It’s common to hear couples complain about different behaviors of their partners while wishing their life could be happier. Somehow, we think that if our partner changed, we would be happier. Or we think, “If my partner would stop annoying me or start appreciating me, or be more intimate with me, our relationship would improve.”
The only thing we can truly change is our self.
It’s a fallacy that we can change or control another person, no matter how close they are to us or how much we love them. Take a breath. Make a decision right now to stop trying to change your partner or anything outside of you. Begin down the beautiful path of loving and appreciating yourself. Only then will you truly discover the magical power of unconditional love.
We can only experience love from our partner
to the extent that we love ourselves.
That’s a powerful statement but think about it for a minute. If you’re constantly stressed, overworking, or bashing yourself mentally, doesn’t that interfere with your ability to receive love? Or isn't it more likely if you're preoccupied with blame that you might drown out kind gestures made by your partner with complaints.
Criticizing is easy.
Being our best self takes effort and focus.
You may be aware of negative self-talk. You might already know that criticizing your partner doesn’t work; this common behavior usually creates ill feelings that result in hurt and distance in our relationship. If we criticize enough, it becomes habit forming. Once criticism is a habit, just like a weed, it stunts the growth of love and appreciation.
You might wonder why we complain or criticize when we could just as easily acknowledge the good things in ourselves or our partner.
How well do you love yourself? Part of the answer lies here. If you feel unworthy and are hard on yourself, chances are you’ll be hard on your partner as well. If you berate yourself, you'll most likely be critical of your partner. What we do to ourselves, we most often do to others. Practice creates a habit. The choice is yours what habit you create.
Try an experiment for one week. Commit to be kinder to yourself while celebrating your accomplishments no matter how small. Interrupt negative self-talk and replace it with encouraging words. For instance, if you degrade yourself mentally or verbally, require yourself to think of three things you admire or love about yourself whenever you catch the self-criticism. At the end of the week, see if you feel differently. You'll be amazed at what you find! This exercise is simple but far from easy.
How to Change Criticism to Appreciation
A predominant reason we gravitate to criticism is that the brain seeks to keep us safe. And the brain also looks to be better every day, searching and finding what’s wrong to improve our lives. These prevalent tendencies often become the road well traveled. The good news is that you can retrain your brain to appreciate and make appreciation your new habit. Appreciation for yourself and your partner will nurture your relationship and marriage tremendously.
Spotlight the good. Replace negative thinking patterns with positivity through gratitude. Train yourself to practice gratitude daily. Practicing gratitude rivets your mind to search for the good instead of the negative. Do it enough and it becomes a habit.
Cultivate the habit of appreciation. Look for the traits you love and appreciate about your partner. Then appreciate those noteworthy qualities of your partner first mentally. Next, let them know, too. If you do this simple act regularly, you'll see a new openness and ease blossom between you. By appreciating your partner more, you'll discover a new light heartedness. You'll be more relaxed and receptive to love's gifts.
Focus on all the ways your partner shows his or her love. Keep an eye out for every act of kindness or love that comes from your partner. As you put your attention on what is loving rather than what is missing or imperfect, you'll feel more love. You'll begin to recognize what a great partner you have! And you might just fall in love all over again!
Imagine what your love relationship would be like if you tripled your love?
Develop a pattern of appreciation and your marriage will be much happier, and much more harmonious. This way is the road less traveled until it becomes your new norm, a habit that strengthens the very fabric of your lives together.
Dare you to prove me right!
For a step-by-step process to learn how to stop complaining, see our blog titled, Relationship Rescue: Turn Complaints into Closeness and for personalized support that is tailored to you, contact Jennifer at jennifer@heartmanity or call 406-577-2100.
Jennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity Founder
As an Executive Coach and Relationship Strategist, Jennifer's specialty is emotional intelligence with an emphasis in utilizing brain science to create transformation. She works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to remove the obstacles to authentic communication. Her passionate mission is to create thriving relationships and teams at home and work. Jennifer coaches individuals, parents, and couples to help build healthy lives and loving families and communities. She is married to her beloved husband of 38 years and is the mother of three grown children.