By Tolu Dairo
There is nothing I do right. If it’s not the children’s room today, it’s our room. “Dayo, you don’t know how to clean, your priorities are misplaced, you are always late for an appointment, you talk too much…your laughter is too loud, you act dumb at times, how come you don’t know how to operate that equipment, you don’t think before you talk” Bla-bla-bla-bla-bla…..HAA!-HAA!…..What is it “sef”?….Do I even do anything right with you? Why are you always on my case?..……PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE ….ALONE… A-L-O-N-E GISH! Mchew.
I call this “Barrage of criticism”
This is a typical reaction of a wife frustrated with the constant nagging of her husband. A true life story that I have witnessed over and over again amongst couples. Criticism is one of the major causes of conflict in marriage. For a passive wife who knows how to bottle up issues will withdraw into herself, develop inferiority complex and low self-esteem which is dangerous. For the aggressive one, ho-ho-ho…..she will give it back two words for one. What then follows……arguments, dispute, head on collision and you know the rest of the story. Either way, it won’t be a beautiful sight and outcome.
According to the book “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” by Dr. John Gottman, “criticism involves “attacking someone’s personality or character – rather than a specific behavior – usually with blame”. When someone attacks your personality or character, this could be hurtful. It is a form of character assassination and it’s simply not right at all.
In healthy (sometimes young) marriages that are still trying to find their footing- When your spouse criticizes your actions (or inaction), it is either as a result of a need not met, or a request for a change in behavior or attitude. Quite a number of times “there is something of value buried inside of each criticism” but then it is the delivery vehicle that defeats the purpose of the message. This same message could have been delivered without having to criticize your spouse.
In an unhealthy marriage– criticism can be intentionally spiteful. Couples that are out to get each other will use any given opportunity to criticize and bring down the other party. This is also a common thing amongst couples that are constantly in conflict with one another. They even extend it to public places which is absolutely unacceptable.
Reaction to Criticism- A reflex reaction to criticism is defense. Naturally when I’m criticized, my first response is to want to defend myself. Sometimes I even go into a defense mode when an innocent comment is passed about my behavior. Funny right? But then this is just human nature.
Criticism in Marriage – Personally I have observed that women are mostly the victims. Not that men don’t go through it but the percentage is higher with women. This is because husbands are meant to be the head (leader/authority) of the home while the woman’s authority comes under that of her husband. The woman is created and trained to be submissive to her husband. As a result, someone in the position of authority finds it easier to correct, give instructions and criticize his subordinates.
As a woman (or a man) how do you handle criticism in marriage?
Communication! Communication! Communication! Effective communication will resolve this.
Handling Criticism in a healthy relationship- I say healthy because almost every relationship has something they deal with at different phases of their union. This does not make them unhealthy, it just means they are trying to master the dynamics of marriage.
For newly weds or young couples that are new to the game, please do not despair. You are going through the early shockers of marriage. Read the shockers I experienced in my early years of marriage and you will be amazed. Hang in there….keep working at it and it will pass.
If your relationship is the type that you are connected with your husband, he listens to you, you are best friends but yet you noticed that you are habitually being criticized, here is how to manage it.
#1. Your first reaction should be…..no reaction at all. This is tough and might require some self-training. Even I still struggle with this at times. Wait till the happenings that surround the criticism has passed then bring up the matter again but this time you do it in a calmer environment. When you are in the middle of criticism, it is very easy to want to lash back at your other half. You go into “attack-defense mode”. We’ve all been there before. Lashing out will only aggravate the already fired up situation and at the end of the day, you push, he pushes and no one wins. You end up hurting each other.
#2. Ask him what he really wants…..remember that most of the time there is value in criticism. That value is what you are trying to bring out. Ask if he is upset with you. Suggest to him (include yourself in the equation) that all criticism should be changed to requests. Both of you should learn to request from each other…..example is this………..
- Criticism- You are very disrespectful. You cut into my conversation. No regards whatsoever. You don’t allow me talk. You talk too much.
- Better way- Honey, I know you have a lot to say about the topic and I will love to hear your opinion but I will appreciate it if I can finish making my point before you speak.
- Criticism- You are so slow. ‘Always late for an appointment
- Better way- Can you please be on time next time. We were late for appointment yesterday.
- Criticism- You are too rough. You drop your clothes everywhere in the house
- Better way- Can you please pick up after yourself?
#3. Tell him you appreciate him wanting to let you know what you are not doing right (i.e. if you are indeed not doing anything right) but let him know that the manner in which he approached you earlier was hurtful and that you will appreciate it if he changed it to a more subtle and dignifying one.
#4. Ask yourself….is this a personality flaw- Everyone has personality weakness. Attacking your spouse’s personality can be hurtful. If you find yourself criticizing your spouse on a particular issue over and over again (or vice versa), you need to ask if the bone of contention is a weakness on his/her part. Normally when someone unintentionally repeats a mistake over and over again there is a high chance that it is a weakness. The person with the personality weakness needs support. Again communication is key here. Both parties should talk about it. The party who is stronger in that aspect should take charge while the other tries to make conscious effort to be better. Remember no one is perfect in life.
Criticism in an unhealthy marriage-
This is where a spouse for no just cause begins to criticize his/her better half. Generally, there is an underlying factor responsible for this. Jealousy or unhealthy competition in the home where one person wants to be seen as better. As a result, decides to put the other party down. Multiple factors could be responsible for this. Communication in this type of marriage is generally broken. If you find yourself in this situation, first I will suggest you try to open the line of communication then try the above methods. If these don’t work then you have to find out why your spouse want to sabotage your relationship with his barrage of criticism. Tackle the underlying factor/s. You should also seek counseling.
Babes (or Guys ) how do you handle criticism in your marriage without it resulting into commotion or collision? Share your experience below
Tolu Dairo is an Inspirational/motivational writer and speaker. She has a degree in Medicine with master’s degree in Regulatory Affairs for Drugs, Biologics and Medical Devices.
A Physician called to inspire women to find and live their dreams. Tolu Dairo is a full time employee with one of the fortune 500 companies. A marriage and relationship counsellor.
Blog: Tolu’s World