In marriage, God wants us to hold one another lovingly accountable. Sometimes there are actions that need correction and a biblical reproof; other times it is best to just let things go. Before critiquing your spouse, you should ask yourself if this is a necessary admonishment. If it is, then carefully consider how to present it. It should be expressed in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit as presented in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” If you cannot present it in this way, then it either is not the right time or you are not the right person.
Excessive or inappropriate criticism between a couple will diminish closeness in their relationship. Nobody likes being corrected. People generally respond to criticism either defensively, angrily, or just withdraw in a passive aggressive way. All of these lead to negative patterns in the relationship.
Although you don’t have control over how your spouse approaches you with words of correction, you do have a choice in how you will respond.
- You can deeply resent the criticism, stuff your feelings and withdraw. This allows your hurt to turn to poison in your heart, which ultimately hurts you, not the other person. This may seem like a way to keep the peace, but it is actually a passive-aggressive way to respond that is not good for your relationship.
- You can defensively respond in anger. This just escalates things in a negative direction. If you are right, no defense is necessary. If you are wrong, no defense will do.
- You can receive the lesson and release the lesion. Although a criticism by nature may sting, there is generally an element of truth to what is being said. Evaluate the criticism to receive any constructive criticism and release any hurt to God. Many proverbs address the fact that the wise welcome criticism, rebuke, and reproof, but fools hate and reject it. If you have trouble with criticism, a good homework assignment would be to read a chapter of Proverbs a day for a month, matching the chapter number to the day of the month.
- You can pray. Prayer is the best way to soften our hearts to respond in a God-honoring way. This is the strongest way to respond if your spouse is being unjustly critical of you. Pray for God to soften your spouses heart and to realize the truth. If your spouse is being critical in a sinful way, then pray for God to open their eyes to their sinfulness. If it persists, then God may want to use you to biblically reproof your spouse on this in the right way and at the right time.
Although there are numerous ways we can respond to criticism, our natural default is not typically the most God-honoring. Work on being more intentional about responding in a way that would be pleasing to God. Remember that God is love, love is kind, and God rebukes, so not all rebukes are unkind. God uses our spouses to help us grow and learn. We should be receptive to the lessons God is trying to teach us through our spouse.