Criticism & Relationships

I see a lot of people in marriage who try to use criticism as a way to connect with their spouse or to help make their spouse a “better person.” I really believe that most people think that their approach to criticism is a good one and only have the best of intentions for their spouse. In fact they feel their form of criticism is constructive or not really criticism at all. The problem with criticism is no one really wants it. Think about it for a moment. How many people would raise their hands and say they could use more criticism in their lives because they really want to grow and be the best they could be? Would you really want to receive the criticism you give to your spouse?

Criticism in a marriage almost always leads to defensiveness and some kind of resentment. Criticism says, “You have something wrong with you and I am going to point it out to make sure you change it because I don’t struggle with those kinds of things in my life.” It almost always comes across as a superiority thing and usually feels condescending at best. It usually communicates that you do not really accept your spouse completely and won’t accept them until they get certain areas of their lives “fixed.”

So if criticism is not constructive, how do I help my spouse change the things that are off? First you need to check your motives. Are you really concerned with helping your spouse grow? Or are you trying to make your own life easier by getting your spouse to go along with your program? If you are doing it for selfish reasons then it will almost always come out wrong. Next, Have you built into the life of your spouse? If you have invested no time into your spouses life and haven’t recognized the positives in your spouses life and pointed them out, it will be difficult to hear your words of correction. Think about it this way, do you honor your spouse as much as you try to change her/him? How many encouraging comments do you give to the number of critical ones? Would your spouse even be able to hear your words of help in areas of her/his life that she/he may need to work on? Or, are you so negative that she/he can’t even hear your words anymore? Have you banked enough encouragement in her/his life that she/he respects and responds when you point out a fault?

If you want to have influence into your spouses life, you need to be a person your spouse trusts and knows has her/his best interests at heart. It is when you have that kind of relationship that it is easy to listen to things you may need to work on in your life. Of course in that kind of response it is not criticism at all but truly helping one another to grow.
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