Criticism Precedes Crisis

Another predictor of marital mayhem is criticism.  This is different than a good old fashioned lament or complaint.  A criticism is when we take a complaint and turn it into an indictment of another’s personality.  Maybe you are upset that your spouse drinks sodas and lines the cans up on the counter (as opposed to throwing them in the recycling bin).  Suppose I am irritated with my husband about this habit (which is totally bogus because he doesn’t drink soda in a can but work with me).

A criticism might sound like this:  “What is wrong with YOU? Why do you line up these empty soda cans like tin soldiers on my brand new quartz countertop?  Why are you so inconsiderate?”

A complaint on the other hand might go like this:  “I hate the irritated way I react when I come into the kitchen and we have an army of soda cans lined up on the countertop. I need us to find a better way to honor our desire to recycle without leaving the cans on the counter for days.”

See the difference?  Option one accuses, option two admits stuff (true stuff) about myself and expresses what I need.

In healthy marriages there is plenty to complain about but spouses are careful to not criticize.  This is a skill set we can learn and practice.

When I spoke to a couple recently and suggested this principle the wife rolled her eyes and said something like this.  “For God’s sake, don’t be such a pansy. There is nothing wrong with telling someone who is a dumba** that they are one.”  All I can say is this response is indicative of a future marital parting of the ways.

There is a healthy way to complain about something without criticizing.  What would work in your situation?