Handle Your Spouse’s Criticism Well

No one likes to be told when they are not doing it right. They do not like it when someone points out what they just did wrong. It punches their buttons when anyone tells them that they are wrong about something.

And when you hear it from my spouse it seems even more powerfully button pushing.

“I thought you said you were going to pay that bill?”

“When are you going to get that fixed like you said you would?”

“Are you really going to wear that?”

You can be in charge of what you feel and do when your spouse criticizes you.

The wonderful, happy lifelong marital bliss most spouses thought they signed up for sometimes seems to be a constant reminder that they do not have what it takes, that they are not enough, that they do not love right, or that they are just bad, etc. When you hear anything from your spouse other than words of respect, love and admiration, your mind seemingly twists it into these messages like these that punch your buttons.

Most of the time we believe that the problem is our criticizing spouse.  Sometimes there is evidence that we really messed up, but most of the time we think it is that our spouse is overly critical and picking on us. They feel like a victim stuck in a marriage where their buttons are always being pushed.

The reason we do not like to receive anything at approximates criticism is usually not about our spouse. It is about us.   We have coached many couples in our Marriage Intensives and our Life Together Forever Couples Weekends and have learned these reasons why.

  1. Our spouse is not always being critical. We hear and accept their communication as criticism because it hits close to some belief we have about ourselves. They say, “I’m doing laundry are those clothes in the floor dirty?” and we hear “You aren’t enough to put your laundry in the hamper so I’m going to have to be your mommy.”
  2. We are much worse critics of ourselves than our spouses are. One of the reasons it pushes our buttons is because we agree in some form with the message we are hearing. Our self-talk is full of messages that we do not have what it takes, are not enough, cannot do it right, etc. When our spouse says something that might be close to it, we feel it.
  3. What punches our buttons is a tale-tell sign of our wounds. The reason two people have the same experience but only one has their buttons pushed is because we are wounded in different ways.

Honor one another above the other… Romans 12:10

What is a Christian spouse to do when they get their button pushed by their spouse? How do we “honor one another above the other” when we feel like doing something just the opposite?

  1. Check yourself. Take a brief thirty-minute or so break (Time Out) from your spouse and discover what you are feeling. Sad? Anger? Fear? Notice the emotion that you feel.
  2. Hear the message. Perhaps there is a specific message you are hearing that is about you. Not what your spouse is saying, but what are you hearing about you?
  3. Curiously discover the source.  Where have I heard this message before? What is an early time in my life where I might have picked this message up in some form? How is your button being pushed really about you?
  4. Knee-jerk reaction. What do you feel like doing? What have you done in the past and how has that worked out for you and your relationship?
  5. Think long-term. Do you want a lifelong marriage with trusted commitment, deep connection and passionate love.
  6. Discover the reasonable request. What can I responsibly do to move toward the lifelong love I want? Most of the time there is a reasonable request in what we hear as criticism from our spouse. What is the reasonable request?
  7. Take Action. Do something that leads toward the marriage you truly want. Own what you can of the criticism and take the opportunity to move toward her in the area of her reasonable request.

You will probably never love being criticized or corrected by anyone. But you can begin to hear things differently from your spouse and others. You can unilaterally change how you hear what your spouse says and what you do with it. You do not have to feel stuck but instead you can feel powerful by taking action to create the marriage that you have always wanted.

We are interested to know if you have found a positive way to deal with criticism in your marriage. What have you found that is helpful? What would you recommend to other couples?

 This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2015. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at [email protected].