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Why Couples Move From Idealizing to Criticizing and How to Reverse It
by Wyatt Fisher Psy.D.
When couples first begin dating, their thoughts are usually filled with only the positive qualities in their new found love. This infatuation phase is necessary and develops the glue that pulls couples closer together. Unfortunately, this idealizing usually shifts to criticizing after couples have been together for awhile. Many wonder why this shift occurs and what can be done to reverse it. There are a myriad of answers to these complex questions and it’s wise for those on Christian dating sites to become aware of these trends now to have more grace oriented relationships in the future.
One of the most obvious reasons for increased criticism in romantic relationships is increased contact. We’re all imperfect people and the more time we spend with others the more likely we’ll notice their imperfections. Therefore, married couples tend to notice more shortcomings in their partner than they did while dating simply because they are around each other more often. In addition, most couples stop courting one another after marriage because other things pull for their attention, such as careers, mortgage, children, etc. When this occurs, couples spend less time investing in their relationship through quality time, acts of kindness, words of affirmation, etc., making them feel less “in love.” The less “in love” couples feel, the more critical they usually become towards one another’s flaws. Therefore, one of the most important steps for increasing grace towards your partner is stoking the romantic flame by courting one another again, just like you did during the dating phase of your relationship. As Scripture clearly points out, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8, NLT).
Next, each spouse usually has expectations of how one should think, feel, and act based on their own upbringing and other environmental experiences. While having this code of conduct is normal, expecting our partner to be just like us can quickly create problems. When our spouse’s behavior disagrees with our “code," agitation and criticism usually follow. To combat this, make a list of all your standards on appropriate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and then determine which ones are simply your preferences but not necessarily right or wrong. These are the areas where you must give your partner freedom to be who God created them to be. While minor changes and compromise is expected in all romantic relationships, we cannot change the core of who our partner is. Moreover, the more we embrace and honor their differences, the less critical we’ll feel.
Another way to become more graceful towards our spouse is to focus more on our weaknesses. Nothing cuts our pride down quicker than being reminded of our flaws. Therefore, it’s recommended to spend time journaling on all of your frailties and shortcomings. Where do you struggle with sin most? What are your biggest pitfalls in your thoughts and behaviors? What would it be like to live on the other side of you? Even though these questions can be uncomfortable and most people try to avoid them, they can be incredibly helpful by keeping us grounded in humility, while also filling our hearts with compassion towards our partner.
Last, reflect on the positive qualities in your spouse. It’s human nature to gravitate towards the negative, which usually leads to a critical spirit. Therefore, spend some time journaling on your partner’s positive attributes, including elements of their physical appearance, their character, their behavior, etc. Where do they shine? Where has God gifted them? What first drew you to them? Then, each time you feel agitated with their shortcomings, review their list of strengths along with your list of weaknesses to keep your perspective balanced.
In sum, keeping your heart aimed towards adoration with your spouse can be accomplished through increased courting, embracing their uniqueness, focusing on your weaknesses, and capturing their strengths.
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Dr. Wyatt Fisher is a faculty member at Liberty University and owner of ChristianCrush.com, which aims to be the most authentic platform on the web for believers to connect and develop God-honoring relationships.
What else can help couples remain positive with one another instead of cricital?