Truth #5: Sometimes the truth hurts, but its necessary

Have you ever had someone tell you the truth? Of course you have, most of the time people tell you the truth, right? But do they always tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I’m sure you can remember a time when someone told you something about yourself you didn’t like and you probably responded with disbelief and defensiveness.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” you said. “She thinks I’m bad, but she needs to take a look in the mirror,” you responded.

Or maybe you admitted to some of your wrongdoing, but minimized it by comparing yourself to someone worse.

You may have justified yourself saying something like, “I might gossip now and then, but at least I know when to keep my mouth shut.”

Developing accurate self-awareness and being able to hear criticism constructively is difficult and a skill that takes time and humility to develop. However, this one skill is perhaps the most important in determining the quality and depth of our relationships. This is especially true within marriage.

Criticism is often one of the most damaging behaviors in a marriage. One or both spouses can develop a critical spirit toward the other, constantly finding something wrong and vocalizing their disapproval or irritation. When left unchecked and unchanged, this negative attitude will drive a wedge between two people who otherwise love each other.

If you’re like me, being unfairly critical is your default mode. And getting defensive when someone criticizes you comes naturally.

Something about me you should probably know is that I’m a natural talker—I’ve been endowed with the gift of gab and I am what psychologists would call highly verbal. I am one of those men who actually talks more than his wife. But she loves it—at least most of the time.

Early on in our marriage, we experienced a lot of change—job changes, having a baby, and moving several times—and I would usually over-analyze every decision I made or even thought about making. I was full of ideas and hope, but also overwhelmed by fear of the unknown. As a result, I would often talk to my wife about everything that was on my mind and try to process my thoughts out loud. Although she appreciated my willingness to share my heart and include her in my thought-process, she would eventually get worn out by my incessant and often unfocused talking.

On more than one occasion she tried to tell me in a loving way that I talked too much and got off track too easily. This made it difficult for her to follow and she felt like I would make my point, then go down another trail and circle back to the same point once again. This is also called “beating a dead horse.”

Initially, when I heard my beautiful bride criticizing my communication style I was devastated and offended. So naturally I had to verbalize my disgust, explaining in detail how I got that way, why I talked so much, and how it bothered me that she didn’t care enough to listen to everything I had to say.

A simple observation and a little constructive criticism from the person I love most in the world easily turned into a fight when I tried to defend myself first before really considering the truth of her words.

By the grace of God I was eventually able to develop the skill of editing my words (at least a little bit) to boil down my thoughts into smaller, more focused discussion. My wife feels more appreciated when I temper my monologues to allow more room for her voice to be heard. Asking questions and really making an effort to listen to her responses has made a huge difference in our communication and our marriage. This would not have happened if my wife didn’t take the time to tell me the truth, even when she knew it would initially hurt my feelings.

Has your spouse ever told you a difficult truth you didn’t want to hear? Is there something your spouse is telling you now that has an element of truth you need to listen to?

Have any other TRUTHS ABOUT MARRIAGE you’ve learned?

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments, on Facebook, or via Email.

This article is an installment in a series The Truth About Marriage. Be sure to check out the rest of it by clicking below.

Series: The truth about Marriage (intro)

Truth #1: The Wedding is NOT the most important day of your marriage, its just the beginning

Truth #2: Laughter is Key to a Healthy Marriage

Truth #3: You SHOULD argue + 3 ways to argue well

Truth #4: Having kids will NOT make you a happy couple

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Truth #3: You SHOULD argue + 3 ways to argue well

Have you ever met someone who claims they never argue with their spouse? Not even when they’re tired or sick or angry? They just get along so well that they never have disagreements.

There’s a scientific term for these couples: liars.

They are either lying—because they do in fact argue but they don’t want you to know that—or one of them is so apathetic about their relationship they don’t care enough to argue.

The truth is if you are married to a human being you will have arguments. They may not all be screaming, crying fights, but disagreements will happen. Differences in your opinions, preferences, and desires—which will change over time—will inevitably lead to arguments.

