The Effects of Criticism in Marriages

Life Coaching


The number one thing that ruins a, marital relationship, or any committed relationship is, criticism. Try not to do it to anyone, your kids, your spouse, your friends, or your customers.  Noone wants to be criticized, because they think that they are doing what is right. Instead state how something makes you feel. Voice your complaint by stating how it affects you and do not assassinate the character of the other person.

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Why Criticism kills marriages

We have all heard that men want respect and women are emotional creatures, needing love and affection. So, that means if a man wants to improve his, marital relationship, he needs to show his wife love and affection and if a woman wants to improve her marriage, she must show respect, right? So why does, criticism, kill marriages?

You are probably saying to yourself, that is some messed up advice.  By wait here is the reason.

Studies show that no one ever does anything they feel is wrong, so it does you no good to point it out.

The verb in the sentence is the important word. Feel.
Put another way, whatever we perceive is our reality.
99.9 percent of men and women can justify to themselves or anyone who would listen, any action or none action, they have taken.

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Two-Gun Crowley a kind killer

On May 7 1931 New York City witnessed the most sensational manhunt the city had ever known to this point. After weeks on the loose “Two-Gun” Crowley, the killer, was trapped in an apartment on West End Avenue.

One hundred and fifty police officers and detectives laid siege to his top floor hideaway. For hours the residential sections reverberated with the rat-tat-tat of gun fire from the police and Two-Gun Crowley.

While Crowley lay bleeding from his gunshot wounds, he penned a note that read “To whom it may concern. Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one, one that would do nobody no harm”
If you had never heard this story before, you may be thinking that the police had the wrong man; but no. Crowley was the same man who was necking with his girl on a country road on Long Island when a police officer walked up to the parked car and asked him to show his license.

Without saying a word, Crowley drew his gun and cut the police officer down with a shower of bullets. As the officer lay dying on the ground, he jumped out of the car grabbed the officer’s gun and fired another round of bullets into the prostrate body. That was the killer who wrote “under my coat is a weary, but kind heart. One that would do nobody any harm.”

Transform Your Mind podcast curiocaster podcast
curiocaster podcast
We all see ourselves differently from others.

This is an extreme story, but I have experienced many people like Crowley in my own experience; from kids who steal, to spouses who cheat, to murderers who kill, nobody feels they have done anything wrong. So don’t bother pointing it out to them expecting them to feel guilt. This goes a long way to, improve your marital relationships.

Even if they admit to wrongdoing, someone made them do it, they find some way to justify their actions. This phenomenon is glaringly evident on death row. Most of the prisoners on death row feel they have been victimized regardless of how heinous the crime. They are all innocent.

The #1 thing women can do to improve their relationships, is Don’t criticize!

Criticism, does no good. It does nothing.
Criticism, is futile, because it puts a man on the defensive, wounds his pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses his resentment, so don’t bother.
Instead make yourself perfect. The only person you can change is you anyway.
Jesus taught us this when he said “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? No one is perfect.

That is not to say that your brother has no speck or has done no wrong, but we are only responsible for what we do. We have no power to control others. And, criticism, does nothing to, improve, marital relationships.

RadioPublic Transform your mind
RadioPublic Transform your mind

What exactly is criticism?

Couples often have a difficult time distinguishing between, criticism, and voicing a complaint. Criticism, can have devastating effects because it makes the victim feel assaulted, rejected, and hurt. Couples fear that if they agree to stop, criticism, they won’t be able to have a conversation about failed agreements or promises.

For example, let’s say your partner throws his/her clothes and towels on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper. If you attack your partner by saying, “why are you so nasty? You have this place in a mess. You never clean-up after yourself,” that is, criticism. If instead you say, I would really appreciate it if you would put your clothes in the hamper, that is voicing a complaint.

Criticism, is an attack on your partner’s character. Calling your partner nasty or pointing out negative personality flaws is, criticism, because you are criticizing your partner as a whole person. In contrast, if you voice a complaint, and focus on specific action or behavior, and ask for a different action or behavior, that is different from, criticism.

Let’s look at another example. Women are always complaining about quality time and no affection from their man.  If you say “You are not marriage material, you don’t know how to love a woman” That is criticism, if you say instead “I love your hands around me, I could use a hug,” that is saying the same thing in a different way. So, when I say don’t criticize, I don’t mean become deaf and mute. It is always better to communicate how you feel.

Transform Your Mind Podverse.fm
Transform Your Mind Podverse.fm

Criticism affects intimacy

One might think that the last person we’d want to say hurtful things to would be your marriage partner, the one you love. When we criticize it affects, Intimacy, because the wounded partner wants nothing to do with you. We are hard wired to focus on negative aspects instead of the positive aspects of our partners. We would focus on the clothes all over the floor and a filthy bathroom sink and not on the fact that our husband worked a full week, paid all the bills and rubbed our feet.

This is called a “negative bias”. Our brain is built to automatically place more weight on unpleasant news or nastiness. That is why the news is so negative, it sells more papers or gets more ratings.  Negative bias, kicks in automatically at the earliest stages of processing information. As a result, our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat news than good news. That is why the constant, criticism, by a spouse tips the balance of a relationship from mundane to miserable?

The bible says “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” It clearly states that it is better to live on the roof than with a nagging wife and most husbands experiencing this situation would agree.

Listen Notes Transform Your Mind
Listen Notes Transform Your Mind

How to protect yourself from criticism

“How does a person survive constant, criticism, in a, marriage relationship?

