My mother had a rule when we got married. She told us, "You love them, you married them, and now they are family, so if you don't like something they do tell them, not me." She was strong in her conviction, and I believe it was my mother who helped support my marriage as well as my siblings' marriages more than anyone else. A big mistake many couples face is when they gossip and talk badly about their partner. It causes problems on many levels, including the fact that you begin feeling more negatively about them, and you begin to see more and more derogatory behavior manifested from them. All of sudden you cannot imagine feeling turned on or sexual toward your partner.
When you are talking badly about your spouse, they know it even if you do it when they aren't present. I'm always a bit shocked when girlfriends get together and begin complaining about their husbands. Their complaining may begin as humorous and fun loving, but it doesn't take long before someone begins complaining about years of pent up resentment, and obvious issues that should be dealt with. It may be healing for them to get these feelings off their chest, but probably much more healing to their marriage would be if they calmly sit down and talked to their partner about ways they each could change to address the obvious issues. When you continually talk badly about your partner, they begin feeling that no matter what they do they cannot please you, so they resort to doing and behaving exactly as you say they
do. Words create actions, and although you may think it's harmless banter with your girl or guy friends, it more likely is affecting your marriage in a negative way.
None of this is rocket science, but it seems complex for couples to understand what their words do to their partner. Many of the couples I counsel talk sweeter to their dog and or a stranger than they do to their spouse.
They will attend cocktail parties saying sweet nothings about their dogs, cats or children, but treat their spouse with total disregard and lack of respect. What they don't say with their body language, they usually tell their friends. Your girl/guy friends may be your best friends, but they cannot heal your marriage. You can though by your choice of words, and whom you say
If your marriage has fallen into the trap of talking bad about your spouse, these suggestions may help you turn it around. It's bad enough to have a marriage end due to situations out of your control, but perhaps worse is when your inability to communicate directly to your spouse in a positive way creates someone you cannot love or live with any longer.
1. Men and women are wired differently and that means everything with communication. Tell your partner what you need and want directly. Hinting does not work with men. It has nothing to do with love; it has to do with brain chemistry. The majority of women's resentment seems to come from women not understanding this one major difference.
2. If you want his attention, limit distractions. The majority of men have more difficulty multi-tasking than women do. If you try to talk to him during a game or anything on TV, it is going to be difficult. It has nothing to do with love, but it may have a lot to do with him getting lazy and
feeling defeated. If he thinks a talk is going to be about blaming or criticizing him, he isn't going to want to engage.
3. Before you ever bring up anything negative, begin with what is going well with your partner and the relationship. This is a golden rule with most discussions and relationships. Both men and women need to know they are appreciated in a relationship. If you are at the point in your marriage where you cannot think of one positive thing, then your lack of communicating with your spouse cannot be put off one more day.
4. There is nothing more positive than saying in front of your spouse to someone else how great they are. Be specific with your compliment. Also, tell your spouse in private when they do something that means a lot to you. The majority of husbands I have worked with have a strong desire to please their partner, and they need to know when they do. Being aware of the things each partner does to make the relationship stronger, and commenting on these can change the marital dynamics overnight.
Many TV programs have high ratings due to their ability to express the funny parts of men and women. We laugh at them and they make us feel validated that all men are this way, and all women are that way. The problem lies in a subtle twist of this theme. When you know your partner intimately, and you begin sharing the negative intimate parts of your spouse, it doesn't
matter whom you share it with, it is a form of betrayal. I discourage this among couples. To truly love someone, and be intimate with them, they need to know you will protect their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. If you are sharing their weaknesses with your friends, your partner will most likely retaliate by acting out the loser you make them out to be. Be careful with your words, and focus on building up your partner, rather than using their weaknesses to destroy them and your marriage.
- Mary Jo Rapini
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