The Healthy Family Connections Podcast
Episode 111 · Duration: 00:10:37
Don’t Have A Relationship “Fender Bender”
What do you do when no matter all the good things you do, your wife constantly criticizes you?
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And if during this month of June, your question is selected, or you leave a review of HFC on iTunes, we’ll send you a free copy of my book, Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle. Of course, be sure to email me your address so we can get that to you.
Today we’re hearing from Jayden of St. Louis, MO.
And Jayden writes:
We’ve been married for 8 years and things are getting harder and harder between us. My main issue is that my wife is constantly critical of me. Everything that I don’t put away is a major issue. If I feed the kids something she doesn’t want them to have, another major problem. The issues are endless, things I buy, work I haven’t done on the house. It feels like I can’t do anything right for her.
I’m in sales and travel one week a month, but other than that, I’m an involved dad. All my income goes to the family. I don’t drink excessively and except for going to the gym a few times a week and work, all my time is devoted to the family. I try to get my wife to see that she needs to back off, but she doesn’t see it. We’re getting farther and farther apart and I can see this ending in divorce, but that’s not what I want. I love my wife and she’s a great mom and a good person. How can I get her to calm down and not make mountains out of molehills?
Thanks for your question Jayden and let’s see what we can do for you here.
An Overview of The Situation
You’re describing your wife as a competent mother and a good person yet critical of you and making mountains out of molehills. You want her to back off and not make such a big deal over small things, and let you parent without micromanaging your parenting. You try to get her to see she’s overreacting, but it isn’t working.
And you’re wondering what’s wrong, after all, you’re a great guy who isn’t doing anything obviously destructive, it’s all just little stuff. So what’s the big deal?
The good news here Jayden is that you’re married to someone you love and respect. That’s fabulous and a great foundation. Now how will we change directions from farther and farther apart and ending in divorce to closer and closer together, and being a successful couple and an intact family?
How to Avoid a "Fender-Bender"
Jayden, think about this for a second. What do you think your wife is feeling when you tell her that the things she’s upset about are no big deal and she should mellow out?
I’ll tell you what she’s feeling. She’s feeling judged and criticized when she wants to feel heard and supported.
I know you want to tell me that’s what you’re feeling too. So why should she get her way and you not get yours?
Well Jayden, it goes like this. When your wife brings something up, she has the “right-of-way”, just like the car in the intersection. If you come up to an intersection and a car moves into it, they have the right of way, right? It’s the same with relationships. If someone brings something up, they have the right of way and what that means is, the other person has to help them through the intersection.
So let’s say your wife tells you, even if she tells you in an upset way, that you need to pick up your things left around the house. Okay, she’s entered the intersection and it’s your job to help her through. You don’t know why she’s asking that of you. Maybe she spent several hours straightening and your things are the last things she needs done to feel complete. Maybe she’s been picking up after the kids all day and is frustrated and tired of picking up after everyone. You don’t know and you don’t necessarily need to know. Just assume there’s a reason and it’s not that she wants to micro-manage or control you. If you respond with “sure sweetheart”, and pick your things up or even if you say “I’m in the middle of something, darling, and will absolutely take care of it in 20 minutes”, that will be fine too.
If on the other hand, she says you need to pick up your things and you say, “What’s the big deal; you have your things out too.” Well then you’ll have a relationship fender bender, fighting over whether or not your wife has the right to ask you to pick up your things or not.
And even if you think you’re right, just like with your car, even if you think you should have the right-of-way, better to cede it than have a fender bender.
Jayden, it’s as if you have the domino theory of your relationship that if you do what your wife asks, you’ll have to spend more and more time doing exactly what she wants exactly when she wants it. It’s not that way at all.The two of you share space, children, finances, resources and more so there are going to be a gazillion little things that come up and you are going to want to respond as positively and supportively as possible to your wonderful partner.Click To Tweet
The two of you share space, children, finances, resources and, more so, there are going to be a gazillion little things that come up and you are going to want to respond as positively and supportively as possible to your wonderful partner. That’s what’s going to help her feel loved, safe, and supported and ironically, because she can rely on you being thoughtful and responsive to her needs, she’ll worry about it less, not more when you are doing things differently than she would prefer.
How to Handle Criticism and Move on a Healthy Path Forward
What I’ve just offered you is good sound advice, so what’s going to make it hard for you to follow it? Jayden, you hear things as criticism and react negatively to criticism. Why is that, you might ask?
Here are a few circumstances that might have created that:
- You grew up in an environment where you were criticized and made to feel you can’t do anything right.
- Or you grew up in an environment where you were a star and were made to feel that everything you did was special.
- Or you grew up in an environment where there was little structure or support and you learned to be successful by figuring things out on your own. Now sharing how and when things get done is a whole new model.
I’m not sure which of these applies best to you Jayden, but by thinking that your wife is the problem because she’s too demanding is letting yourself off the hook.
Work at helping her feel supported and rewarded for bringing things up to you and then see what happens. Right now you and she are in a negative cycle leading as you put it, to divorce. I recommend you listen to my earlier podcast titled, “The Hidden Relationship Killer”. That can help you see the power of negative patterns and the importance and some skills for recognizing and changing them.
If you can get yourself to change your attitude and change your behavior, my bet is that you and she will be closer and happier.It’s too easy to take what our partner asks of us, or even their criticisms of us and turn it around on them. When we do, we’re failing to cede the right of way and are guaranteed a fender bender.Click To Tweet
It’s too easy to take what our partner asks of us, or even their criticisms of us and turn it around on them. When we do, we’re failing to cede the right of way and are guaranteed a fender bender. Instead, help them through the intersection with support and assume good intentions. That way, we avoid accidents and build a supportive home environment.
If now through this month of June you leave a review of HFC on iTunes or your question is selected for our podcast, we’ll send you a free copy of my book, Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle. Be sure to email me your name and address so we can get that to you.
And I really mean it when I say, please, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.
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What if in this scenario, the wife is a disordered or thoroughly unreasonable person and that no matter how much acknowledging and validating of her issues, there will be more and more, and that by validating them you are actually enabling her issues. Obviously, this is a more extreme case, but I know if one was married to a person w borderline , that the advice given could be seen as gas lighting. Thanks!!