Do you struggle with wanting to criticize your spouse? Almost all of us have either experienced criticism in our marriage, or observed it in our family of origin.
Criticism is when we blame, shame, and attack the character and nature of another person. Criticism often begins with phrases like: “You never,” “You always,” and “You are….”
When we criticize, we are taking direct aim at the motives and intent of another. Examples would be phrases like: “You’re always thinking of yourself!” “You never think about me.” “You are such a lazy, inconsiderate person!”
Marriage researcher and specialist, Dr. John Gottman, lists criticism as the first of four key destroyers of marriage. In fact, Gottman is able to predict the success of a marriage with a 91% accuracy by observing what he calls “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” of marriage. Pervasive criticism erodes respect, honor, and safety in the marriage relationship.
Here are four things that you can begin to implement immediately to reframe what you want to say in a way that will build your marriage:
1. The Partner
Words don’t just blurt out of our mouths, do they? We are aware when an emotion is rising up within us. We can tell when the words are on the tips of our tongues. We know when our anger or frustration is about to get the best of us.
The very first thing to do is to breathe a quick prayer to the One who is in you, the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to give you gentleness and self-control. These are two of the characteristics that He develops in Christ- followers (See Galatians 5:23).
Be yielded to Him doing that work within you. As you do, you can be sure that He will give you what you need in the moment.
2. The Review
Before you utter anything that might be hurtful to your spouse, take a moment and think of a few things that you appreciate about them. This quick review may totally redirect what you say. It will certainly soften HOW you say IT!
3. The Rule
When you’re critical you’re allowing things to come out of your mouth that have no place in your marriage. One of the best rules for speech is found in Ephesians 4:29. The apostle Paul wrote:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
So ask yourself, “How can I say this in a positive way? How can I build up my spouse and communicate honestly about the issue at hand?”
4. The Prayer
Some people struggle with controlling their tongue. If this is you, a great prayer is found in Psalm 141:3. It reads, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” This is basically a prayer asking for an angel to be placed next to your lips as a guard preventing you from saying anything you ought not to say!
You may need to pray this prayer when you wake up, throughout the day, and again at night! That’s OK. This is simply your spirit yielding to the Holy Spirit’s work in your life so that you become the husband or wife that God desires you to be.
Be diligent in how you share your complaints and concerns. By doing so, you will grow together in an honest relationship as you build your marriage!