If you want to have a healthy and satisfying marriage, you SHOULD argue with your spouse.

Arguments don’t always have to turn into fights. You don’t always have to escalate a discussion into a hyper-emotional blowup.

You don’t have to bring up past hurts and failures.

You don’t have to hurt each other with your words.

And you don’t have to win.

Early on in our marriage, my wife and I would often fall into the trap of having arguments late at night. We have always talked to each other a lot and that has been a strength of our marriage; but when you’re highly verbal (like myself) its easy to just sort of stumble into an argument and say whatever comes to mind at the moment.

After allowing our emotions to get the best of us and saying things we didn’t mean, I would push to find some form of final resolution. Finally my wife would say, “can we please just go to sleep and talk about this tomorrow?!” It took me a while, but I finally learned to put the argument on hold and shut my mouth until morning. Sometimes this is still a struggle, but realizing that arguments don’t have to be fully resolved in the same session (or after 9pm) has helped us avoid a lot of hurt.

If you want to make arguments work for instead of against your marriage, you need to learn to argue well.

Here are 3 ways to argue well you can start using today:

  1. Avoid using exaggerated words like “always” and “never”

    You’ve probably heard this one before, but its easy to fall into this trap. Our words matter, especially when speaking to the people closest to us. Words like these always set us up to say something untrue and they never help resolve an argument.

  1. Don’t use zingers

    Whether you call them zingers, jabs, low-blows, or just hurtful insults, you know what they are and you know when you’re using them. Although these will often be unique to your relationship, everyone knows when they are dredging up the past or saying something hurtful just for the sake of hurting. In a heated and emotional argument, the time zingers start flying is the time you need to put the argument on hold and take a break to cool off.

  1. Don’t bring up hot-button issues after 9:00pm

    I don’t know what your bed-time is in your house, but in mine we usually try to be in bed by 10:00-10:30pm. Our kids go to bed between 7pm-8pm, so on a good night that only gives us a couple of hours to be together kid-free. Unfortunately, most of the time we already exhausted from the day and the bed-time routine so we don’t always bring our A-game. During this brief window of time, I like to talk to my wife about whatever is going on in our lives at the time. However, if there is an issue that needs to be addressed and I know its a place of strong disagreement I try my best to keep my mouth shut until a better time of day. I suggest you do the same. Just make sure you set a specific time when you will actually follow up and resolve the issue.

What other ways have you learned to argue well? Share them in the comments, on Facebook, or send me an Email.

Make sure to check out the other posts in this series The Truth About Marriage on tylerjbrooks.com/blog

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Truth #2: Laughter is Key to a Healthy Marriage

When me and my wife first met each other, we first connected through laughter. Well, laughter and just a bit of sarcasm. One of the first things that attracted me to her was her smile and the way she laughed. She tells me she loved my dimples when I smiled. Throughout our relationship—which has had many ups and downs and challenges over the last 7 years—one thing that has made a key difference in our ability to move past hurts and fights and survive difficult circumstances is the ability to laugh together.

Here’s a real-life example that happened very early in our relationship:

I had planned a romantic evening in the city of Pittsburgh for the two of us that was to include a relaxed dinner at a local Italian restaurant, followed by attending a play at Heinz Hall. If I remember correctly, the play was the Nutcracker—which was 100% for her benefit. I’m a bit more adventurous than my wife, but we are both country kids who consider 4 cars following a school bus “heavy traffic.” If you’ve ever had the misfortune of driving in the great city of Pittsburgh, you know that its not exactly easy. There are three rivers that come together right in the middle of the city, so there are bridges and hills and curves and on- and off-ramps everywhere. You can often see where you want to go, but can’t find a way to get there. Oh, and there is ALWAYS construction somewhere. But being the romantic planner I am, I entered a relatively unfamiliar city with my trusty GPS on my dash. “Tom-tom will get us there just fine,” I said. “Just relax babe, it’ll be fine,” I told her. Apparently that particular GPS doesn’t like construction or tall buildings (big surprise) and combined with my increasingly flustered driving, led us on a scenic tour of the downtown area, then several neighborhoods, then back on the highway, then back downtown again. After about 45 minutes of frustration and we’ll call it “loud talking,” we finally reached our restaurant which was conveniently located next to a parking garage. We ate our dinner somewhat quickly, but still enjoyed it. As we left dinner to “simply” drive down the street to the play venue, our frustrations from earlier seemed to flair up again. I could see the playhouse, but among multiple lanes of traffic, pedestrians, buses and various signage, I was unable to easily locate a place to park. My lovely bride suggested I pull into the parking garage “right there,” she said. “Right where?,” I said. To which she responded, “right there, with the big red sign and the giant letters right in front of your face, that says PARK!” That is something we still bring up often whenever one of us doesn’t see something and the other one does and we still laugh about it.

