“I should have listened to your father when he said you
couldn’t cook. You are terrible,” the
husband exclaimed as he stormed toward the front door.
“All you ever do is sit in your chair and watch TV. You are
so lazy,” she said with exasperation.
I could go on and on with criticisms that I’ve heard both
men and women make about their spouses. What
happened to that promise to love and to cherish til death do us part? With our lips we exchange I love you’s, but
in the same breath we curse our spouses.
Why do we do this?
John Gottman identified criticism as one of the Four
Horsemen of the Apocalypse that trample marriages. We all know that whoever said, “Sticks and
stones may break my bones, but words they never hurt me,” was a liar. Words hurt.
Once said, we can’t take them back. The damage is done. Why then do we think it’s acceptable to slander
the one person we should love the most?
Whenever our spouse criticizes us, we our defenses
rise. We lash back or we retreat – fight
or flight. When this pattern continues
repeatedly over time, marriages begin to crumble. Each partner is reticent to be vulnerable for
fear that their partner will later use weaknesses as ammunition. In the Bible, James
put it this way, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire
by a small spark. The
tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts
the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set
on fire by hell.” Criticism
starts with a word (the match) and grows until it ignites into fires that
destroy the marital relationship.
Make a commitment today to guard your
tongue. When you fall into the trap of
criticism, apologize immediately – if you don’t your spouse may ruminate on your
words and as they fester, the damage multiplies.