One thing I struggle with in my marriage is accepting suggestions and constructive criticism from my husband. It’s often such simple things, but I take them to heart and take his words to mean way more than they do.
Back in our newlywed days, he once said, “Honey, the next time you go to the store can you please get some good cereal?”
Here’s how I processed those words: Good cereal? That must mean he thinks the cereal I buy is bad. He doesn’t like the way I grocery shop. What else doesn’t he like about me?
Insecurity has a way of getting us to make up stories and lies in our heads that we unknowingly come to accept and believe. I know this now, but I didn’t know it then. Even still, I struggle with it sometimes.
I realize that when my husband made that statement, he wasn’t criticizing me or my grocery shopping abilities, he just wanted different cereal. We joke about it now because I (still) try to buy healthy cereal, but he loves the sugary sweet kids’ cereals. That’s his definition of good cereal.
It’s hard to take suggestions or criticism from our spouse sometimes. It’s easy to take it personally and make up those stories in our heads. But here’s a few things we can do to make it easier:
- Be secure in your relationship: Remember that your spouse is a safe person. He/she loves you and chose you to be their life partner. It’s not easy to hear tough words from him/her sometimes, but it will help you and your marriage grow.
- Don’t read into the words: When your spouse asks if you can do something differently, don’t dig for a deeper meaning to the words. That’s where we come up with those crazy thoughts in our heads. Ask your spouse if there’s more to it and if there’s not, move along.
- Try to use PNP: When you make a suggestion or need to give constructive criticism to your spouse, use a positive, negative positive. This strategy helps you say what you need to say, wrapped with affirmation. In my cereal example, you could say, “Honey, I really appreciate you doing the grocery shopping. The next time you go, could you please get me some good cereal/cereal that I like. Thanks so much for doing that.” This small change can help those of us who struggle with insecurity feel a little more secure when our spouse makes a request.
- Use it as a catalyst for change and growth: We often grow through coaching and conflict. If your spouse brings up something deeper that you need to consider changing or doing differently, use it as a point of self-reflection, but not condemnation.
- Remember that you are enough: You’re not perfect because no one is, so stop trying to measure yourself against that unrealistic standard. Be confident in who you are and your strengths and gifts. Focus on the things you do well instead of the things you don’t. When you learn to live with this belief, you’ll find it easier to work through suggestions and accept criticism from your spouse.
- Don’t take it personally: There are so many little issues that come up all the time in marriage. Don’t make mountains out of molehills. When you husband asks you to get good cereal, put it on the list and move along with the day.