What do I do when he criticizes me?
I get literally gobs of questions from women every month, and at the core of them is the above question.
What’s a god-fearing girl to do when she’s hurting because of something her husband (also insert, mother, sister, daughter, son, friend, neighbor, boss, etc.) says to her?
So today, I took a few moments to assemble a response. Some of these things may not work for you, and this may be worth what you paid for it, which is nothing. I do have some experience with criticism, from both ends, but again, it’s MY experience.
Ask yourself, “Is there any truth in what was said?”
Because as wise and mature women, if even a 3 year old tells us our shirt looks icky because there’s a big coffee stain on it, we should actually listen, instead of discounting the content of the message because of the way the messenger said it, or who the messenger is. And God will also use rude people – they actually have worth, whether we think they do or not. And just because someone is rude, that doesn’t mean they are also WRONG. Let’s be above the delivery and the messenger, and listen instead, to the content.
Ask yourself, “Why do I care?”
If you are hurting because of what was said, you need to understand your reaction. Here’s why: we often wrap our identity up in what other people think of us, instead of what God thinks. I have a friend who once responded to her husband’s comment of, “Are you really serious? You literally want to just give away 10% of our income? Are you so bad at math that you don’t even realize that is actually $5,000??” with, “Yes, I want to tithe like God suggests in the Old Testament. He says He’ll bless us if we do. He says to test Him on this. I’m game for that.” She ignored his criticism of her, and stuck with the content, AND said the right thing in response. Let’s rise above the criticism and respond to people the right way, regardless of how they communicate with us.
Did you know nearly ALL conflicts begin with a harsh start up? If you respond in kind, you’ll generate defensiveness and argument further. Change the outcome of your communication by choosing to STOP being led by others. It’s also humble to realize that we’re often wrong about the motives of others.
If you are getting worn out from dealing with criticism (which happens, btw) ask questions and make statements to change the course of the communication.
Most people DEFEND their position or themselves, which is absolutely the wrong approach. Did you know that? Research shows that this effort actually has the opposite effect. It also results in both people feeling defensive, which exacerbates the original problem. Here are a few suggestions of questions/statements you can make to change things in the middle of conflict:
- You may be right about that. (use this when the criticism or complaint is about something small, unchangeable, irrelevant)
- I know you don’t mean to criticize me, but I’m starting to feel that way. Can you say that differently?
- Please stop. I want to solve THIS problem together, not rehash all the times I’ve let you down in the past. I’m happy to revisit those conversations later if we need to, just not right now.
- Is that a criticism?
- You’re right. That is a problem. Will you help us out by dealing with it?
Resist the urge to join in the spouse-bashing.
After receiving a complaint or criticism from your husband, that’s the LAST time you should offer up what your issues are with him. Seriously. Be wise in how you time talking about things with him. If you do it when he brings up something with you, all you’ll do is make him more upset because he won’t feel heard, and before you know it, things will have escalated into a fight. Just rise above, take the high road, and deal with the content of the communication.
Check your own communication – make sure you are NOT dishing negatives (complaints or criticisms) to your husband.
This is going to sound really super lame-sauce, but women need understand that our guy is not wired for gobs of negative communication. He can’t handle tons of emotion from us, either. Research shows that men have a physiological response to emotions that sticks around. That fight or flight thing? It hangs on with men, (at least about 85% of them) while women can calm themselves seriously more quickly. His heart will pound and he’ll have the adrenalin surge going for a while – which is typically NOT conducive to building relationship. So vent with your girlfriends (or better yet, God) because they can handle it, and make sure you choose really wisely what you are going to dish to your husband if it is negative. If you don’t, he’ll start tuning you out just to survive.
Bottom Line: Just because someone criticizes you doesn’t mean you need to react. Instead, respect yourself, your God, and your spouse – and RESPOND instead. Wisely.
Hope you’ve subscribed to the blog here (in the sidebar) to journey through The Respect Dare with us as you go through the book. Next week, we’re on #3. Yesterday, I blogged for Focus on the Family on their Dad Matters blog – about WHY your husband being a good dad matters to your marriage. Feel free to forward – I tried to write it in a non-offensive way! Crazy week with the broadcasts. If you didn’t hear them, click here to listen. And you should totally follow Leah if you are a young wife with little people, and Debbie if you have tweens, teens, or twenty-somethings. Like us on Facebook so you can know when Daughters of Sarah becomes available in video format this year, or schedule one of our weekend retreats. 2014 is nearly full, but 2015 might be an option.
At any rate, I’m so glad we’re all in this together, on the journey at the same time. Iron sharpening iron… Dare you today to chime in on the environment you are creating in your home… What do YOU feel led to do? How have YOU responded to criticism?
Comment, share… let’s change the world together.
Love to you,