Handling Negative Feedback From Your Spouse

Hearing about how something you are doing is a problem to someone or to a group does not feel good. No one likes learning that something about themselves might need to change.

Feedback is important to change and growth. For most of us, positive feedback is received like Teflon, it just falls off of us as possibly untrue and un-received. However, negative feedback is like Velcro, it sticks to us and we remember it long after our encounter with it.

It is especially true when our spouse shares negative feedback. Whether they share it with respect and in a time and place of our choosing, or without tact and appropriate demeanor, negative feedback is most difficult for us to receive from the one we love the most.

“Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.” Proverbs 13:10

Why Your Spouse’s Negative Feedback Hurts

  • It threatens the relationship. For most of us, we suffered an emotionally difficult break up at some time in our past dating history. Sometimes the reason given for the break up was harsh. Hearing our spouse tell us something negative harkens our heart back to those experiences and it feels as if the relationship might be ending.
  • It is a loss. Hearing that we have done or not done something that our spouse feels like needs to change is a loss in our perception of how the relationship is going and our part in the relationship.
  • Breaks expectations. Most of us believe our spouse is “supposed to always” give us unconditional love and support. It is the lone place where we seek emotional safety and support. Receiving our spouse’s negative feedback feels like they are doing exactly opposite of what we expect they will do.

Benefits of Your Spouse’s Negative Feedback

It may hurt. It may be painful. But there are significant benefits from really hearing your spouse’s input about how you can be a better spouse and person. Here are a few:

  • It makes you a better person. There is no one besides you positioned to help you more in becoming the best you, you can be, than your spouse. They know you, and love you.
  • It helps us know our spouse’s needs better. When we hear negative feedback from our spouse, they are giving us direct input into their needs and wants. If we really listen, we can hear some deep need that they have that will be a gift for us to better show them how much we love them.
  • It connects us deeper. When someone gives you something that helps you become a better person, you may not like it initially, but as you heed their input it is a wonderful gift. Sharing at this level, deepens our connection which increases commitment, passion and emotional intimacy.
  • It makes us stronger as a couple. When we are able to share openly with each other at this level, our bonds are strengthened making our marriage less vulnerable to external divorce threats.

Steps to Hearing Your Spouse’s Feedback

  1. Open your heart up to discovery. One author put it this way, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” The best in anything is constantly seeking input from others in how to improve. Being open to receive feedback is one of the central life skills that sets high achievers apart. Drop your defenses and give your spouse full body attention. Hear the gift they are sharing!
  2. Learn what they want. Sometimes our spouse does not communicate feedback in respectful and appropriate ways. Ask them what they want and why what they want is important to them. Understanding why will help you meet their need/want and teach you something about yourself.
  3. Check for accuracy. Sometimes what your spouse shares is really more about them. However, there is a gift from them as you search out how their feedback is true about you. What about their feedback is true, at any level, about you. What can you get from this interaction to help you become a better person and spouse?
  4. Respond with respect and love. Being open to receive feedback, even if it is delivered with some energy, will help you also be able to respond to your spouse well. Defensiveness, withdrawal, and sarcasm are responses that will not only keep you from becoming a better spouse, but will move you away from each other. Give your spouse respect and love in how your respond to them.
  5. Work together to develop a future focused plan. Sometimes it is not the feedback shared, but the way it is shared that causes us to veer off course and not resolve anything. Focus on how you will do life together going forward. In step 2, you have learned what they want. Can you do it? If not, what can you do toward it? What other ideas do you have that will help meet their need/want and also be acceptable to you? Try out something temporarily and see how it works.
  6. Connect physically and move forward. When you have heard your spouse’s feedback, make a move toward them. Physical touch such as a hug, kiss, hand hold, pat on the back, etc. will send a message that this interaction, although not pleasant, does not change the love you have for each other.

What Do You Have To Say?

We always love to hear from our readers. Is there some other steps to hearing your spouse’s feedback you would add? If you took this out for a spin, how did it go? What would you add about the benefits of feedback from your spouse?

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 Secret@LifeTogetherForever

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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