People adapt to a partner’s constant, criticism, by employing various survival tactics, such as:

Self-protection

If the woman is critical, then the man goes into his man cave. It could be a physical room, or he withdraws and stops communication. If the man is the critical one the woman also withdraws, and her self-esteem is deflated. Some develop an intensely defensive personality to shield themselves from the harsh lash of the critical partner. Others hide their “authentic selves” as a protective mechanism, letting out only the part stamped “partner approved”. They become a pleaser. They may feel the need to shrink their personality to avoid criticism which can result in loss of self.

Distancing.

To fend off, criticism, in a, marriage relationship, a partner surrounds him/herself with a safe buffer zone from which he/she responds politely as if from afar. Friends, work, children, exercise, social media, television, books, and newspapers can serve as buffers. We all know the spouse who is never home, always finds things to do outside the home.  That is distancing.

Withdrawal

A criticized partner withdraws and becomes emotionally unavailable. He/she preserves the “self” by building a wall to keep the critical partner away. He/she refuses to engage or react when criticized. Instead, he/she takes it and most likely adds another brick in the wall of resentment each time they are attacked, belittled, or berated.

Substance Abuse

Another common reaction to, criticism, in a, marital relationship, is, substance abuse. To survive emotionally, the criticized partner numbs the pain of engaging with his/her partner. Substance abuse, as a, coping mechanism, usually leads to further deterioration of the, marital relationship, as well as a host of other serious problems.

How to stop yourself from criticizing your partner

If you feel the impulse to criticize here are a few tips to stop yourself

  • Count to 10. Breathe, bite your tongue, wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it each time you feel the impulse to, criticize.
  • Do whatever it takes to do to stop finding fault, belittling, reproaching, nit-picking, cutting down, or chastising your partner.
  • Decide the kind of person you want to be and how you want to show up in your relationship.
  • Work at accepting your partner, even his/her annoying traits, harmless bad habits, quirks, and idiosyncrasies.
  • Resign yourself to the fact that you will not change your partner. I repeat: Criticism, will not change your partner.
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Podmust Transform Your Mind podcast

The Effects of Criticism on Relationships

Here is some research on the, effects of criticism on relationships.

Here is a marriage story

Dr Julie said she had the good pleasure of counseling a woman who simply had to be the world’s greatest criticizer. I have to admit that I was in awe at her absolute hard-core ability to criticize. I can remember sitting back and thinking, “Wow, this lady could win some kind of award – she is amazing!” Her husband was a pot smoker and there was nothing good she could say about him – from the way he chewed his food, to his driving, or the way he snored at night. I counselled her to change her criticism to requests. In time she became one of the world’s greatest requesters.

One Mother’s Day (instead of criticizing) she composed a Wish List for her husband. It started with something like this – “Dear Husband, if you would like to have an immensely happy wife this Mother’s Day you can do so by getting me one of the following…” She listed about eight items each with a box to check next to the items she desired. Much to her surprise she received several things off the list (not just one!). She promptly rewarded her husband by telling him how happy she was and gave him a huge, heartfelt hug. Her husband began to learn that he could actually make his wife happy. This took a long time because he had come to believe that there was nothing that he could say or do that would ever please her.

So, what happened with this, marriage? In spite of the fact that she became an excellent requester, her husband would not give up his pot and she really struggled with staying married to him. She was lonely and the kids had an absent father. After much debate and prayer, she decided to stay. She would love this man with his addiction. Years later her husband’s heart was won over to Christ and he stopped, smoking pot. The world’s greatest criticizer became the world’s most grateful wife. That is why you must give it to God.  Only God can change man.

Drs. John & Julie Gottman are therapists who have done the most research on the, effects of criticism on relationships. The two are famous for their “love lab,” in which hundreds of couples were screened, interviewed and observed over the course of two decades. As a result of their research the Gottman’s could predict in less than five minutes, with 90 percent accuracy, if a couple was going to stay together or divorce.

They came up with a metaphor to describe four communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship. They termed them “The Four Horsemen” — a phrase coined after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the New Testament, depicting the end of time.

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Stonewalling

Criticism leads to contempt

The main problem with, criticism, is that it can pave the way for the worst of the horsemen — contempt.

Contempt, is about holding your partner in a negative light without giving them the benefit of the doubt. The contemptuous partner is usually attacking from a place of superiority. This can send their partner the message that they are not liked, appreciated, understood or respected. This does little to create a safe, secure and trusting bond in the relationship.

Treating your partner with, contempt, is the single greatest predictor of divorce, according to Dr. Gottman’s work. It is by far the most destructive of the, four communication styles.

Contempt, and relentless, criticism, put a couple at war with each other. This is the opposite of the couple bubble. Smart partners who want to create a strong and happy relationship need to do all that they can to preserve and foster a strong couple bubble.

In this model, criticism, is seen as part of what’s called “the negative cycle.” The negative cycle is an interaction cycle between two people that, when left unchecked, can create an enormous amount of distance and disconnection in a relationship.

All relationships have some conflict and disappointments. This is actually healthy. Conflicts and disappointments don’t have to destroy a relationship. It is how the couple handles them that matters.

You should never marry or move in with someone until you have had your first fight.  It is important to know how someone fights. Do they call you nasty names when you fight? Do you hit below the belt by throwing in your face things they know that hurt you? Do they refuse to engage and walk away? Or do you sit down and talk it out everyone voicing their opinion and having a fair hearing?

Conclusion

So, let’s circle back to our topic. The number one thing that ruins a marital relationship or any committed relationship is, criticism. Try not to do it to anyone, your kids, your spouse, your friends, your customers.  Noone wants to be criticized, because they think that they are doing what is right. Instead state how something makes you feel. Voice your complaint by stating how it affects you and do not assassinate the character of the other person.

Thanks to tuning into this week’s episode of Transformation Friday, I appreciate your time and hope I deliver value.  Until next time Namaste

Additional Resources 

In a Unhealthy Relationship? Should you Stay or Go.





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