The definition given to complain includes: expressing dissatisfaction, pain, censure resentment; to find fault. Slightly more benign, but still pretty unflattering.
What if instead of complain, we used the term share, or repair, or even renew.
When you have a chronic illness you can spend a lot of time and energy handling your care regimen, your exhaustion, and your pain. On top of that, you need to manage your roster of daily responsibilities and chores, and also produce the emotional steam needed to stay just six inches ahead of your illness so you can function with dignity and benevolence.
Sometimes complaining serves as the necessary release valve so you don't combust. One or two gripes expressed out loud can help you renew flagging energy. Energy that had served to contain distress can be released and redirected toward fortitude.
I have found that saying, "I can't stand this pain another minute," helps me to stand it for a lot longer. And after I say that, if Richard, my partner, holds my hand and says, "I know," we can both stand it together.
Sometimes complaining is connecting.
When someone asks you, "How are you?" instead of answering with the expected, perfunctory, "OK," sometimes saying, "Not so good today," or "I'm actually having a bad day," is honesty. You're not deflecting the asker with a token response. And if you then follow up your answer with, "I really appreciate your asking," you have made a genuine connection that will hopefully have more meaning for both parties.
I'm not suggesting you do this with your Starbucks barista or Olive Garden waitperson. But why not with your friend, colleague, or cousin. And certainly with your partner.
In fact trying to keep your state a secret from your partner by not complaining is misplaced kindness. It cheats both of you of a chance to connect -- the ill partner doesn't get empathy and the well partner doesn't get a chance to show understanding. And besides, it doesn't work.
When you don't complain and try to hide your real state from your partner, you fail. Something leaks out that your partner picks up on. If you don't share it directly (share being the new term for complain), misconceptions and misinterpretations result. Your partner may think he did something wrong or that you're worse off than you actually are or that you're just being cranky.
So let's reframe complain. Complain is share and repair and renew. It may still be peevish to whine, but it's authentic to complain.