Relationships get better when we overcome the urge to criticize.
Blame and shame are usually big topics among parents. It’s not easy to overcome the “urge” to criticize, especially nicely wrapped in blame. We can spend a lot of time accusing the other, “finding the culprit”, but hey, love is not a detective novel!
I used to say things like: “Now, our son got a cold because you went outside with him”. OR “Why didn’t you tell me earlier that you’ve got an appointment, now I can’t do xyz.”
And others along the line of “This has happened because you…”, “Why did you/didn’t you…?”
It leads to arguments. Does it lead to the other thinking “oh, yes he/she is right, I’ll do that next time” Does it lead to having loving feelings inside you/your partner?
I think the answer is NO!
If you think your partner “should have done X, Y and Z (done the dishes, tidied up, phoned the bank etc.) but he/she hasn’t, there is probably a reason for this. If you can, just do it yourself (without casting looks or moaning!), assume they have done the best they could possibly do with what they knew at the time. Do it yourself, give them more time or find out how you can help (maybe there is another task you can do to relieve him/her). Don’t ever fall into the trap of “I have done more than you”, “my day has been more stressful than yours” etc. It doesn’t help anyone.
Be forgiving and understanding. Catch yourself before you sigh or roll your eyes. We want to love our children unconditionally, I think our partners deserve the same. If we expect of them to do certain things or behave a certain way, this is stressful for all concerned. And it does not change anything. Years of moaning and showing disapproval hasn’t turned around anyone’s relationship. I am quite certain of that. But it leads to resentment, to hiding feelings (or actions, for that matter). It creates an atmosphere of mistrust and inadequacy.
Instead, change your own behaviour (because as I am sure you know: You cannot change somebody else, they can only change themselves, if they want to). You are in control of your thoughts! You don’t have to think: “She should have done the dishes”. Instead you could think: “We have a lot of dirty dishes. I’ll talk to him/her and ask for some support in a kind way, or hang on, he/she looks extremely tired right now, I think we can survive without them being cleaned right now”.
Then, offer something kind to your partner, and do the dishes later or you might find that after your loving attention your partner has found some new energy to do the dishes. If this is a persistent issue (meaning you are unhappy with a recurrent behaviour of your partner, mention it in one of your “Listening dates, without any blame, just talk about how you feel, when you see a heap of dirty dishes each evening; find a solution together).
This is all part of creating a culture of connection and loving kindness in your relationship.
I think it is essential for this to work that you are as well rested as you can (tired and stressed people tend to be a lot less able to think rationally). So, rest when you “should” do the chores, sleep when your baby does, get some Me-time wherever possible (do some exercises – even if only at home to a DVD). Surround yourself with positive people who you like to be around, go out into nature, sit still and choose not to listen to the constant mind chatter, let it go and focus on your breathing, on the beauty around you. Everyone needs these re-fuels.
So, rid your world of criticism! That includes criticising yourself by the way. It will take some time, but life will be so much more enjoyable, believe me.
Many of those inner self beliefs stem from our childhood. It helped me to look back, think about me as a child from an adult perspective. I wrote to myself as a child. I let out the sadness of not having been cared for more lovingly. Ask yourself, who gave you what you are aiming to give to your children know? Get those feelings out, name them, feel them and see whether you can let go. I still come across my inner child sometimes, he voices his emotions usually in a heated reaction. That once I calmed down, I can hug my inner child and talk some loving words and be grateful for being an adult who can move on. Apologise if others have been involved and then just go.
Changing your habits of negativity
John Gottman developed “The Sound Relationship House”, one of the stories of the house is called “Share Fondness and Admiration,” he says: The fundamental process is changing a habit of mind from scanning the environment for people’s mistakes and then correcting them to scanning the environment for what one’s partner is doing right and building a culture of appreciation, fondness, affection, and respect”.
This truly is a habit of many of us, however, it also is only that: a habit. So, you can change it. I did and so can you. Maybe not from one day to the next, but it is a way of life that is transferable to other areas of life, too. I call it to fight against the “inner critic or worst-case scenario guy”. Many have written about the perception that the more positive you invite into your life (with changing your thought patterns, your words and actions from negative to positive) the more will come and stay.
John Gottman’s studies show, it takes five positive experiences to make up for one negative experience in a relationship, so get those positives flying around!
When you catch yourself being hard on yourself, stop, breathe and then say sorry to yourself by being nice instead. Make yourself your favourite dinner, call someone you love and tell them about it. Do that whenever you think you made a mistake and would otherwise get mad at yourself for being human.
This article has been published on www.dadstalkcommunity.com
Photo credit: Yuliya Nemova/flickr