Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas
We judge ourselves by our intentions and judge others by their actions. Stephen Covey
Do we see through the eyes of understanding or do we look for the worst in others? Do we ascribe meaning to actions, words, mistakes, thoughtlessness that we wouldn’t attribute to our own actions words, mistakes or thoughtless behavior? Can we see where we go wrong and understand it, but make no room for other people’s errors?
We are probably all guilty of this. We know what we meant is not how they took it, but we meant well. In a book, I picked up on the weekend Happily Married for Life 60 Tips for a Fun Growing Relationship by Larry J. Koenig. The author tells us if we take a quiz and we see our partner in more positive ways than negative our relationship is probably pretty good. If we take the quiz and the negatives out-weight the positives we have a very hard road ahead to make it work. Much of this is perception but we can get to the point that even little things annoy us, like breathing. If this is the case how will we take the mistake of walking on our newly washed wet floor, or forgetting something we think is important, or saying something we deem critical?
One of the things the author tells us is we will not remain in a positive relationship with someone who is critical. We may think our insight (criticism) plus their motivation to change should be what our relationship needs. Maybe it should be, but it doesn’t work.
Criticism, like rain should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots. Frank A. Clark
We cannot afford to get into the habit of criticizing each other. Millions of couples have lousy relationships, and many of them got that way through well-intentioned criticism. How have people who have great relationships learned to handle their spouse’s faults? Chances are they aren’t married to better people, they only handle things better.
If criticizing doesn’t work, and I totally get that it doesn’t even as I am guilty of it. The author tells us first we need to decide what we want. This may be a bit of the “would you rather be right or happy.” He says to write down what you want and be very clear that you know what that is, and that your spouse will understand what it is you want. Then with a positive attitude and a positive expectation ask your spouse for it. If we can do this without getting into the why, and how they haven’t done it for twenty years, we can avoid conflict.
The bible tells us to ask and we shall receive. Often our spouse doesn’t know what we want, we expect them to read our mind and that rarely works. Thinking if they love me they would know, do, realize, or understand doesn’t work.
The key to solving all marital conflict according to the author is to identify and satisfy our spouse’s most pressing needs. The problem with this is we often want to get our own needs met. What needs to happen is at least one partner focuses on the other person’s needs.
Good marriages have one cheerleader, but great marriages have two. Encouragement is a great elixir of love. The more we encourage each other, the more our love will grow. If we are lavish with our encouragement our love will grow accordingly, if we are lavish with our discouragement and criticism our relationships will wither and die. It’s our choice.
How can we encourage someone we love? Can we ask for what we want with a positive attitude and expectation we’ll get it? Can we ask them what they want in a positive way and with a positive expectation we’ll give it?
Can we become an encourager instead of a criticizer?
I have yet to find the man, however, exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism. Charles Schwab
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