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How To Keep Criticism From Killing Your Relationships
by ChristianCrush Team
It’s healthy to recognize when something makes you unhappy or frustrated. Many spouses find that sharing those darker moments can lead to a relationship that feels safer and more secure. The problem for some people; however, is striking a balance between letting your partner know what’s bothering you and blaming them for it.
When you’re in the middle of a fight, it can feel like the entire world is going to end. Some scientists say that our brains are wired for survival – which means love and compromise aren’t always on the tips of our tongues (Hatvany 2014). This means that in the course of a disagreement, we may actually have to go against what feels like our nature in order to reach a resolution.
Criticism during these times – blaming your partner for things that went wrong – can lead to even greater problems, such as contempt and insecurity. Getting out of this negative cycle takes time and effort. Instead of getting ready for battle from the get-go, it’s important to share feelings and frustrations before they become accusatory.
I’ve seen relationships that started out as blissfully loving turn rank once one half of the couple became critical. Then one person gets defensive, and the other becomes more critical. Around and around the fights go. Marriage is not easy. It takes more work than most people realize, and that often means admitting there is a problem even when you want to say everything is just fine. Too many couples have split up because in the beginning of troubles, they both denied that anything was even wrong.
This issue goes straight to the personal level. If I refuse to admit that something about my life makes me unhappy, that denial will fester and turn into something nasty. My goal should be attacking my frustrations, not my partner, head-on. The problem is, I don’t like to be wrong. I definitely don’t like to admit when I’ve made a mistake. But in order to maintain a healthy relationship, the best time to admit fault is as soon as it is noticed. Letting things go on for any longer is unhealthy and can lead to a wealth of unhappiness.
Just as scientists and psychologists say that we aren’t wired for love, the New Testament shows us that it takes a soul makeover to avoid fits of anger, dissension and division (Gal. 5:19-24). A marriage can survive tough times of criticism by doing two things:
- Kill the flesh
- Love the other
The flesh is selfish and wants to get the best for itself – the Spirit is all about spreading the love and getting the best for everyone else involved. Brotherly love might not be the first thing on our minds when fighting with a husband or wife, but Peter urges us to seek it instead of repaying evil for evil. How can you argue with him when he says, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil...search for peace, and work to maintain it” (1 Peter 3:10-12). If this is the task laid before friends to think as siblings, you can imagine the work expected of married couples. The next time something irritates you, don’t be afraid to speak your mind about it, but make sure your partner doesn’t feel blamed for what you feel.
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What helps you navigate through conflicts with love and gentleness?