How I Aim to Stop Criticizing My Spouse . . . In My Head . . . Four Steps
Is it almost worse to criticize your spouse in your head? I can get on a real roll doing it there. No interruptions. No reality checks. No actual communications with him. Just me and my imagination.
1) Stop Thought.
Literally. I block the cascading scene in my mind. I stop it and I tell myself you love him.
It’s easy for me to feel the litany of not only what I saw him do “wrong”–as in, not my way, but playing the scenario out and getting my blood pressure up with it. Now you’re probably a really tranquil and balanced person who always sees all sides and doesn’t ever have irrational fits of self-righteousness. Good for you. For me, I’m the self-righteous one. Yikes. That lady.
It’s almost soothing, comforting, this deep well you can go to to dip your cup in to feel like yes, i’m right; i’m the martyr mom; he just simply can’t blah blah blah. Board up the well. Go to a new homestead. Move on.
2) Acknowledge there are other valid choices beyond the one we’re attached to.
As our kids grow and need more room for their wings (and for riding their bike or listening to books on tape!!!), I’m surprised to find that I am more set in my ways. What works for me. I know it. I live it for these long days when it’s just us four sans Dada. My methods are tried and truer than they used to be.
Perhaps this sureness is a false sense of semi-control over my constantly one-lego-away-from-total-mass-hysteria life.
Perhaps it’s true and my way is the most effective way for heading off tantrums at the pass or calming supporting a child whose milk has literally spilled. For the third time.
Regardless, he can come up with different ways to deter the baby from careening headfirst down the slide. He can subdue the sad children whose exhaustion prevents them from sleeping with his own soothing phrases. And he can make mistakes. That might be his best learning tool as a parent, just as it is mine.
3) Examine how legit the critique is and talk about it if it’s a real issue.
If what he’s doing is bothering me enough to replay it in my steel-trap-elephant-memory mind (that somehow forgets to fill the car up with gas. always), I know that means I either need to address it or let it go. Before I bring it up to him, how legit is it?
Too legit to quit?
Really, Nell? Really? Yes.
Remind myself to not complain about it to every available female ear.
Just take it to my mental check list for validity:
am i hungry, sleep deprived, hormonal? is he any of the above?
is this a recurring habit that we’ve already discussed or a one-only time?
do i do this same thing but expect that it’s okay for me but not for him?
can i address it kindly right now or should i wait til I’m not emotional?
4) Forgive and forget.
If it’s not a legit, valid concern after I’ve examined it through the aforementioned microscope of questions, I try to drop it. If I really want to feel extra self-righteous, I could even tell him I’m forgiving him. Of course, that obviates step three, but maybe I need that some days.
Otherwise, I have to actually literally make myself drop it. Don’t hoard it like a squirrel in summertime with nuts, to chuck at him later when I’m really upset and looking for grievances to lob. Forgive in my heart and choose to move beyond it. All without telling him I’m so crazy.
Alrighty, wise friends. How do you stop the habit of unfurling spousal criticism that can run through our minds?
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