Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from the gifted Briana Rae. I am excited to have a woman’s voice on the Thriving Men website. For those who are curious, the photos were my choice and Briana had no say in the matter!
The Foundations Of Husband Criticism
I roll my eyes a lot, it’s what I do, I’m an eye roller.
It REALLY annoys my husband and I get the sense that he finds it disrespectful, but there are times when it just happens…like…
When he leaves his shoes in the middle of a walkway
When he leaves his dirty clothes all over the floor
When I find he’s only washed the inside of the dishes, and not the outside (what?)
When he asks me in the mall, “Do you REALLY need those shoes?” When he has 50 pairs of basketball shorts as home.
I think just about anyone, at least anyone in a relationship, can relate.
But we don’t just do the eye roll, right? We say something, usually exaggerated in tone and meaning.
“Seriously, I freakin’ HATE when you ALWAYS do that. Can’t you see this is dirty? How can you not see that? Just don’t wash the dishes at all if this is how you do it.”
And to be honest, arguing about the dishes isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but honestly, the little things add up. They add up and become baggage, baggage that sometimes become too much to bear.
I’ve been married for almost 6 years now, and honestly, the first 3 were pretty rough. I didn’t fully understand the phrase- pick your battles- and I had no idea what it meant to be married. As my husband and I started our married life together, I continued to say whatever I wished and whatever I felt about how he did things and how he thought about life…. etc. I had an opinion about most everything in our day to day life, and I let him know it. Not always in a harsh way, but in my way… with no filter. Because, why would I need a filter? This guy liked me, I mean, heck- he loves me. He married me- the mittens are off- let’s just be ourselves, right? Well, yes… and then no.
Rethinking Husband Criticism
The other day I was reading a book by Dr. Greg Smalley (a well-known marriage and relationship expert). And in one of the chapters I read this:
A woman’s flattery may inflate a man’s head a little; but her criticism goes straight to his heart, and contracts it so that it can never again hold quite as much love for her. – Helen Rowland
Well, maybe not never, but I wish I would have read this years ago, because it’s so true.
Is there a man that would argue with this?
Ladies- how easy is it to puff up a man’s chest? We all know how to do it and when we do, they soak it in (just like we do when we get complimented). But here’s the difference: when a man is criticized, even about the small things, something changes in him. What changes is not necessarily his confidence in himself, but his confidence in you.
As women, when we’re criticized we immediately try and figure out how to remedy the problem. We jump to conclusions and everything connects to everything… nothing goes unaffected, because in our minds everything is connect. But guys are different. Ever heard the saying, “girls are like spaghetti, and boys are like waffles.”? It’s true. And while a man might not start starving himself and working out 20 hours a week because you comment on his pudgy tummy, like we would, that comment goes to one place; his heart. It’s a compartment of his that he’s trusted you with, a place he’s allowed you to occupy.
The challenge for us– to occupy it well.
If a man values you, enough to love you, you’ve got not only his ear- but more importantly- his heart. Be careful ladies, behind that tough exterior is a soft heart that needs just as much encouragement as yours. (Generally not in the same ways- but it still needs encouragement).
Criticism can bring anyone to their breaking point. But for a man, I think it does something worse. It builds emotional disconnect and distrust. As a woman, you might hold his heart, but if the words you deposit into that compartment are degrading and critical, you might soon find yourself in a relationship with someone who has (without you knowing it) disconnected with you and no longer allows you in.
There’s a song I heard on the radio a few months ago that reminded me how easily a heart can become closed:
It’s a slow fade
When you give your heart away
It’s a slow fade…
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade.
So what should we do?
We should realize that flattery is one thing, and positive encouragement is quite another.
Flattery lasts for a minute, and positive encouragement builds people up.
Pick your battles, not everything is a big deal. Read that again… not EVERYTHING is a big deal.
Let him be a guy, after all, he’s not supposed to be exactly like you.
And develop a filter, before your criticism slowly fades away the capacity for your partner to love you.