May 11, 2011

Unnecessary Criticism: Why we do it ; How to stop it

Unnecessary Criticism: Why we do it ; How to stop it

Being married involves having to deal with critical remarks from time to time. However, if this is happening too frequently or the comments seem unreasonable, there may be a problem. Unnecessary criticism which is excessive can be destructive and create long term grudges that are difficult to resolve. Today we're going to talk about unnecessary criticism, why we do it and offer some tips to help us stop.                                                               

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Unfortunately, many folks  have unrealistic ideas about marriage. One of the most problematic is the idea that  a marriage is fully formed the moment the couple says "I do".   Psychologically, many folks don't fully appreciate the enormity of the task of going from a single individual to a  married couple. The fact is that it takes a lot of effort and years of practice for two people to go from being two individuals who live together to becoming  an actual couple. This work is necessary because what works for a single life, works against marital cooperation.  The love that brings us together is not the love that keeps us together. Passionate desire is selfish and based on similarity. Mature love is a love that exist in spite of differences.  In order for a marriage to be harmonious, passion must be transformed into passion plus..  i.e. plus consideration. 

Three Obstacles  Specifically, until a relationship attains a significant degree of cohesiveness, mutual trust and acceptance, three natural aspects of being single interfere with having a harmonious relationship :
1) Differences are experienced  as faults which need to be corrected.          
2) Unexpected behavior is perceived as threatening , i.e. that which need to be attacked and/or controlled
3) The focus of concern is selfish and not about the relationship .  

These factors explain why unnecessarily critical comments are so common during the early years of married life. Unfortunately, early marital complaining can harden into life-long patterns of negativity unless it is addressed. Assuming that serious mental disorders are not present, unnecessary criticism is often a symptom of a marriage that has not yet jelled into a true partnership.  Jelling requires that both individual make some major transformations. If we understand the changes that need to be made we have a map to guide our journey.

Necessary Individual Transformations

  • To Reduce Unnecessary Criticism in Marriage 
  • Going  From Needing  Sameness and Control To the Acceptance of Differences
  • From Blaming your partner   To taking Personal Responsibility for your part.                                                                    
  • From Domination by one  To Equality   (You're Not the Boss of me.)
  •  From Narcissism   To Empathy and Concern for the needs of the other and partnership.  

Tips and Questions to Ask to Help Make the Transformations        

Here are some helpful questions and suggestions which can help with the transformational process or repair a process that has broken down :
 
1. Be Aware of your motivation before speaking : Ask yourself questions:  Why do you want to criticize?  Are you angry ? Am I being selfish ?  Are you blaming and not taking personal responsibility?  Are you considering your partner's point of view ?  

2. Get Perspective: Ask: Is my complaint legitimate ?  How serious is the problem ? Is the issue worth the toll it will take on your relationship?  Follow the 95/5 rule.  (In marriage, make 95% of your comments positive and only 5 % negative)                                                                                                             

3. Don't attack, Use I-statements;  Say what you saw/heard, felt and want. (Keep that focus on your experience not comments about your partner.)                                                            

4. "Criticize" through Positive Reinforcement : (e.g., I really liked it when you ... did X.)

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC prepared these remarks for Bridge Street 5 11 2011.

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