Do you ever feel as though your spouse criticizes everything you do? Have you found it difficult to explain how that makes you feel? Do you worry whether there is any hope for him or her to change? You aren’t alone!
One of the most disheartening and debilitating expressions of controlling behavior is criticism. All of us are prone to complain once in a while. But when complaining about circumstances turns into a degrading personal attack on a family member, the wounds delivered are deep and painful.
Complaint becomes criticism when you focus on pointing out what is wrong. It is also true, however, that a critical, controlling spirit may be expressed in what you don’t say or do. The stark absence of encouragement and affirmation can be just as damaging as cutting words of criticism.
Do you tend to control or badger your spouse through criticism? Do you want to break the critical cycle? Here are a few guidelines:
Complain, but don’t blame. There may be times when you will complain about a problem at home, but don’t use that situation as an excuse to find fault with your spouse. The idea is to fix the problem, not affix blame.
Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Instead of criticizing by saying, “You always embarrass me in front of our friends,” say, “I feel hurt when you talk about my bad cooking skills with our friends.” When you start by pointing the finger of blame, you are forgetting the importance of examining your own heart. When you use “I” statements, you invite your spouse to respond to your pain instead of defend himself or herself from your attack.
Be factual. Instead of blasting your spouse over a messy kitchen, be specific without attacking. Try something like, “I get frustrated when you forget to put caps on bottles and leave dishes in the sink. It would help if you remember to tighten those lids and put your plates in the dishwasher.”
Take care of issues quickly. Don’t fall into the pattern of letting hurts build up and then exploding with criticism. The sooner you take care of conflicts, the less chance you will drift into a critical spirit
Take some time to examine what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Consider new ways to communicate the same information. You will be better heard when your words are better communicated, when you speak with warmth, love, and honor.