I caught myself doing it again. The negativity was hard to shake and I had to make a conscious effort to tell myself otherwise…
Your inner narrative/voice is such a powerful thing! It dictates the way you love yourself, and how you love others – including your spouse. For those of us who allow the negative commentary to take hold and fuel our actions or lack of action altogether, it can be a difficult weight to carry mentally on a daily basis.
Did you know that having a critical parent directly influences our own relationship with criticism? Makes sense right, but there are so many of us who never make the connection or maybe just don’t know how to in the first place. I grew up with a highly critical parent, and I’m still working through the effects of this.
As a parent myself now, it’s more important for me than ever that I explore why I do things the way that I do them, if I am to create an environment where my daughter can experience the balance that I didn’t have growing up.
If you can also relate to coming from a place of criticism, then you may find it helpful to take note of the following ways that having a critical parent goes on to influence our own relationship with criticism, and our marriage as a result:
Be the type of person that you want your spouse to be to you
You might need to repeat that again! It’s far too easy to point out the flaws of your husband or wife, and jump on them when it seems they aren’t meeting your expectations yet again. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t raise any issues and just accept any old behaviour, but it requires a shift in your perspective for you to consider what kind of a spouse you are to them. Are you meeting their expectations? Have you stopped to ask them if you are? Would you feel comfortable if your partner was treating you the way that you are currently treating them?
Anything that you expect from your spouse should also be something that you expect from yourself. Respect, kindness, affection, quality time… all of these things need to start with you and the way that you treat yourself, which will then better influence the way that you treat your spouse.
Stepping back and considering where you stand can be a great way of reducing the tendency to criticise, and instead open up ways for you to encourage and affirm the things that you appreciate about your partner. When was the last time you told your husband or wife what you love about them? We need to hear these things regularly in our marriage to maintain a loving dynamic between both people. You’d be amazed how words of affirmation can soften even the hardest of hearts…
Understand that perfectionism isn’t necessary for success
When you’ve spent the majority of your childhood being told that there is a standard that you are still yet to reach, is it any surprise that we fall into self-criticism and perfectionism? From your educational milestones, to the way you speak to others, to the way you dress – growing up in a critical home will put you on edge to constantly want to exceed expectations.
You were made to feel as though this was unachievable as a child, so you end up adopting your own unrealistic measuring stick for success, and carrying it with you through life long after your parents are no longer solely responsible for you.
The sad reality is that so many of us then go on to pass this same mentality on to our children, often without even realising.
You need to break the habit of praising yourself for perfectionism. The problem with being a perfectionist is that perfect doesn’t exist! We are wearing ourselves thin trying to reach a bar that won’t stop rising, and it’s detrimental to our peace of mind and wellbeing. I am someone who loves to do things well, and I can sometimes be overly analytical to the point where I get in my own way. Lack of perfection makes you unique and most importantly, it makes you human. The more you are able to accept and embrace this for yourself, the less restricted your spouse will feel by your constant drive to “have it all together” all the time. Despite what society often portrays, none of us always have it all together. Not one person. So please know that you are far from alone!
Don’t let your inner critic have free-reign
Many of us walk around with a constant flow of negativity and criticism that we never think to stop and address. The more freedom we allow our inner critic, the quieter our inner voice becomes until eventually we can hardly hear who we truly are… Criticism requires examination. For example, if you are scrolling through social media and you see a particular person post something and find yourself attacking them with your negative thoughts and criticism, that is an issue. Rather than continuing to scroll down your feed and onto the next “victim”, stop in that moment and ask yourself why you feel so strongly towards this person.
When we are conscious of how critical we are towards ourselves, our spouse and others outside of our marriage, we create opportunities to be more intentional about meeting criticism with affirmation.
When you experience that shift in mindset and keep your inner critic in check, your marriage will be better for it. I’m truly speaking from experience, as for a long time this critical streak was feeding into the way I would treat my husband – often without me even realising! That’s not to say that I still don’t battle with this, but having an understanding of this very real issue has given me the tools to make space for an inner narrative that speaks life.
Learn to affirm your children
We mirror what we know, and for those of us who have a tendency to criticise, affirmation definitely takes more work. We are the perfect examples of how homes with even one highly critical parent can influence our mindset to do the same, so this should make us even more intentional to address these issues to prevent the cycle continuing with our own children.
Yes its okay to want the best for your children, and to want to instil in them a drive to succeed, but what matters more than anything is how you go about this. If you aren’t stopping to affirm them in the little things, but instead seem to always be finding ways to help them “be and do more” then this can easily set them up on the same path to fall into consistent self-criticism and perfectionism as adults.
We need to be reminding our children that it’s okay to be human; it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to have off-days, and it’s okay to have days where you feel like you would just rather have some cuddles with mum and dad for reassurance.
Put criticism in it’s rightful place in your relationship
Criticism by itself is not a bad thing, but if it is all that your relationship seems to consist of right now then you need to make a conscious change. We need to be able to criticise our own actions as well as others, but not to the detriment of who we are.
Criticism can break a person, but it can also inspire positive change if shared with love.
Even though criticism can be hard to hear, it says a lot about the dynamic between spouses when we can get past the defensive reaction and recognise that the other person is coming from a place of love. We should know when something is being said to tear us down or build us up.
If you feel like there has been more tearing down lately either from you, your spouse or both sides, then you need to look at this and try and get to the root of the issue. Clearly something has changed or been triggered to land you both in a more hostile place in your marriage. The “why” is always key, and when you peel back the layers of criticism, there is always a point of vulnerability usually relating to a perceived weakness that we are trying our best to keep hidden. The concerning thing about this is that we often don’t even know that there is a deeper issue until we stop to dig deeper, and instead stay at each others throats until the love is completely choked from the marriage.
A negative inner voice can be one of the most destructive influences that is bringing you down, and you may not even be aware of it! If someone made you wear headphones to listen to someone constantly telling you everything that’s wrong with you and others, would you keep listening? The hard truth is that so many of us keep listening for years if not decades…
I recently started using affirmation cards, and I can’t recommend them highly enough! I’ve started using them across the past few days with my morning devotions, and it’s amazing the difference that it has made to my mindset throughout the day. On more than one occasion, the affirmation I have read in the morning returns to mind through the day, and it is literally food for your thoughts that I know my mind has been craving for a long time now.
You may not be in charge of the thoughts that come into your mind, but what you do have control over is how you continue with those thoughts. It’s all about how we feed our minds, and if we feed the negativity then it shouldn’t surprise us when criticism starts to take over. In these moments, we need to meet the negativity with positivity. There is a text in the bible that says:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” -Romans 12:21
This is how we find true peace of mind and learn how to speak life to ourselves and others. Your very actions begin with your thoughts, so you need to stop underestimating how powerful your mindset truly is!
Allowing your mind to constantly run a playlist of negativity through each day can be exhausting, and can have a lasting mental impact on the way you live and love. Use the following questions to journal your thoughts and to encourage more positivity in your marriage:
- When was the last time you affirmed your spouse? How does this make you feel?
- When was the last time you affirmed yourself? How does this make you feel?
- When was the last time someone affirmed you for who you are? How does this make you feel?
- Why do you think that it’s easier to criticise others than to appreciate them?
- What do you think your marriage would look like if there was more positivity shared? What can you do practically to start making this a reality?