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Almost a year ago I came across the complaint free experiment on Tim Ferriss’ blog. Since New Years, my wife and I have embarked on a 21-day complaint free marriage experiment, again. If you’ve been a reader of Simple Marriage for a while, this experiment will not be new to you. If you are a more recent reader, the following is part of the original post.
So why try this again? Why not!
It took me almost 3 months to complete this experiment the first time. And totally throwing my wife under the bus – she hasn’t made it yet. So we’re trying it again.
The idea is simple; go 21 days in a row without complaining. Sounds easy, right?
I consider myself to be a pretty optimistic person and even though this is my second attempt to go 21 days, I’m still messing up. The new year is almost 2 weeks old and I’ve started over 4 times.
This whole thing was started by Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister, who recognized there was far too much complaining in the world. He proposes that word choice determines thought choice, which determines emotions and actions. If you can eliminate complaining, you will experience more happiness.
Will’s designed one possible solution: wear a purple bracelet (actually anything will do, I have been using a rubber band), go 21 days in a row without complaining, gossiping, or criticizing. If you mess up, that’s ok, switch the bracelet to the other arm and start again at day 1.
So what exactly is a complaint?
My wife and I have already had many discussions on the subject. Here’s what we have come up with thus far. Any negative description of an event, person, or issue. Gossiping is pretty easy to define. As is criticizing. Discussing facts are okay. Here’s Eckhart Tolle’s take on the subject:

Complaining is not to be confused with informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so that it can be put right. And to refrain from complaining doesn’t necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There is no ego in telling the waiter your soup is cold and needs to be heated up-if you stick to the facts, which are always neutral. “How dare you serve me cold soup…?” That’s complaining.

Already I have noticed the effect this is having on my thinking. It’s forcing me to be more aware and precise. It has also forced me to spend more time listening and thinking before speaking. Each time we’ve tried this experiment, it has been a tremendous metacognitive experiment.
So how does this work in marriage? We have decided to challenge each other. While complaining is specifically a personal thing, it spills over into marriage. We are also adding no marital complaints without suggestions of solutions. While we are each on the 21 day journey ourselves, we are experiencing it together. Encouraging each other, and bouncing questions off each other regarding what is or is not a complaint.
This is where you come in. Why don’t you join us?
All you have to lose is the complaining!

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