“She’s just angry at everyone,” Tim said, referring to his wife. “Seems like she carries a grudge about everybody—including me! I do one thing wrong and all the good is washed away.”
A lively man with a broad smile, he tensed as spoke those words.
“I have a right to be angry,” she retorted. “I wouldn’t be angry if you didn’t go out of your way to make me angry. We can’t go a day without you messing up somehow.”
“You mean to tell me I don’t do anything right?” he answered sarcastically.
“Maybe not,” she said gruffly.
“I still say you’ve got a grudge against a lot of people, and you’re the common denominator in all of the problems.”
Tina, his wife of twenty-five years, shrugged at the suggestion. Certainly her husband was being critical, and no one would want to hear that kind of description about them, but I wondered if there was a kernel of truth to his words.
Indeed, Tina, a heavy-set woman with a gravelly voice, hadn’t been overly friendly since coming to The Marriage Recovery Center. She had listed complaint after complaint about her husband, and while there seemed to be some truth in all of her complaints, I began to wonder if Tim was right. Did she hang onto anger, collecting grievances like coins in a purse, weighing her down?
I continued to listen to Tim and Tina share their story. There was no doubt that Tina was hurt, and it seemed that she stored her hurt in the form of anger, as many do. Furthermore, it began to look like all of her hurt and pain stopped her from seeing anything good in her husband, who clearly had some likeable qualities.
And this is the critical issue: Even when things are going South in your relationship, any relationship, it is important that you keep things in perspective. Even when you are so upset with your partner that you want to spit, you must remember the good qualities that brought you to the relationship in the first place. You must not take on a judgmental spirit.
While I am not advocating simply overlooking problem areas in your relationship, I am suggesting that you consistently check your attitude. Are you dealing with issues in a timely and effective manner? Are you keeping the slate clean, as much as it pertains to you? Scripture repeatedly warns against developing a judgmental attitude: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6: 37).
There is real power in this Scripture, and I shared it with Tim and Tina. Consider some of the applications.
First, judgmental attitudes ruin relationships. No one wants to be around a judgmental person. No one wants to hear layers upon layers of criticism, even if there are aspects of truth to them. Judgmental attitudes push people away and destroy the connection we have to others. Judgmental attitudes invoke judgmental attitudes from others as well.
Second, judgmental attitudes stop us from seeing good. Even amidst the negativity that may be taking place in your relationship, there is still good. If you’re not careful, your judgmental attitude will block your eyes from seeing and experiencing the good that remains. It is the good that acts as buoyancy to manage the bad when it comes along.
Third, practice seeing the good. Again, I’m not advocating a Pollyannish attitude where you sweep turmoil under the rug. Rather, I’m asking you to balance your seeing the negative in others with seeing the positive. Be as brutally honest with yourself about your partners good qualities as you are about their bad ones. Consider forgiving your mate just as you want to be forgiven.
Finally, celebrate the positive in your mate. It isn’t enough to notice your mate’s positive qualities. Celebrate them with your mate. Tell them that you notice and appreciate what they are doing well. Encouragement is a greater impetus for change than criticism. Let your good feelings about them fill you up and color how you see them, including their negative qualities. Notice a change in your disposition.
No one wants to be around a judgmental naysayer. No one wants to hang around with someone who can only see the dark clouds and never the sunshine that is peeking through. Be careful to remember the good in your mate and notice the positive impact it has on your relationship.
Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com and YourRelationshipDoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. Please feel free to call for a free, twenty-minute consultation.
Publication date: January 15, 2013
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