It is easy to be critical in marriage. The longer you know someone and the more intimate you are with a person, the easier it is to know all of his/her faults, shortcomings, and insecurities. But for some, criticism seems to be their default mode. Most people don’t set out with the intent of being constantly critical of their mate, and sometimes there is a genuine effort to help one’s mate be a better person. But we forget that unending criticism can destroy any relationship. (Please note that I am not talking here about addictive and destructive behaviors that need to be addressed in a decisive and proactive manner, but rather criticism that springs out of normal daily conversations and routines.) If couples aren’t careful, husbands and wives can nit-pick and critique each other so much that they forget how to praise each other. And when that happens, at worst resentment and hostility build-up, and at best there is a cold distance that grows up between spouses.
I recognize that I need to know when I’m doing something that annoys my wife. But I can take hearing those things much better when she is also intentional about also telling me why she loves me. This is not just a matter of tokenly saying something “nice” to your spouse from time to time. It is intentionally creating an environment in your marriage and in your home that communicates love, intimacy, and safety. When praise and appreciation is the default environment in your relationship, the occasional criticism stings a whole lot less.
If you’ve been living in a critical and antagonistic marriage, you can change it. The longer you’ve been stuck in that default, the longer it will take to turn it around, but it can be done. If you feel like your marriage is currently in a good place, intentional praise can make it better. Regardless of your current situation, take the following challenge this week. Keep a running list of things your spouse does that you appreciate, no matter how small or insignificant they seem: things that he/she does for you daily that you might normally just take for granted, things that make you smile, things that make you feel safe, things that make you feel special, things that make you laugh, things that serve you in some way. Be sure to write it down. It means significantly more and is easier to remember if you write it down rather than try to keep up with it in your head.
At the end of the week, sit down and share with your spouse what she/he did that you appreciated. You’ll be amazed at what it will do for your marriage to have a concentrated time of appreciating and being appreciated. Then, do it again next week. And the next. And the next. As you intentionally create a “house of praise” you eventually won’t need a set, special time to sit down and appreciate each other. It will just flow naturally.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
What is God calling you to in your marriage?
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