Relationships

Let’s stop bashing our spouses

Not only does bad-mouthing your partner to your friends betray your relationship, but it also reflects negatively on you

Special to The TribuneNovember 30, 2012 

CONTRA COSTA TIMES/MCT

Spouse bashing is the act of making continual, public, derogatory comments about our husbands and wives. It can take many forms. A man may complain mercilessly to his co-workers that his wife is irresponsible with the couple’s finances. A woman may repeatedly tell her girlfriends that her husband is a do-nothing slob. Whatever the content, the outcome is the same: Bashers think nothing of openly debasing the very people they’re supposed to love the most.

What these belittling folks fail to realize is that their behavior reflects more poorly on them than it does on their mates. First, spouse bashing broadcasts their mean streak, their desire to willingly harm those in their inner circle.

It speaks volumes about their poor self-control. They’re unable to decipher appropriate conversational topics from those that should remain unsaid.

Spouse bashing makes listeners feel uneasy. They wonder, “If this person can be so critical of his own spouse, I wonder what he could be saying about me.”

The complaining infuses toxic energy into others’ psychic air space. It quickly turns a pleasant conversation into an emotional downer that makes everyone within earshot feel uncomfortable.

Finally, spouse bashing displays an incredible lack of compassion and love. We all have our shortcomings. None of us rates a matrimonial 10. Nobody is exposed to our failings more than our spouses. To delight in sharing those imperfections with others is a horrific breach of marital trust.

Keep in mind that the nature and severity of our spouses’ flaws are entirely relative. What one person might consider a flaw, another might view as an asset. A characteristic that goes unnoticed in one household may be intolerable in another. The criticism is always viewed through the critics’ lenses and is likely to be skewed, if not dead wrong.

Of course, we all get frustrated with our husbands and wives and occasionally vent those irritations to close friends.

And some spouses do have character flaws that seriously undermine the well-being of the marriage. In those instances, marriage counseling may be needed to help couples determine whether the relationship is salvageable.

My rule of thumb is quite simple: If a partner is good enough to stay with, he or she is good enough to be nice to. Spouse bashing is inexcusable and should be eliminated from our mental arsenals.

Spouse bashing is a bad habit. It’s a learned behavior we absorb from watching and listening to other family members and friends. If those closest to us talk trash about their mates, we’re apt to follow their lead. Fortunately, all bad habits can be broken. With a little effort and perseverance we can be the devoted partners that our husbands and wives deserve.

TIPS TO KICK THE SPOUSE-BASHING HABIT

• Catch yourself in the act. Listen to your own conversations. Do you notice a pattern of berating your main squeeze? If so, let that be the motivation to make the necessary changes ASAP.

• Enlist others. Discuss the pattern with people you see often. Ask them to point out your derogatory comments as they occur. You may even decide to join forces and nix all spouse bashing from future conversations.

• Avoid fellow bashers. If you come across a spouse bashing session already in progress, you may choose to bypass that particular discussion. Or, you can wait until it’s over before deciding to join the group.

• Redirect bashing conversations. Sometimes a pleasant chat will suddenly veer in a spouse-bashing direction. Feel free to safely reroute it toward a more positive topic.

• Focus on your partner’s strengths. Sure, your spouse has weaknesses. But there’s plenty of good thrown into the mix. Directing your energies on what’s loveable puts a rose-colored spin on your marriage.

• Be your spouse’s advocate. On your wedding day, you promised to cherish your partner. You manifest that commitment in everything you do and say about him or her. Become your mate’s biggest groupie. Let her know you adore her. Remind him daily that he’s the best. Your marriage will be the instant beneficiary. You’ll be a role model for others to follow.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.

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