How to Handle A Critical Wife
I don’t like to be told when I am not doing it right.
I don’t like it when someone points out to me what I just did wrong.
It punches my buttons when anyone tells me that I am wrong about something.
And when I hear it from my wife … Ugh!
- “I thought you said you were going to pay that bill?”
- “When are you going to get that fixed like you said you would?”
- “Did you expect me to believe you really just forgot, again?”
The wonderful, happy life-long marital bliss I thought I signed up for sometimes seems to be a constant reminder that I don’t have what it takes. I’m not man enough. I don’t love right. I’m bad, etc. When I hear anything from wife other than words of respect, love and admiration, my mind seemingly twists it into these messages that punch my buttons.
Several years back I thought it was mostly her. Sure — I occasionally tripped up and failed to replace the toilet paper or forgot it was her birthday — but mostly it was her critical personality that was causing all my pain. I was a victim stuck in a marriage where my buttons were always being pushed.
My brother-in-law, Brandon Brunson, invited me to attend The Crucible Project Weekend, and I had an opportunity to see how I was doing life. It wasn’t a weekend about marriage, but I learned some things about myself that my wife had probably already known for years.
The reason I don’t like to receive anything that hints to criticism isn’t about her. It is about me. What I discovered is that I am like so many of the men that I have coached in Marriage Intensives and our Life Together Forever Couples Weekends.
- Our wives are not always being critical. We hear and accept their communication as criticism because it hits close to some belief we have about ourselves. They say, “I’m doing laundry are those clothes on the floor dirty?” and we hear “You aren’t man enough to put your laundry in the hamper so I’m going to have to be your mommy.”
- We are much worse critics of ourselves than our wives are. One of the reasons it pushes our buttons is because we agree in some form with the message we are hearing. Our self talk is full of messages that we don’t have what it takes, aren’t man enough, can’t do it right, etc. When our spouse says something that might be close to it, we feel it.
- What punches our buttons is a sure sign of our wounds. The reason we experience the same thing but only some of us have our buttons pushed is because we are wounded in different ways.
I Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers (NIV)
What is a Christian husband to do when he gets his button pushed by his wife? How do I live out “being considerate her and treating her with respect”(I Peter 3:7) when I feel like doing something just the opposite?
- Check yourself. Take a brief 30-minute or so break (Time Out) from your spouse and discover what you are feeling. Sad? Anger? Fear? Notice the emotion that you feel.
- Hear the message. Perhaps there is a specific message you are hearing that is about you. Not what she is saying, but what are you hearing about you?
- Curiously discover the source. Where have I heard this message before? What is an early time in my life where I might have picked this message up in some form? How is your button being pushed really about you?
- Knee-jerk reaction. What do you feel like doing? What have you done in the past and how has that worked out for you and your relationship?
- Think long term. If you are like me, you want a lifelong marriage with trusted commitment, deep connection and passionate love.
- Discover her reasonable request. What can I responsibly do to move toward the lifelong love I want? Most of the time there is a reasonable request in what we hear as criticism from our spouse. What is her reasonable request?
- Take Action. Do something that leads toward the marriage you truly want. Own what you can of the criticism and take the opportunity to move in the area of the reasonable request.
I still don’t love being criticized or corrected by anyone. But I hear things differently from my wife and others today. I have unilaterally changed how I hear what my wife says and what I do with it. I don’t feel stuck but instead feel powerful in that I am taking action that is creating the marriage that I’ve always wanted. And I’m still growing and God and I are working on me so that I have fewer buttons to push. God’s not done with me yet.
I am interested to know if you have found a positive way to deal with criticism in your marriage:
- What have you found that is helpful?
- What would you recommend to other husbands?
– By Roy Wooten
Roy completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2009 and has been the longtime leader of The Crucible Project community in Houston. Roy and his wife Devra have led over 135 of their Life Together Forever Couples Weekends and are the authors of The Secret to Lifetime Love: Speaking and Hearing Truth. He also authored Full Throttle Into Fatherhood and is the Executive Director of Shield Bearer Counseling Centers in Houston, Texas. Follow Roy at LifeTogetherForever.com.
Photo Credit: Lara604