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