Sometimes we start by laughing at each other, but it usually ends up with us laughing together.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t take things seriously or that we make light of our issues; we just know when our circumstances have us stressed to a point of blowup or breakdown we can opt for a third option by stepping back and laughing at ourselves. Just talking through our issues and struggles honestly while allowing our sense of humor to shine through has enabled us to relieve stress and continue to press on. Especially since having kids, our ability to laugh has been a life saver. I’m sure you’ve heard it said, “someday we’ll look back on this and laugh,” and it was likely in a situation that was stressful or frustrating or just ridiculous. Its important that we actually take that time with our spouse to look back and laugh—by doing this often, we can re-frame our minds and put our past (and current) circumstances in right perspective. The bottom line is this: if you want to have a good marriage, don’t take yourself too seriously and learn to laugh loud and often.

When was the last time you and your spouse laughed until you cried? Share your story in the Comments, on Facebook, or send me an email

*This post is the second installment in the series The Truth About Marriage

Truth #1: The Wedding is NOT the most important day of your marriage, its just the beginning

When I proposed to my wife, everything seemed perfect. We were so much in love and so right for each other that I couldn’t wait to marry her. After only 8 months of dating, I finally popped the question to which I already knew the answer. But then something interesting and unexpected happened—as we started to actually plan the wedding our lives suddenly got stressful! We went from daydreaming about the adventures and babies we would have together, to arguing about flowers, guest lists, and the difference between the colors white and “ivory.” I wanted to be deeply involved in the wedding planning since I was going to be part of the ceremony too, but eventually I realized my wife had thought a lot more about the actual wedding day than I had and honestly, she cared more about it too. After several heated “discussions” we finally decided to relax and agree that if we ended up married at the end of the day we would be happy. At one point prior to this resolution, we were so caught up in the details and planning for the wedding, it started to damage or relationship—which of course was the whole point of the wedding in the first place. We temporarily got off track and we had some really bad fights. 12682856705_6a8f645bc6_b

I’ve seen this happen so often when couples get engaged and start wedding-planning; they start out happy and excited but get sidetracked and stressed out by the details of the day, forgetting that it is merely a drop in the ocean of their new life together.

Your wedding is NOT your marriage; it only signals the beginning of your marriage. Focusing too much on the wedding itself is like worrying so much about sweeping the runway before takeoff that you forget to fuel up the plane—if you’re not mindful of the big picture, it could cost you. So instead of freaking out about the first day of your marriage, why not focus and plan for the rest of the days. Men, let your bride-to-be do and wear what she wants (within reason) and ladies, just try to relax and remember that your marriage won’t be perfect, so your wedding doesn’t have to be either. This will hopefully help you realign your expectations and reduce your stress, keeping you from hurting each other before the big day. If you’re reading this and you’re already married, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Regardless of what your wedding day was actually like, remind yourself continually of why you got married in the first place—because you loved each other and wanted to commit to being together for life.

Do you have any good wedding-gone-wrong stories you would be willing to share? How about another truth that you have learned first-hand?

Let me know in the Comments, on Facebook, or by email

*Keep an eye out for more upcoming truth about marriage in the days and weeks to come!