- If you must criticise, criticise the act–not your spouse for performing it.One wise couple had developed this principle to a fine art. When the bathroom tap continued to leak for months, the wife complained about the high water bills-never her husband’s laziness in failing to repair it. If his socks remained unmended, the husband commented upon his discomfort when wearing them-never upon his wife’s fault as a housekeeper. Of course, their criticisms of actions diminished over the years, because both were willing to correct conditions called to their attention in flat inoffensive way. Their egos were not involved, so they did not feel it necessary to defend themselves.
What if your husband or wife has shortcomings which require direct correction? Take a tip from corporation executives who have mastered the science of getting the most out of people: Always precede serious criticism with a statement of genuine appreciation for some good quality. You feel both; express both. Don’t speak out only when you have something negative to say.
- Keep disagreements between yourselves.Never carry them outside to in-laws, friends, or neighbours. In every good marriage, the husband and wife always feel free to communicate their innermost thoughts to each other. Often they make statements which, if repeated out of context, would make them appear foolish, vicious, or worse. If you repeat your spouse’s confidential statements and hold him up to ridicule to outsiders he will not speak freely to you again. The precious art of communication will be lost.
Sometimes young wives report quarrels to the husband’s mother or father. They could hardly conceive of a more effective way to feed the flames. The typical husband will be angrier than before when he learns that his wife is trying to align his family against him and angrier still if they agree with her.
- Give in on little things.Because of your particular background, you have stronger convictions about certain aspects of life than upon others. So, too, has your spouse. Considerate partners give in on matters on which their spouses feel much more strongly than they.
One man was taught as a boy that it would hurt his health to sleep during the winter with the window open. His wife had slept with the windows open as a child, but she did not feel strongly on the subject. After marriage, when the question of open or shut windows arose, there could have been a prolonged argument. Disputes over this issue, in fact, have reached the courts in the form of divorce suits. However, the wife wisely recognised that her husband had powerful convictions and she did not care strongly enough to make an issue of it.
A typical husband “blows his top” over trifles. He explodes if his wife misplaces his cuff links or delays dinner a few minutes, or if the teenagers turn up the radio volume while he poures over his newspaper. The wise wife knows that his anger will disappear rapidly if she remains quiet. But if she chooses to dispute him, a full-scale battle may be under way. Even if his anger is completely unjustified, she gets more constructive results by waiting until he can discuss the problem calmly. After their anger subsides, most husbands will admit that they were wrong in losing their tempers.
A humorous story illustrates the point that husbands and wives should remain silent amid the other’s outbursts. An eighty-year old man appeared at a doctor’s office for a check-up. After examining the man from head to toe, the doctor remarked that he was in excellent physical condition.
“One thing is responsible for my good health.” the man explained. “Sixty years ago, when Ellen and I were married, we made a promise to each other. Whenever I got angry, she was to leave the room immediately and do her housework elsewhere. When she got angry, I was to leave the house and take a long walk until she cooled off.
“And, Doc,” the man added “for sixty years I’ve had the greatest outdoor life you ever did see.”
To apply this principle of living in on little things, you must reject the false notion that marriage is a “fifty-fifty proposition”. At times you will demand ninety per cent, whether you are aware of it or not. At other times, you will be asked to give the ninety per cent. But marriage is not a ball game with a score keeper. It does not matter whether you get forty per cent today and sixty per cent tomorrow, or even whether you continually provide more than an exact fifty per cent. The important thing is that your contribution and your spouse’s contribution add up to one hundred per cent.
However, there is a way for you to determine whether you demand too much from your spouse. If you frequently disagree with other people too, perhaps you habitually expect too much and give too little. Occasionally a strong-willed man cannot make or hold friends because he constantly demands his own way. At home, all is tranquillity. This peace is almost always due to the wife’s spirit of self-sacrifice which enables her to bow to him as a matter of course.
- Develop an outlet.As certain as death and taxes is the fact that sometimes you will be frustrated in your marriage. Despite your best intentions, and even when you discuss disagreements in a temperate way, you and your spouse sometimes will fail to see
eye to eye. Perhaps you suppress a deep sense of futility over your spouse’s inability to see a problem from your logical point of view. You feel that you must vent your feelings on something.
For your mental and physical health, work off anger or frustration by engaging in physical activity sweeping the sidewalk, walking to the post office, transplanting your shrubs, washing the car. One man has a wood-working shop in his basement. In moments of frustration, he retires to his shop and pounds boards for hours. Often after such exercise, he can appreciate that his wife’s opinion rests on a logical basis. Whenever problems with her husband reach a stalemate, a certain wife mops the kitchen and bathroom floors; her hard work helps her feel less tense and more willing to view matters from his position.
Whenever you seem unable to settle your problem after a reasonable period of discussion, postpone further talk about it for a while. Attend evening devotions or take a walk together. You will often be surprised at the new outlook you acquire after giving the subject a rest.
- Never let bitterness carry over the night.Even if you cannot agree, give each other the benefit of good intentions. Kiss each other good night. This simple, tender act at the end of each day ensures starting the next one on a loving basis. You will be less inclined to spend a restless night brooding. and often you will awaken with a new understanding of your problem. Moreover, if discussion is renewed it will be on a friendly basis.
It is not always easy to prevent rancour from entering into your disagreements. Habits of name calling, raking over old coals, using sarcasm and ridicule to gain one’s way perhaps must be unlearned. Making progress may be a slow process, But it will be worthwhile. For if you truly follow the principles outlined above and learn to resolve your differences in an atmosphere of affection and mutual respect, you will develop a deeper love for each other than you ever had before.
When serious conflict persists over a long period of time and threatens the stability of the home itself, then a trained marriage counsellor ought to be consulted. Sometimes one of the parties, usually the husband, even when he may be more sinned against than sinning, strongly resists taking his problems elsewhere. But the wise man is never so stiff-necked as to prefer a broken home or an unhappy home to an honest airing of differences before a neutral and skilled listener.