Monday, May 24, 2010

Letting go and finding unity

A month or two ago, I found myself playing the classic role of the critical, nagging wife. Well, let me correct that statement. I didn't find myself there. It was pointed out to me, and it was a correct evaluation.

It hit me pretty hard because I've always tried really hard not to be that wife. Yet there I was.

When Matt and I were dating, it was pretty apparent that we had differences of opinion on child discipline and child rearing. I figured we'd both kind of mellow out over the course of our marriage and come to a general consensus on how it should be handled.

While I think we have both changed and matured in our understanding of parenthood, new issues and challenges have arisen. Child rearing is so much easier in theory, and I have kind of floundered in actual practice. I'll read a book and try that theory. Read another book and see if that's better. I bounce back and forth on how to actually achieve what it is I'm wanting. I know I am not as consistent as I should be, mainly because I'm not positive that what I'm doing is "the right" way to handle things.

Matt, on the other hand, is very consistent. I have to give him credit for that. He definitely borders on authoritarian/drill sergeant parenting, but he is very good about holding boundaries and sticking to his discipline and parenting method.

In all my MFHD classes we were taught that authoritative/consulting parenting is the best, so when I felt Matt was coming down too hard or expecting too much of a 2 year old, I began pointing it out. Continually. In front of the kids.

Now, that is not good.

When I realized what I was doing, I decided I needed to change something. But how, and what? I started reading through talks and articles on and came across 2 articles that really spoke to me. I highly recommend you read both.

The first is Overcoming Differences of Opinion by Elder Robert E. Wells. Here are a few selections from it.
Repeated criticisms of this negative and acid nature can wear away the bonds of love until the marital fabric is weakened and ruined—with sad results for both parties.

Too often, criticism attacks tender, unprotected feelings. When we criticize, we are implying blame, censure, condemnation, reprobation, and denunciation—and we’re setting ourselves up as judges, as if we were qualified to point out someone else’s faults and weaknesses.


One of you might begin by asking, “What can I do to be a better husband (or wife)?” Then the other responds kindly with ideas and suggestions.

As you share your feelings and give your partner suggestions, be humble and nonthreatening. Don’t assume that you’re always the offended one and that your spouse is the guilty one. Remember, too, that in many situations, it’s not a matter of who is right and who is wrong—it’s simply a matter of understanding each other.

I’d suggest that you avoid a written list of faults. This is a time when relying on memory is more considerate than reading a host of complaints. Another rule you might establish is for each of you to limit the number of suggestions you bring at one time—no more than two or three at most. That way, the experience isn’t as likely to be so overwhelming.

As you’re the one receiving the suggestions, don’t become defensive.

The second was The Call of the Mild by Martha Wilder.

Although my husband was an excellent father, I often felt irritated and angry. I wanted him to fit the image of what I thought he should be. I had certain ideals and goals I wanted implanted in him.

[advice from her dad] 'Be gentle in your persuasion while recognizing his strengths and achievements. Be an example without criticizing. In your rush to achieve your goals, you may be sending a silent message that he’s not measuring up. He’s a good man, Martha, and he needs to know that you think so, too...One of the most insidious cracks in any marriage is when partners wonder if they made the right choice. The marriage begins to fall apart because they quit working at it'
There was a follow up to The Call of the Mild in that Ensign entitled, "How can I improve my relationship with my spouse?" by Martha's father. Here are the 7 suggestions:

  1. Avoid negative thoughts. Avoid comparing your spouse with someone else. Instead, think of what you like or appreciate about him or her. Make a list and add to it frequently.
  2. Avoid snipping. Don’t make derogatory remarks about your spouse in front of others, and don’t allow others to criticize your spouse within your hearing. Instead, say something positive about your mate in front of others, especially when your partner is present. It will reaffirm commitment and bolster self-esteem.
  3. Do something positive for your spouse each day: a cup of hot chocolate, a surprise note, helping with a chore that your partner usually handles alone. Be creative—and don’t keep score.
  4. Don’t set limits on the work you’re willing to invest in your marriage. Love is not a 50/50 proposition. You should avoid measuring the “amount” you’re contributing to your marriage.
  5. Avoid making demands or ultimatums. Nothing brings out stubbornness and resentment faster than an ultimatum.
  6. Practice meekness. Many people equate meekness with weakness. But meekness in reality is a strength. It results in a person becoming compatible with others and being teachable.
  7. Study the references to the words charity and love in the dictionary of the LDS edition of the King James Bible. Let the scriptures expand your understanding of eternal love.
Also, it's also good to remember James' advice in James 1:19 "let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." Now, that's something I need to post on my wall!

After reading these articles, instead of writing Matt a note or having a conversation detailing where our child rearing philosophies veered (and why I felt he was wrong and I was right), I felt really strongly that I needed to just let him know that I knew I was wrong for criticizing him in front of the kids, and that I would try harder to stop rescuing Dean and start communicating my concerns more appropriately with Matt. I also felt like he needed to know that I really did love and appreciate him as a husband and father. I'm not sure if my note meant more to me or him. After doing that, I noticed how stressed out he was at work. I felt more love toward him. Instead of making home a place of criticism and stress, I tried harder to make it a safe place filled with love and appreciation. Do I do this every day? Unfortunately I have relapses like everybody else. But I'm learning little by little. Do we see eye to eye on child discipline? No, but I'm more willing to step back and stop talking and intervening so much.

1 comment:

Jacqui said...

What a great post, Celia. I really needed to hear these things and am glad you posted the talks. I especially loved the part where the father said to Martha, "He's a good man, Martha, and he needs to know you know that, too." (maybe not a direct quote, but close) Thank you. Best of luck in being the non-naggy wife. I have to constantly reevaluate myself and sometimes find I'm too stubborn to really change. But I need to.