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Criticism and Giving Orders

  • November 25th, 2005 by Pastor Darryl Curtis   |  0 Comments

There are two habits of speech that most spouses would like to see removed from their spouses’ manner of speaking.

1.  Criticism – Being someone’s spouse does not give a person the right to criticize, or to speak in a critical tone. A person should be as polite to their spouse as they are to anyone else with whom they come into contact. In fact, the amount of conversation that a person has to have with their spouse would logically dictate that they speak more politely to their spouse than anyone else. It is almost impossible to get a positive response from a person that you regularly criticize, even if that person is your spouses. Criticism includes cutting remarks or “jokes” about personal habits or deficiencies.

  • a.  If there is an issue that you want to address with your spouse, you should do so in a matter of fact, objective, dispassionate manner, giving your spouse your position in a factual way, rather than an emotional one, focusing on the specific behavior that you would like to see modified, rather than on the personal characteristics of your spouse.
  • b.  You may find, once you have made your factual, dispassionate case, your spouse may choose not to change the behavior that you have addressed. Your spouse may not agree that he or she has the personal deficiency that you consider them to have, or your spouse may not agree that the characteristic that you have pointed out is a personal deficiency. In either case, the choice as to whether or not to change is the choice of the person with the issue.
  • c.  Once you have addressed an issue with your spouse, should you find that your spouse is not currently interested in changing the personal issue that you perceive that they have, constantly criticizing (nagging and becoming nasty) is rarely effective in changing their mind. People generally do not consider themselves “fixer-uppers”, like a house that needs repairs. If your objective, dispassionate conversation does not convince your spouse to change, you will generally find it counterproductive to endeavor to bully or manipulate your spouse into changing. Your spouse is an adult who can, and will, decide their actions for themselves.
  • d.  It is of utmost importance that you recognize that the only person over whom you have control is yourself. Other people, including your spouse, are not on the earth simply to follow your instructions or to provide you pleasure, but would exist whether or not you were in their lives. People do not have to change because you want them to do so. You will find that most personal characteristics of others can be adapted to with some effort, if you have the correct attitude about the autonomy of other people, including a spouse.

2.   Giving Orders – Being a spouse does not give a person the right to give their spouse orders. While it is in order to make requests of a spouse, most spouses do not take kindly to being given orders. This is especially true of a husband receiving orders from his wife. A request, in an appealing tone, with a dispassionate explanation of the need for the request, will work much better than an order given in a preemptory tone. If you find that your spouse does not agree with your suggestion to perform a certain action, you will find that giving them an order to do so makes them less amenable to your desire, not more so. Always, always, always remember that your spouse is not your child, and does not take kindly to being given the level of direction that a child would receive.

  • a.  One spouse often has a different way of doing things than another. This difference may be the result of a different upbringing or a different way of looking at things. In most cases, especially those that do not involve immanent bodily harm, there is more than one acceptable way to do anything. Simply because your spouse does not do things the way that you would do them does not mean that your spouse is wrong, but only that he or she is different. Your spouses’ way may take longer or involve more work or be more risky than your way, but if your spouse wants to take more time or do more work or take more risk, that is their prerogative. Always remember that, in most cases, your way is not the “right” way, but simply the way that you prefer. Your spouse is entitled to his or her preference even as you are entitled to yours.
  • b.  In situation comedies and television commercials, husbands are sometimes portrayed as unlearned buffoons cowering under the direction of their wives, with no leadership qualities to assert. This portrayal is created and exaggerated to amuse the largely female audience, many of whom may feel dominated by their husbands in real life. It is generally a poor idea to think that sitcom roles are realistic, and to then try to translate the roles of the sitcom family into an actual family situation. In real life, women generally cannot dominate men as they do on sitcoms, and when women forget that they are not on television and try to mimic the actions that they see on television, they usually end up with negative repercussions. It would be more useful if women saw “Everybody Loves Raymond” in the way that children see cartoons, because neither “Everybody Loves Raymond” nor the Saturday morning cartoons portray real life.
  • c.  Consider that your style of speaking may be the cause that your husband generally spends his evenings at home away from you in the workshop, or in front of the television watching sports, or somewhere in the house where you are not. Men generally prefer not to be around women who feel the need to criticize and give orders, whether or not they live in the same house with them and are married to them.

We should examine our personal propensities to engage in these two forms of communication and curtail our use of criticism and giving orders as much as possible should we actually desire to grow in closeness and fellowship with our spouse. Before you speak to your spouse, think about these questions:

“Is what I am about to say going to make my spouse love me more or less?
Would I like to be on the receiving end of the communication that I am about to give?”

If the answer is that what you are about to say is going to make your spouse love you less and you would not want to have your spouse speak to you in the manner that you are about to speak to your spouse, you might want to reconsider your style of communication.

Pastor Darryl Curtis
Family Life Baptist Church

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