You may think it’s okay to talk to your spouse like this:
- “You’re too sensitive!“
- “Don’t eat that!“
- “You’re so messy; get your act together!“
You may even think you’re doing them a favor by pointing out what they need to do to improve. But this is criticism, and it will ruin your marriage. After all, no one likes to be criticized. When you criticize your spouse, it will only make them defensive. Instead, give up criticizing—it might just save your marriage!
The next time you find yourself putting your spouse down or suggesting something they can improve upon, why not find something you admire, or are grateful for, in him or her—it could just transform your relationship!
You may think, “I’m not criticizing my spouse—I’m trying to help them be the person God wants them to be.” It might even seem spiritual to point out your spouse’s flaws. But in reality, real help comes when you ask God to change you and your marriage.
Learn to accept your spouse. Yes, that’s right! As hard as it may seem, accepting your spouse will actually help your marriage. If you can accept and love your spouse the way you did when you said, “I do,” you’ll find it gives them the freedom to change.
In other words, the more you accept and support your spouse, the more they will become the person with whom you share your heart. But when you try to change them by criticizing them, they’ll pull away. They’ll become more defensive and aggressive to fend off your criticism.
You may think you have the power to change your spouse, but you don’t. Your spouse may never change. Instead of trying to change the unchangeable, accept him or her. Remember, you are also imperfect: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We all need God’s help!
What if your spouse is abusive or struggles with addiction? Make your safety—and that of your children—your number one priority. Seek guidance from a licensed counselor to determine your next step. This is imperative!
Here’s an exercise that may help with the habit of criticism: Go 24 hours without criticizing your spouse. Say to God, “If they need anything negative communicated to them, I will trust you, God, to have somebody else deliver that message.” If you can’t go 24 hours without criticism, that says something about your character and your attitude. It makes it your problem. But when you can go 24 hours, you might find it was such a positive experience for both you and your spouse that you’ll want to go another 24 hours!
Now, a lot of people say, “Well, what about constructive criticism?” Constructive criticism is just criticism with a smile. Your spouse doesn’t need constructive criticism. What does your spouse need from you the most? They need your support, encouragement, love, and acceptance.
The next time you find yourself starting to criticize your spouse, take a deep breath and say to them, “What I appreciate most about you is…” Then, tell them three things you like most about them.
Remember, trying to fix a mate with criticism and judgment is like trying to alter a suit with hammer and nails.
To help solve criticism and other problems in your marriage, we recommend Steve Arterburn’s book, The 7 Minute Marriage Solution. You’ll learn seven things you’ll need to stop, and seven things you’ll need to start—everything you need to know to save your marriage in just seven minutes a day! Call 800-NEW-LIFE, or visit newlife.com, for more life-changing resources.