Criticism is one of the 4 Horsemen couples need to watch out for in their marriage. I began writing about Dr. John Gottman’s 4 Horsemen of miserable marriages in my previous blog, The Marriage-Relationship Saga. According to Gottman’s research, Criticism will take the “happy” out of the ever-after in no time flat.When one partner gets in the habit of expressing the negative or the “just a thought,” the other partner will begin to feel discouraged. Discouragement easily leads to feelings of resentment and hopelessness. Thus starts the negativity cycle in a marriage.We all have thoughts about things others are doing around us. It’s easy to let yourself get in the habit of expressing these thoughts. Keeping the reins on criticism is easier when we become aware of the subtle and overt ways we criticize each other.
Here are some Ways we “Accidentally” Criticize each other
1. The Overt Statements
Simply telling a person, “You’re too ____” Fill the blank in with the negative or positive statement of your choice. It doesn’t matter. The “You’re too” made the statement critical.
2. The Take Over
Watching someone struggle with a project we know we could figure out or have done in the past, can sometimes be a painful experience. I know. I get it. However, when we say, “Here. Let me show you” and take the project over, we criticize. We essentially said, “I don’t think you’re capable of figuring this out.”
3. The “Right Way”
Let’s face it. There are plenty of ways to finish simple tasks. Laundry. Holding babies. Loading a dish washer. Planting plants. Mowing a lawn. Washing a car. DRIVING! When we express the “right way” to do the task, we are criticizing the other person. We are letting them know we believe their way is inferior to our “right way.”
4. The Reflexive Noises
You’ve heard them. You’ve made them. The “throat noise” or the “sigh” is a sure sign the person making the sound isn’t happy with the statement, the action, the being of their partner.
5. The Name Drop
We all know the classic, “Melinda is working part time to support her family” or “Sam takes his wife out every Friday.” Name dropping is a great way to let our partner know someone else meets our standard. Not them.
6. The Advice Not Asked For
There is a wise and wonderful statement often said, “Advice not asked for is criticism.” Simple. If your partner has not asked your opinion, don’t offer it. Not unless you want the person to feel criticized by you.
7. The Gift
Buying a replacement gift is a sneaky way to give the “gift” of criticism. Lovely! So gracious! So giving! And. So sneaky critical. It goes like this: We see the item to replace what we don’t like that our partner wears, uses, or reads. We buy it. We give it to them with delight. –And they feel criticized. They actually liked those plaid pants they’d been wearing to church every Sunday!
8. The Nose Wrinkle & Upper Lip Raise
Dr. Paul Ekman, is a renowned psychologist, researcher and co-consultant on Pixar’s movie ‘Inside Out.’ He has studied micro expressions revealing emotions of individuals. These micro expressions are universal across languages. You might not think disgust shows on your face, but trust me. Your close family members pick up those subtle criticisms easily. A nose wrinkle takes 1/25th of a second. And your partner caught that look before you even thought of one single word to say.
9. The Subtle Question
“You don’t really want to wear that, do you?” “Are you sure you want to do that?” These are the Ninja Critical Questions sneaking up and letting your partner know they are not meeting your standard.
10. The Intense “What?”
Responding to an idea/thought/feeling of your partner with an intense, “WHAT?!” is a dead give-away of being critical. Often, the conversation will come to an immediate halt at such a response. Your partner will have no doubt the idea has been deemed lacking. It will take courage for your partner to continue the conversation.
So what does this mean to your daily life in marriage? Does this mean you can never express a negative thought to your partner? Are you to remain silent the rest of your days with your partner?
No. However, the objective you do want to achieve is to Accentuate the Positive. Make certain you are having the 5 to 1 ratio in your relationship. Look at the positive aspect and overlook what isn’t really going to do any harm to let it go.
Proverbs 27:15 says,
“A nagging spouse is like
the drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet;
You can’t turn it off,
and you can’t get away from it.” –The Message
Yea. Who wants to be that? The riptide of Criticism!
In short, most of the time our partners aren’t doing brain surgery. Most of the time no one will die if we let our negative thoughts go unspoken and unheard.
The wonderful thing with this ratio is our partner gets to experience how much we love and admire them far more than how we criticize them.
Give it a try. Listen to yourself this week. See if you are already expressing the admiration and love you have for your spouse far more than criticizing them.
You can do this! Let Love Reign!
The above is not intended as professional counseling. If you would like some help figuring out how to rein in the criticism and Let Love Reign, call me at 530-268-3558 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Research shows it often only takes one person to get back on the Happy Ever After Trail again!