By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
We live in a day and age where criticizing our spouse is not an uncommon practice. In fact, we’ve probably all found ourselves in the scenario where we are out with friends, and our spouses become the center of the conversation. More often than not, it is approached as something humorous, perhaps exploiting the spouses’ weaknesses or faults as a point of comical relief. We don’t interpret this as criticism; instead, we laugh at shared experiences or understanding.
Often, this type of “humor” can be justified because we were “just being funny” or because the others all related to it; therefore, it wasn’t meant as a criticism, per se, but as relatable experiences. Still, one must question how far is too far and when is it important to stick up for your spouse instead of making them a central point of mockery?
My husband and I were at a dinner one night, and I was waxing prolific, in his presence, about a particular pet peeve of mine that my husband demonstrated regularly. We were all laughing around the table. It was relatable and not particularly unique to married couples. As we laughed, I noticed he became more reserved for the rest of the meal. After and in private, he admitted that though my points were true and at the moment had been funny, he also felt demeaned and unsupported by me because he knew that underneath the surface of humor, I was jabbing at him with discontent and criticism. While he wasn’t opposed to addressing and resolving the situation, using public humor to get a subtle but skewering point across wasn’t his preferred method. He didn’t feel as though I would have his back but rather toss him under the bus. He was right.
Culture has taught us rather assertively to stand up for ourselves, enforce our rights to our intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual uniqueness, and speak out when we need to defend ourselves. But have we applied the same ferocity to our spouse, who, after all, is a part of ourselves? We spoke a vow stating we would become “one” in the eyes of man and God, and in such, our spouse should deserve the same fierce defense as culture encourages us to give to ourselves.
Here are some ways we can stick up for our spouse instead of falling into the trap of undercutting criticism, silent acquiescence to negative reviews of our spouse, and outright gossip and slander that does nothing for the health of our marriage:
1. Learn to Voice the Positives
We can spend endless amounts of time sharing the negative attributes of our spouse. He spends too much time on his phone, she spends too much time in the bathroom, he takes too long to get up and help with the kids, she nags and complains, and so on. There may be elements of truth to these frustrations, and they may be generating a lot of conflict in your marriage. But voicing them aloud to others only enhances the discontent, undermines your spouse’s validity and esteem, and concentrates your attention on what you don’t have or don’t like. Instead, begin to voice the positive attributes when you’re discussing your spouse with others.
Consider recalling aloud that he did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen the other night. Or perhaps she took out the garbage and swept out the garage for you. Maybe he’s been working on being more in tune with your emotions, or she has been adjusting her expectations to be less demanding and more forgiving.
Can you imagine how different social conversations would become if we only brought up the positive reinforcements about our spouses? We would be communicating a level of respect not often heard these days anymore.
2. Publicize Your Love
It is so important to communicate to our spouses and others that we have their backs. This means that we make it publicly clear that we have a devoted love for them. A loyalty. An element of protective defense on behalf of the one we committed our lives to cherish.
I think about the stories of old, with the knights in shining armor, and I have to admit, there is a reason why those stories were so magnificent. It was the ferocious loyalty, to the point of death, given on behalf of whom the knight served. Archaic today? Maybe. Many women don’t want to recognize someone else who might defend them because it insinuates a weakness on their end. Many men scoff at the idea of their wife offering any form of protection because it is emasculating to their manly pride.
In reality, I have yet to witness a man or a woman become irritated, offended, or peeved when their spouse expresses loyalty or stands in defense of them. A public profession of love and devotion is akin to wearing your king or queen’s colors. Back in the day, knights flew their royal’s flag, donned their colors with pride, and boasted of their allegiance. Do you do that for your spouse? Are your friends aware that criticizing, mocking, or demeaning your spouse is to do the same to you?
A popular television show featured a female knight whose sole purpose was to guard and protect those she had been assigned. Her commitment cost her blood, tears, sweat, and relationships—but it earned her the deepest devotion of the ones she stood up for.
3. Don’t be Silent
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to vocalize a defense for your spouse. Once, I came under heavy fire from a dear friend who was critically judging me for weaknesses I’d not only admitted to but apologized for and was making a concerted effort to correct. There was, however, no sign of grace or forgiveness, and at several twists and turns of the proverbial road, this individual was set on making sure they let others know of my shortcomings.
Though painful and, at times, passed off as funny, it got to a point where I absorbed the words and actions rather than fought them. And then, an amazing thing happened. My spouse spoke up for me. He reinforced my efforts, reiterated my value as a human being, and brought to recollection of anyone who would listen to the intent of my heart.
Having my spouse stand behind me infused me with strength. It gave me the courage to separate from those I needed to separate from. It gave me the safety net into which I could fall. It proclaimed strongly that while others may not want me, I was wanted by my spouse.
Many marriages could experience exponential growth if spouses learned to fiercely protect and defend one another. Linking arms as you walk through this world makes you stronger and more challenging to break. Knowing that there is at least one person who will always have your back brings a deep sense of love and loyalty into a relationship. This bond becomes unbreakable, and you no longer stand alone; instead, you stand together.
Learning to stand alongside your spouse will enrich your marriage, but it will also bolster both your sense of worth and value and, in the long run, create an unshakeable foundation.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/laflor
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!