“I feel like all you do is critique me,” my husband has said on numerous occasions over the last twelve years.
While my intentions have never been to criticize him, my words communicated something different. To him, it felt like nagging, and no one enjoys being nagged.
With some self-reflection and the help of a few good counselors, I realized he was right. I was in fact criticizing my husband, and over somewhat meaningless matters no less. What I called “helping” was actually me trying to get him to do things the way I thought they should be done.
By suggesting he load the dishwasher a different way, or park in a certain spot, or store his tools in a different place, I was communicating to him his way was wrong and my way was right. This made him feel controlled and disrespected by me, which led to bitterness and him pulling away emotionally. What I chalked up as “a bad mood” was actually the result of my criticism. My nagging was helping to build a wall between us.
When I stopped criticizing my husband and took the time to watch and listen and learn from him, I saw that his way of doing things was perfectly fine. Heck, sometimes it’s even better than mine. I don’t need to get my husband to change the way he loads the dishwasher. Even if I did, even if the issue wasn’t the dishwasher but a major life decision, criticizing others is not a healthy way to bring about change. It cuts down their self-worth and fails to recognize the good they bring to the relationship.
I’ve come to learn that what they say about not sweating the small stuff is actually true. By opening myself up to a different way of doing things, we’re building a more understanding and compassionate relationship.