Don’t drag your spouse down by being a fault finder
Marty wipes his sweating face with a rag as he walks in the front door. “Whew-ee! Is it hot outside! But I finally got the yard mowed.”
Cindy comes out of the kitchen and hands him a glass of iced tea.
“Come take a look,” Marty says proudly.
Cindy follows him outside and into the yard.
Noticing her frown, Marty says, “What’s wrong?”
Placing her hands on her hips, Cindy says, “You left a strip of grass by the driveway. You always miss that. It makes all the rest of the yard look ragged. Haven’t you ever noticed how pretty my parents’ yard is? That’s how I want ours to look. Don’t you? But that’s o.k. You’ll do better next time. Now come on in. We’ve got to get ready to go to the party tonight.”
Cindy turns and heads toward the house without waiting for a response from Marty.
Marty’s shoulders sag. He looks back at the yard and after a moment follows Cindy into the house.
An hour later Marty is watching t.v., having already showered and dressed for the party. Cindy comes into the room, looks at him and says, “You’re not wearing that are you? Oh my gosh, Marty!”
Glancing down at his clothes, Marty asks, “What’s wrong with this? You gave me this shirt.”
“I know I did. But that is not the kind of shirt you wear to this kind of party. Don’t you know anything?”
Without waiting for a response from Marty, Cindy spins around and heads back into their bedroom.
Marty slowly stands, turns off the t.v. and drops the remote into his chair. Muttering under his breath he walks to the bedroom.
Cindy’s muffled voice comes from within his closet. “This is the one.” She steps out of the closet flourishing a shirt.
“I don’t like that shirt,” Marty says.
“Oh come on Marty. It will look really nice with my dress. It’s just perfect. Now hurry up. We don’t want to be late.”
The above scenario might sound comical to you, but not if you’ve lived it or are living in it.
Someone else might shrug off Cindy’s criticisms or confront her about it, but not Marty. He has a very sensitive nature and he is not assertive.
As is often the case in marriages, Cindy’s personality is quite the opposite. She is often oblivious to the feelings of others, pays no attention to what others say about her, and she is assertive to the point of aggressive.
Over the years Cindy’s “picking apart” of Marty, her pointed criticisms, have eroded his self confidence. He finds himself uncertain about every decision. He second guesses himself to the point of becoming paralyzed.
If quizzed about her behavior, no doubt Cindy would defend herself, claiming she’s not criticizing Marty. She’s just giving her opinion or making suggestions.
But when suggestions are always a result of a critical eye, they have evolved into something destructive.
The problem is that Cindy has taken on the role of a referee at a ballgame. Have you ever seen a referee throw a flag or blow a whistle because someone made a great play? No. Their sole purpose is to point out flaws and mistakes.
Living with someone who has this mentality will produce serious consequences for the one on the receiving end.
For one thing it can lead to chronic frustration. This kind of chronic, unresolved frustration will result in a four-stage downward spiral.
- The first stage is hurt. It is the prick in the heart from a hunter’s arrow. It is a pain that is literally felt in the chest. Everyone expects people in the world to say hurtful things, but it is unexpected from our spouse. We have no shield or armor in place to protect us.
- The longer hurt exists in the heart, the more likely it will evolve into the next stage – anger. There will be verbal explosions. Attacking words will be thrown. More hurt will take place. And the problem is compounded.
- If unresolved anger resides in the heart long enough, it will turn into resentment. And while hurt and anger are primary emotions and are neither good nor bad, resentment is harmful in every sense. In a state of resentment we plot how we will exact revenge. We dwell on the original hurt and refuse to let it go. AA meetings often center on the topic of resentment as it is identified as a major cause of relapse.
- If a person doesn’t let go of resentment, they will end up in the fourth stage – self-destructive behavior. In this stage people resort to having “retaliation affairs.” They drink “to show them.” They engage in self-fulfilling prophecies that their critical spouse has placed in their mind. It’s the “what’s the use” attitude.
Besides chronic frustration, living with a critic can also lead to depression. The constant brow beating with words that attack a person, rather than pointing toward a person’s behavior, cripples the victim. It is the equivalent of hamstringing an animal.
Living with constant criticism can produce anxiety and fear. It’s sort of like being the mole in the game “whak-a-mole” you may have seen at amusement arcades. If every time you try to lift yourself out of the hole of depression, you get whacked on the head by a criticism, you start being afraid to crawl out of your hole. Like Marty, you begin second guessing yourself. You are uncertain which way to step. Your insecurities increase.
I’m told that if you touch a turtle’s head with a lit match every time he sticks his head out, he eventually will pull back and never come out again. He will die in his shell. This is exactly what can happen from living with a critic.
Criticism is the piranha of marriages. It doesn’t destroy the relationship in one huge event, like an affair does. It destroys it bit by tiny bit until finally there is nothing left.
If you are living with a critic, take the courage to share this article with the, presenting it to them with an attitude of love and concern.
If you don’t think this is a problem in your marriage, share this article with your spouse and ask them if you are guilty of being a chronic critic. You might be guilty and not even know it.
[For other articles on improving your marriage and family life, click on “Categories” and choose “Family Helps.”]