Gottman’s research tells us that effective complaining is a learned skill. There is one verbal habit that comes naturally that we need to correct quickly, and that is our tendency to engage in what couples therapists call “Kitchen Sinking.”
Kitchen Sinking is a combative strategy where you throw all the complaints you have about your partner in breathless run-on sentences, hoping to overwhelm them by sheer force of your moral authority. It’s inherently contemptuous, and it never works…but that doesn’t stop us from trying.
The Problem With Kitchen Sinking
The problem with Kitchen Sinking is painfully obvious.
There are several things you can do during an episode of Kitchen Sinking. If an escalation is well underway, you can take a 20-minute break.
But after you have both calmed down, if the problems are present-day issues and not antique resentments, perhaps they can be dealt with one at a time.
A 2016 study which appeared in the academic journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin indicates that even just thinking about past resentments, but biting your tongue, can also keep complaining spouses mired in Negative Sentiment Override.
Anne E. Wilson and Kassandra Cortes were the researchers at the University of Waterloo that uncovered this mental habit and coined the phrase Kitchen Thinking.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.
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