel someone is on their side.
    Plus, some people are just more dramatic and open than others.
    Yes, I would roll my eyes in your situation too! I'd have sprained an eye by now. ;)

  31. Nichole

    That's exactly it, Cate: "that friend always has more than a basic knowledge of me, my husband, and my relationship with my husband."

    That's the difference. If the entire picture is in place, then an occasional mini-rant isn't going to paint the image of a horrible spouse.

    Thank you so much for adding that! :)

  32. Nichole

    Thank you, Cheryl.
    You raise a great point about our children. They pick up on everything.
    I can't imagine how I'd feel if I learned that Craig had spoken of me unkindly. I would so much rather he come to me, because at least then there's a chance that we could address the problem. Telling someone else doesn't do that.

  33. Nichole

    I think you're right…perhaps they need that outlet. But, I would expect that if I ever opened that door, it would be fair for my spouse to do the same.

    If I couldn't speak to Craig, I'd confide in someone close to us both, who could offer me some honest insight. Because having a ton of strangers tell me that I'm right, that he's a jerk offers me no help in the long run.

    Thanks for coming by, Nikki! :)

  34. i have to admit i have been guilty of this, on rare occasions. i agree with you 100% that typically it is not appropriate. On the other hand, I don't want to give the wrong impression that my married life is all rainbows and cupcakes either. I want to show a realistic impression of my life, our struggles as well as our triumphs. I guess that's why I feel in some situations its ok to throw out a rant now and then, in moderation ;)
    I adore my husband and respect him enormously. But we hurt each other, as is natural. Sometimes I want to share that with the people I love, including blog readers…. I don't know, what do you think?

  35. Nichole

    Thank you, Grace, for sharing your thoughts.

    I think that the thing that you do so well, is you share the good things too, which helps to offer a full picture of your life. So, when you rant, I remember that your husband is a good guy and that this is just a bump. I can also help you to remember in the times when you're angry.

  36. Nichole

    Yes, that's what close friends are for. Because they know the whole story and can completely understand. They can also tell you when you are, perhaps, the one who is out of line. ;)

  37. Nichole

    Absolutely, you confide in someone who knows your husband and can be a reasonable sounding board. I think that we all need someone to talk to.

    Now I want a sister. Dammit.

  38. Nichole

    You raise a great point, Cyrene. It's not fair to complain about your spouse when they can't defend themselves.

  39. Nichole

    I've had friends do that too. That's one party I won't join. No way.
    Thank you for your supportive comment…I knew I liked you too!

  40. Nichole

    I always ask myself if what I want to say is something that I'd say if he was standing beside me. If it isn't? Then I won't say it.

    Seriously, all of these comments are making me want a sister!
    I love that you said "ay yi yi" :)

  41. Nichole

    Spectacular screw up….I'm giggling at the image. ;)
    I'm sure that I do things all of the time to drive my husband around the bend, but he picks his battles and when he's had enough, he tells me. Not his golfing buddies. Thank goodness!

  42. Nichole

    Sometimes we all just need a little reminder. :)
    And yay for awesome husbands!

  43. Nichole

    You're exactly right, Christine Marie. If she asked me if I could go grab coffee with because she really needed someone to talk to, I would have dropped everything and listened. But to trash him in the produce section, in front of a store full of people was unfair to everyone involved.

    Thanks for your supportive words! :)

  44. Nichole

    "United front."
    Exactly, Lori!

  45. Nichole

    That's the thing. I may get mad, but I always cool off. And when I do cool off, do I want someone to think that I was stupid enough to marry a jerk? That leaves me having to repair his image. No thanks. ;)

    Thanks for stopping by…so nice to see you here. :)

  46. Booyah's Momma

    To me, there's a big difference between good naturedly razzing my husband about little things that don't mean much in the grand scheme of things (dutch ovens and the like) and baring details that are no one's business except our own.

    Everyone has their own comfort levels; for me, I would never post anything about my husband that I wouldn't want him saying about me. And I know he puts up with a lot when it comes to his wife. I think you're right in that it comes down to mutual respect and friendship.

  47. Nichole

    It sounds like you have found a great, healthy balance.
    There's a huge difference between good-natured teasing and being cruel.

  48. Nichole

    I know that I said this in an earlier reply, but, bottom line, I don't say anything about my husband that I wouldn't say if he was standing beside me listening.
    It sounds like you're similar. :)

  49. Mandy

    I talk to my mom about my husband… but only because she loves him as much as I do, and I know she sees both sides. More often than not, she stands up for him! Always tries to get me to see what I might not be seeing. I don't think I would ever vent to her if that weren't the case.

    I totally agree, though. When I have a problem with Brock, I go to Brock. Bouncing things off of my mom helps me figure out how I want to approach it, but she usually tells me things I already know.

