I have a very close friend...who does this.She is married to a very difficult man.
He has even yelled at me many times.
So her and I would go out, and have a hot chocolate and slice of cake.
This went on for some 16 years!
She is 'old school', so leaving him was not an option.(she just turned 70).
I felt like I have lost may be a good 3 full months of my life listening to her.
I did advise, she never took my advice....I did listen, only to get more frustrated.
'Why' did I listen for 16 long years...............because she is my friend.
I would not ever do it again, and couldn't.....In fact, I now have to stop any conversation that is going 'no-where'.......or taking up too much of my time.
We are still friends, but she now knows I can not do it.
LOL - yup this can be a common habit if someone has a problem and they don't know what to do about it. They start off with jibber jabber and then it becomes a habit. Maybe they believe it is really cool to gossip like that. I think I would want someone to say: Hey, you know I understand your partner sucks, but what was it that brought you guys together? Get them to change tack to the positive things. If they are doing it in public means they are desperate for attention, and that is a whole new kettle of fish. As for getting involved - never get involved in a dog fight unless it is life or death.
There isn't much you can do to help someone who just wants to complain. They've got to change their perspective, look at what their part in it might be. People who complain usually forget to mention what they've done. So as a good friend, I would listen if a friend is genuinely trying to sort out a problem, but if I can see they're not taking any action to help themselves, well, it's harsh but we've all got better things to do than to get upset by someone else's actions.
Friendship is much like marriage. True friends support each other through the hard times and share each others' celebrations. Therefore, we need to listen to each other when we have problems. But we also have a responsibility to care for our friends by being constructive in our feedback to them.
For example, if they complain about something to me, I would ask many questions in return so I can better understand the nature of their situation. I might then help them to arrive at a decision about what to do next. Obviously, whatever the decision is, it needs to a) be acceptable to the person and b) lead to an improvement in the situation.
So when they come back to me and complain again, I would ask "did you do it?" If the answer is "yes" then "why didn't it work?" and "what can be done next?". If "No", then "WHY didn't you do it?", and so on.
If they never implemented any plan whatsoever, and never intended to, I would be honest and just say:
"I know it's a difficult situation, and I would love to be able to help you, but if you simply say the same thing to me every time, and we come up with the same plan every time, but it never gets implemented, then we either need to agree that we need a different plan or accept the situation and live with it without complaining. If that isn't an option for you and I haven't been able to help, I think you need to move your plea for assistance to other counsel ON THIS ISSUE - someone who can offer suggestions that I haven't been able to come up with, but you know my views and there isn't anything else I can offer unless you can provide additional information that changes what I'm already aware of. That's not to say i don't care about how you're travelling in the situation, but there probably isn't much to be gained by just going over the same detail all the time until something changes, because clearly the ideas I've given you aren't the answer. Your situation really concerns me and I want to see you in a happier place. I wonder who you might be able to see who can offer you something that I can't?"
When they're seeing someone else for assistance, make sure you reassure them that you're still concerned and want to know how they're getting on, because you hate seeing them in this situation. You might not be able to help them in this instance, but you're still their friend and they need to know you're barracking for them.
Another possibility might be that his/her situation is not exactly as they perceive it. Perhaps they have a psychological disorder that predisposes them to see the glass as half empty, in which case some psychotherapy or medication might be all that is needed...
Been there, done that. Eventually stopped seeing that 'user' of a 'friend'.
Am way too old now to deal with that ....!
My friends' now don't do that, so is a pleasant change from the past x years of listening to whingers!