When relationships are new, it is so easy to be fascinated with the unique qualities of the other person. We notice things that they do differently and take joy in the discovery, but when that relationship has been experienced for several years, some of these differences seem to evoke negativity. We begin to criticize. Criticism points a finger at the other person and tells them what they ought to do. It tells them what they should have done. Criticism identifies a grievance through accusatory language. You may have heard these before: “You only care about yourself!” “You never help with the kids!” “You (fill in the blank)!”
Take a moment to reflect on what your spouse has said to you before. Was that particular comment helpful? What emotion did you feel when confronted with criticism? How did you respond to your spouse? Were the outcomes of these questions positive or negative for you?
Remember a time when you criticized your spouse. You may have convinced them to make a temporary change, but it was probably performed begrudgingly. How can we rephrase our normal bout of criticism into productive communication? Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness…” What if your criticism is true? Does it matter? The cure for criticism is GENTLENESS (Gottman & Gottman, 2015). Soften that criticism. Replace that accusatory language with gentle invitations. We criticize because we are striving to restore what is being overlooked. We are looking for cooperation and care, and that can only be found if we begin with gentleness.
Gottman, J. S. & Gottman, J. (2015). 10 Principles for doing effective couples therapy. New York, NY: Norton
Youth, Family Life, and Counseling Minister