A regular stream of critical words has a way of taking the joy out of a marriage. A marriage in which a husband and wife regularly criticizes one another can feel like you are being nibbled to death by a duck.
Sometimes we will level a criticism toward our spouse followed by the words, “I was just kidding.” Often this is a passive aggressive way of not taking responsibility for what was just said. Slowly but surely, such criticisms have a way of poisoning the atmosphere of a marriage.
A husband has been working very hard in the yard during much of a hot summer day. Finally, he comes inside, pleased with the improvement in the yard. Meanwhile, his spouse goes outside to look at the front yard. The very first thing she says in response to his work is, “Well aren’t you going to clean up the flower bed on the side of the house? It looks awful! It’s embarrassing!” Wow. No affirmation or appreciation for what has been done. Instead, the first word is a critical remark that basically says, “I see what you’ve done but it doesn’t measure up.”
Now of course there is a time in which this spouse could express her desire that he address the flower bed on the side of the house. Yet, when we immediately choose criticism over appreciation and gratitude, this probably isn’t going to be received well.
That Saturday evening, this couple eats a nice meal at home. She has prepared a roast that has cooked much of the day. She has also prepared several vegetable dishes and a nice salad. At the conclusion of the dinner, he asks about desert. After learning there is no desert, he makes a big deal about never having desert. Instead of expressing appreciation and affirmation for what she has done, he immediately begins complaining. No thank you. No words of appreciation. Just complaining. This kind of response gets old, very quickly.
The next day, after church, this couple decides to try a new restaurant on the other side of town. They travel toward the restaurant and the spouse says, “Why are we going this way? I hate going this way! I told you the fastest way to get there. Why didn’t we go the way I told you?” Just imagine the conversation between this couple as they sit down to eat dinner in the restaurant. Perhaps there will be either tension or silence.
Many husbands and wives are very critical toward their spouses and then attempt to justify their behavior. In their mind, their criticisms are very reasonable. In fact, they may not see them as criticisms.
Yet, so often what the other person hears is “You don’t measure up and what you do doesn’t measure up.” As a result, some husbands and wives feel defeated, unappreciated, and lacking. As one woman said, “I can’t seem to do anything that is right in his eyes.”
You might ask yourself these questions:
- Do I need to reign in some of my critical remarks?
- Am I robbing our marriage of joy by my regular critical spirit?
- Do my remarks tear down my spouse or build him/her up?
Bring words of encouragement and affirmation into your home. Make sure your words of encouragement and affirmation greatly exceed any critical words that you might express. Make your home a place where your spouse can be assured that he/she will hear far more encouraging, affirming words than negative critical words.