Price: Look for the good in your spouse
I think I am finally getting used to the fact that I am a published author. My first book, "PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work" has been out since October, and I have heard some very gratifying comments that it is having a positive impact in people's lives. I am currently working on "PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home." I hope to have that book released in April. Today’s column is chapter two of that book.
Chapter 2: Look for the good — seek and you will find?
Sandwich every bit of criticism between two layers of praise. — Mary Kay Ash
Please stop what you're doing and get a pen and some paper. OK, now jot down two or three criticisms of your mate. Just take a moment (by the way the official definition of a moment is 90 seconds) and list two or three of his or her imperfections. Alright, now that you've done that, take the same pen and paper and write down two or three of your mate's positive qualities. List two or three aspects of him or her which you find noteworthy and commendable.
I’m curious. Which list was easier to compile? I guess that depends on the overall quality of your marriage. If your marriage is good and you're happy together, the second list was likely the easier, although the first list is always doable.
Please know the first mistake you made in getting married was that you married a human being who, by definition, is going to have faults and who is going to do things that annoy you at times. Unless he or she married someone other than a human, you might not want to be too quick to pass judgment.
I appreciate the Zig Ziglar quote, "Some people do really find fault like there's a reward for it." It's so easy to find fault and so many of us do. What's ironic, however, is that those times when we are most critical are usually the times we're most upset with ourselves. You've got to live with yourself and your thoughts so you can only tolerate so much self-abuse and criticism. After a time, you're going to naturally look for another outlet to blame for your state of being upset. All too often that other outlet is going to be your spouse or perhaps your children.
That may be a common and normal practice, but it's not right, and it's certainly not conducive to healthy marriage or family. I watched a video performance by the Peculiar People drama group called "Repentance" that makes a great point in a comical way. A husband tells his wife he wants to discuss the sermon they heard in church that morning. The wife agrees, but then he asks her to go first. The message of the sermon was repentance, and he suggested they should start their conversation with her telling him what she needed to repent of.
Needless to say, the conversation did not get off to a good start. The wife got justifiably upset that he would try to railroad her into admitting her faults and she took great offense. They then go on to point out each other's need for repentance and the conversation gets ugly and loud.
Finally, the husband has a change of heart and admits that he really wanted to have the conversation so he could repent, but it was difficult for him to do so. He apologizes for starting the conversation by putting pressure on her, and he offers a sincere, heartfelt expression of regret for the way things are going in their marriage. He acknowledges his anger and the destructive impact it has had on her and their children.
The wife’s reaction is heartwarming. Rather than continuing to jump his case, she softens and accepts his apology with humility. She then begins to list some of her faults and relates what she has done to steal the joy from their relationship. They stop attacking each other and begin to encourage and lift each other up — which, by the way, is what married folks are supposed to do.
We live in a rude world, and we're used to people putting us down or disappointing us in some way. Home is supposed to be the place where each one is appreciated, believed in, supported and valued. When you get criticized and put down at home, the pain goes deep and the resentment even deeper.
So what am I saying? That you should never tell your mate when something he or she is doing is upsetting you? Not a chance. But I'm certain you've learned by now that there is a right way and a wrong way to express your displeasure. The former is likely to result in voluntary behavior adjustment. The latter in World War 7,235.
Be sure to read the chapter in Section Three where I describe the XYZ technique. You will learn how to voice criticisms in a manner that will be well received and addressed. In the meantime, let me challenge you to throw away your list of faults and add to your list of positive attributes. It wouldn't hurt to spend a few moments each day looking over that list remembering why you chose to marry him or her in the first place.
I heard a keynote speaker state that "Love in Greek means look for the good." I'm certainly not a Greek scholar, but I don't think she's correct. I do appreciate the thought, though. To deepen and solidify the love in your home, why not spend some time looking for the good and expressing appropriate gratitude to and for your spouse and children? My hunch is you'll be well pleased with the results.
Chapter Challenge: Take an honest look at your marriage and yourself. Do you put unrealistic expectations on your spouse and children and then get upset with them when they fail to live up to those expectations? Do you tend to focus more on their negative qualities than on their positive ones?
At your first opportunity, apologize and tell your spouse and children you want to do differently. If you're brave, you can enlist their help and ask them to fine you $5 every time you slip back into an old behavior pattern.
Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners. He can be reached at 505-327-7870 and firstname.lastname@example.org.