    Lovely post. I know that Brock feels the same way in return. :)

  50. Great post, Nichole. I agree with you. I might make a joke about my husband here and there, but I would never trash him in public, and he would never do that to me. So disrespectful! But I've known couples who pick each other to pieces in front of the world, too. Makes everyone around them uncomfortable and honestly, why not just get divorced if you can't stand each other that much?

  51. Megan-Best of Fates

    I think that's important about all relationships – that disparing someone to strangers is never a good idea, no matter how angry or annoyed you might be in that moment. It'll never make you feel better.

  52. Kathy

    NIchole, I completely agree!! Excellent post.

  53. I do agree with this. People bash their husbands ALL the time and try to make them look like the stupid, inferior humans that are around only to fulfill an image of the "American dream." Don't get me wrong, I have complained about my husband to my mom and sister and to my closest of friends, but they know the whole picture and see the whole truth. On my blog, I try my hardest not to complain about him, if I do, I try my hardest to show my faults as well. I do love what you said about telling him that he is being a jerk and your reasons behind that. Once again, loved the post!

  54. Natalie

    LOVE THIS and stumbled it, too. I do vent to my sisters, I admit that. But I try to keep what happens between Jason and I between us. I totally agree that you can't have it both ways. I have a friend who rants and raves about how amazing her husband is, and in the next breath tells me what a pain he is. It drives me crazy.

  55. Alli_n_Son

    This is a beautiful post. You two are honestly the cutest couple I've ever seen on Twitter.

  56. Kim

    Not sure I completely agree with you. Although you raise a good point about how we as the outsider will paint the husband with a negative brush for the next time, sometimes it's nice when someone is honest to the how are you question…the I'm not the only one who sometimes feels that way moments. But you're point that it can't be mean spirited is spot on.

  57. long ago, my sister gave me the very same advice — be careful bitching about your boyfriend or husband, because you will likely forgive him but your friend or sister will only remember the anger and hurt and will not look at him the same way again. of course, it can be hard to never complain … but I too made a choice in my blogging and online world to stay positive. otherwise it's a dark, steep and slippery slope downhill.

  58. Roxane

    Wow. So good to know there are other husband lovers out there. All the husband bashing gets old after a while. Thank you for this.

  59. I used to partake in Oh No He Didn't Tuesday (Before she stopped doing it) and it was mostly a fun way to talk about whoever was getting on your nerves or did something that made you go Oh no you didnt! Ha. You know, like being left in the car for 2 hours on Mothers Day while he tended to a customer without any resources for food, snack or restroom, or even things to do with 2 kids in the car—pure fun, the kind of things that make blog fodder anyway. This is the most I would ever do to talk about my husband, and it's always with his approval. I totally agree with you though. There are lines that have to be drawn somewhere and it's really no one else's business what is going on in your relationship.

  60. You are so wise. What a wonderful thing to put out into the blogosphere to shush all those who disparage their partners to no end. It's not good for readers nor relationships. Kudos to you for sharing your wisdom!

  61. Lovin' Life

    Finally!!!! I have never actually heard another wife say what you just said. I always feel out of place when woman are talking bad about their husbands. I don't trash my husband to other people. And when they are trashing their husbands I have nothing to share in return. It seems to be the "cool" thing to do now. But I believe that it can make a marriage bad.

  62. Nichole

    I think that we all need to have someone that we can turn to and confide in about our spouse. That's only human. It's the trash talk in public forums that I don't understand.

    I would bet that Brock is so grateful that you are committed to keeping the lines of communication open.

  63. Nichole

    You're right, Katherine–there are lighthearted jokes and then there's cruelty.
    If I were to go on and on about what a jerk my husband was, wouldn't that actually make me look bad too? Like I did a crummy job choosing a husband?

  64. Nichole

    That's a great point, Megan. I wouldn't disparage someone I called my friend either.
    While there are times when it may feel good in the moment to vent, in the long run, it isn't worth the guilt you feel later.
    I'm always so happy to see you here. :)

  65. Nichole

    Thank you, Kathy!

  66. Nichole

    Thank you, Tayarra.
    You do a great job of keeping things fair and honest. :)

  67. Nichole

    Thanks, Natalie!
    When people do that, I always wonder which husband they actually have.

  68. Nichole

    Thank you, Allison. ::blushing::

  69. Nichole

    I totally agree with you, Kim. When I ask someone how they are, it's nice to get a sincere response.
    I guess, I just think that there is a time and a place to elaborate and that perhaps the best person to confide in is someone who is a close confidant.

  70. Nichole

    "Dark, steep, and slippery slope downhill" … that's a perfect way to put it!

  71. Nichole

    Thank you, my friend. :)

  72. Nichole

    I think that that's a great gauge…to hold up what you want to say to your spouse and see if they would approve of it. I love that.

  73. Nichole

    Thank you so much, Lisa. :)
    You are so lovely.

  74. Nichole

    I always feel awkward in those moments too. I've even had women get a little irritated when I haven't participated. I just don't get it.

    Thank you so much for coming by! :)

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