“Men marry women with the hope they’ll never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.” ~ Albert Einstein
Are you willing to change to make your relationship happier?
This is a question we don’t often ask ourselves as we work so hard to change our partner into the person we want them to be…
However, asking for loving feedback and mindfully considering constructive criticism from your partner about your own behavior can dramatically improve your relationship.
If someone asked you what three things you’d like to change about your partner right now, you’d have a list ready.
Guess what? They do, too.
And if you don’t understand why they’re not willing to modify their behavior for you, maybe it’s time to consider why you’re not open to changing to please them.
Dr. John Gottman, arguably the world expert on healthy marriages, identified what he calls the “Four Horsemen”—negative behaviors which undermine relationships. One of the Horsemen is Defensiveness, a form of self-protection.
“I’m not defensive!”
When you lash out at a valid critique from your partner, you do nothing to solve the problem at hand. In fact, you create a separate bone of contention with your defensive behavior.
Defensiveness is deflecting any blame for a particular situation. And if you aren’t taking any of the blame, there’s only one person left: your partner.
So when he says you are always late (and you know you are), you point out that he waited around for you so it’s his fault for not pushing you to be on time… or perhaps she says you always leave your dirty clothes on the floor, and you retort that if the washing basket was empty, you’d have somewhere to throw them…these are great examples of defensiveness. You blame the other for something you did.
When you’re in a defensive mindset it’s hard to appreciate the ridiculousness of those statements. Your mind is in defensive mode, not rational mode.
What you get in those situations is two disagreements for the price of one—and maybe one of you will be sleeping on the couch for the night!
How to Ask for Constructive Criticism
There is a positive way to ask for feedback, one that doesn’t leave you open to attack or trigger your defensive tendencies. This method shows your partner you are willing to adjust your behavior to make them happier.
And when you model this kind of behavior, they are more likely to return the favor… and in turn, your relationship will prosper.
#1: Choose the right moment.
Right after work, while he’s watching his favorite program, or when you’re in the midst of an argument are not good times to ask for constructive criticism. He’ll be rushed, distracted, or suspicious of your intentions.
Choose a relaxing moment, free of distractions, to ask him how you can be a better partner or make his life with you more enjoyable.
#2: Listen with an open mind.
Your first reaction is likely to do just that—react. However, you’ve just asked your spouse to dig deep and tell you something difficult, something that is lacking in your relationship. This is not easy for anyone, even if they are 100% justified in saying it.
Listen to what they have to say without excuses, reasons, or accusations. They’re telling you something which bugs them and how you can make it better. This deserves your undivided attention.
#3: Verbally acknowledge what they said.
You don’t have to commit to a change right then and there. In fact, it is probably better if you take some time to think about what your spouse has said. However, it is very important that you acknowledge you heard them and appreciate their honesty.
Make them feel heard, tell them you’re going to think on it, and leave the conversation with a loving, physical gesture which says you are not mad.
How could you be? Your partner just told you a way you can make them happier, and it is in your power to change. They’ve given you the key to their happiness!
Now all you have to do is make their dreams come true.
“The trouble with most of us it that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
May the Love be With You
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