This week I reconnected with an old boss. Mark is such a nice guy – always has been, always will be. We were talking marketing and copywriting, had a few laughs and then I made a comment on how he is such an easy going guy to which he replied, "Tell that to my ex wife."
Huh? Mark elaborated – seems after 20 years of marriage, he couldn’t take the criticism any more. Mark felt there was nothing he could do to please his wife. In fact, Mark says his wife’s own brother called her Ms. Impossible." My empathy kicked in here.
Mark went on to tell me that after 5 years of toughing it out alone, he met a wonderful woman walking her dog in the park (another reason to get a dog). They are very compatible and he is often surprised by the fact that she actually likes his silly sense of humor. Alice will tell Mark how funny he is and appreciates his sense of humor among other things.
Mark shared how at first, when Alice complimented him about his jokes, he felt uncertain and might ask her "Really, you thought that was funny?" Does that just grip you in the gut? By the time his wife got through with him, Mark didn’t even know if his jokes were funny or stupid. (I find them funny myself but apparently she told him he was a buffoon) This is a sad statement demonstrating the extent of how shell-shocked Mark was from his marriage.
Now I wasn’t there to see their marital exchanges. Who knows what he did to irritate his wife to this point. But that wasn’t my first thought. My first thought was, "Oh oh, sometimes my husband makes a similar comment – "Nothing I do is good enough for you." I always deny this when it comes up because it’s completely not true from my perspective…. Paul does quite a bit that pleases me. But some how when I criticize him, it becomes this oversized comment that blankets everything he does, even if that is not what I said.
I shared this with Mark, and explained how I try to show my appreciation for all the good things in our marriage. But I couldn’t help feeling a little bit like my radar needs to be elevated to watch myself in this area.
It’s easy to be critical. Nothing gets done as well as when you do it yourself. But, if you don’t want to be BY YOURSELF, sometimes compromise, sensitivity, positioning and empathy are required. So many men are quite sensitive and don’t take criticism well. That doesn’t mean we can’t express ourselves or work to improve something.
However, it does mean that it’s worth taking stock of your language in your relationship.
- How often do you complain to him?
- How often do you criticize him?
- How often do you praise him?
- How often do you simply enjoy the man you are with in the way you did back at the beginning?
Please let me encourage you to take your own inventory. Be honest with yourself, if you start to recognize a pattern of criticism. And if you do find this, reach over and give your guy a kiss and a hug for absolutely no reason except that you have remembered why you love him and how lucky you are to be with such a good man.