Guest blogger, Phillip Kiehl, LMFT shares with us an excerpt from his book, Creating the Healthy Marriage You Want.
Auto-correct is annoying enough on our smartphones. But when spouses take on that role in marriage, the one being corrected doesn’t feel too accepted.
The Correcting Spouse
None of us entered marriage thinking we were signing up for our spouse to correct us. Parenting your spouse is not what God’s original design of marriage is about.
Parenting your spouse is simply not okay!
Putting yourself in a parental role and putting your spouse in a child role is demeaning to your mate and actually counterproductive. Your spouse will eventually resent you for taking on this controlling role and it will severely damage your marriage relationship. ~ SHERI STRITOF
Let’s say one spouse backs out the car from the garage and accidentally hits something that results in the car getting scratched or bruised. This spouse feels guilty and remorseful for damaging the car. Later in the day they explain to their spouse what happened.
How will the spouse respond?
A healthy, intentional, and accepting response is “That’s okay honey. You’re not injured. The car is damaged, and it is not a big deal. I forgive you, and I know it was an accident.”
A correcting spouse’s response might be “What? How could you do this? How many times have I told you to be careful when backing up? What were you thinking?
We live in a society that is constantly looking for fault, wanting answers when people make a mistake, and attempting to connect the dots to come up with an explanation for how or why everything happens. To relate to people means you are relating to mistakes.
Correcting spouses are impatient and point out mistakes that leave the other spouse feeling they have to justify themselves. They are like detectives looking for evidence– not only to correct the problem, but also to correct you.
The Accepting Spouse
Billy Joel’s famous song: I Love You Just the Way You Are was a request to his wife not to change.
Don’t go changing to try and please me, you never let me down before; I’ll take the good times; I’ll take the bad times, I’ll take you just the way you are.
Accepting one another means you want to love and support someone for better or worse, for richer or poor, in sickness and in health. These vows made on your wedding day are statements that you do want love, you do want acceptance, and you want to give them to your spouse.
Julie wants to learn how to play tennis. She asks her husband to teach her how to swing the backhand correctly to hit the ball consistently over the net. The husband’s intention is to teach and train Julie to correct her swing by making sure her arms or legs are in the right position. Julie accepts this correction because she trusts him and his ability as a tennis coach.
If her husband starts to not only correct her backswing, but also begins to correct her character, and starts to accuse her of being lazy or stupid, this is demeaning. He is moving past his role as a tennis coach to one of trying to parent Julie, which is not what she asked him to do.
A healthy marriage is working with your spouse to solve life’s problems. But marriage becomes unhealthy when we try to fix or correct our spouse.
If you think you can correct, change, fix or solve your spouse’s problems, you are setting yourself up for a life of unhealthy patterns and misery.
Think of it this way. What if one of you gets diagnosed with Stage III cancer? Being diagnosed with cancer is very frightening and very challenging. The spouse with cancer is going to have to participate in many forms of cancer treatment to remove this cancer from their body.
Hopefully, your spouse will be loving and supportive and will want to work with you on this problem. Cancer has entered the marriage, and both spouses need to be a team and a “we” to fight this deadly disease. One spouse cannot sit back and say, “This is your problem, you have cancer, I don’t, so you need to fix it alone, be responsible, and take care of it yourself.”
No one signs up for cancer. But when you got married, you did sign up for mistakes and problems. One would not attack a person who has cancer. And hopefully one would not attack a person who burns a meatloaf.
When we correct, we are judging that person as guilty and think it is our role to repair them.
And who among us can judge our spouse when they make a mistake– given how many mistakes we all make? So don’t cast the first stone. Accept your spouse and correct problems.
Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].
Delete the Auto-Correct feature from your marriage!
Phil Kiehl, LMFT maintains a private practice in the Los Angeles area. He partners with his wife, Cynthia, to help people move from accusing one another to accepting one another, building healthy relationships.