One thing that often comes up in marriage counseling is the idea of having a successful disagreement. When you live together, things are bound to come up but how do you talk about it without the other person shutting down?
In my experience providing marriage counseling to various couples, the shutting down often comes from the viewpoint that “They never notice anything I do for them but they sure make a point to let me know every time I make a mistake”. What often happens is that we neglect to tell our spouse the things we appreciate about them, but when something happens that bothers us we often feel it has to be addressed so it doesn’t become a bigger problem later on. However, not many of us are good at taking constructive criticism if it isn’t preceded by praise and acknowledgment of our good deeds. And the numbers aren’t, even so, research suggests we aim for a ratio of 6 “good job!”s for a single “What did you do that for?”. In other words, it only takes one moment of criticizing someone to cancel out five compliments. So in order to have the best effect, we aim for a ratio of 6 to 1 or higher.
The other benefit of this is that our spouse is probably aware of the things that make us crazy so if they feel appreciated, they may even do the things we want, or not do the things we don’t want, without it even becoming a conflict in the first place. The compliments should also be given on a regular, spaced out basis, not given all at once right before a criticism, as in “Hey, you did a great job on this thing here, but….”.
When you do have to give constructive criticism, try couching it in a more useful way to make it more palatable. You might start with, “I know you’ve been really busy lately, but….”, or “I know you have a good reason for (fill in the blank), but would you mind…..”
If you are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area and would like to try marriage counseling or relationship, please feell free to get in contact with me.