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Critical of Husband

Critical of Husband


Dear Rachel,

I'm in my first year of marriage and I’m having difficulties coping with my husband. I find that I am always criticizing him and I really don’t want to be but it is as if I can’t stop. I want him to become more mature, more reliable so that we can be happy together. What should I do?

Laguna Beach, CA

Dear S.R.,

The first year of marriage is one of the most tumultuous times we experience. For however many years until now, you have really only been responsible for yourself, and he for himself. To suddenly find yourselves not only in a relationship but in a life long commitment changes everything and can be scary.

It is normal for couples to experience a variety of “growing pains” during the beginning of their marriage. (Notice that growing always seems to be accompanied by pains).

Unfortunately we live in a society that places incredible focus on the wedding, and much less on the marriage itself. It is as if once you leave the chuppah that the hard work is over, all those months of planning finally finished and now you can relax. Wrong. The work begins the minute the chuppah is over, and it continues for every single day of the rest of your lives.

It reminds me of a friend of mine who was pregnant with her first child. During labor, which like many first labors was difficult and long, she made the comment that labor was the hardest thing she had ever been through and she couldn’t wait for it to be over so that she could relax. I chose not to burst her bubble during that time, but I laughed to myself thinking that she thought that labor was the hard part of having a child. Little did she know that her life was now changing forever and would require constant work on her part.

Basically, anything worth achieving, anything worth having requires work. But what is great about this kind of work is that you don’t only have the success when you reach some end goal, but every step of the process is rewarding as well. Every time you try hard to work out something properly with your husband, every time you are kind and patient rather than snapping, you will have a husband who is warmer, kinder and more receptive. And guess what, when he is, he is also a lot less likely to annoy you. Not to mention he will hopefully be a lot more motivated to work on making you happy.

It is easy to find faults in others and harder to sometimes see them in ourselves. You are newly married and there is a lot about this person that you will need to get used to and need to learn about him. He is not you and he will do things different than you. But that is OK. And likewise, there are things about you that he will need to get accustomed to.

So then how do we deal with the situations that really bother us? When our partner annoys us and we find ourselves lashing out or being critical?

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that when something bothers us in another person, the first place we are supposed to look is in the mirror. This accomplishes two things. One, we need to take a deep look inside and try to understand why we are so sensitive to this action or behavior. Maybe it is our issue? Maybe we are overreacting? Sometimes we discover that our partner is merely mirroring something we don’t like in ourselves, and when we see it displayed so prominently, we react.

Other times, even when we are convinced that it is not our issue but truly something that the other person is doing, merely by having taken the time to look first within, we often find ourselves being much more able to be patient and understanding. We all have faults and when we can recognize our own weaknesses it enables us to be more forgiving of the faults of another.

Remember always that you are married to another individual and he is not supposed to just like you. At the same time he is the other part of your soul, and as we all know, it is the opposites that attract. Before being critical, try and understand why he is doing what he is doing. And try to think about all the things that you do differently than him. Chances are you would not want him being critical of you, so be sensitive and think about how you would respond if your very own criticism was being said to you.

And when it comes to communicating the criticism, there is not only what you say but how you say. And as you will see in a moment, the most important element being WHY you are saying it.

If you are annoyed, chances are that he is aware, and chances are that he does not want to be annoying to you. But unless you speak to him about the issues, he has no opportunity to work on the problem. (It goes without saying that there is simply no place for rolling your eyes or raising your eyebrows…).

The word in Hebrew for rebuke, for criticism is “tochecha.” Our sages teach us that the word tochecha is to be understood as toch ahavah meaning “from within a place of love.” Criticism is sometimes necessary, but only when it is motivated from love and said with love. If you have something you need to discuss with your husband, that you want him to work on, that is fine. But only if you are doing so to better your relationship. Only if you are speaking to him because you love him.

Try thinking about all the reasons you fell in love with him, all the reasons you married him. I bet you they will far outweigh whatever it is that is bothering you. And when you focus on the positive, the negative has a way of getting pushed away. As Chassidus teaches, all it takes is a little light to push away a lot of darkness.


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Nancy Honesdale October 13, 2014

Being Critical My criticism is a little different. If he's driving 80 miles an hour in our car with our 14 month old granddaughter in the back seat it makes me more uncomfortable than if we're driving alone. I'll say "I'm uncomfortable at this speed will you please slow it down?" He becomes angry and refuses to talk for a few days. This is so common in our marriage because he hears "You're driving like a maniac, you don't know how to drive well." Rather than make sure I'm not stressed and I feel comfortable in the car he accuses me of telling him he can't do anything right. He feels like he walks on eggshells all the time just waiting for me to pick on something he does wrong. I feel like I walk on eggshells all the time as well because I can't say anything to him without him getting defensive and feeling as if he's being attacked. Help us! He wants a divorce. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 1, 2011

Critical of Husband Did you really get to know your husband before marrying him or do you just have a basically critical personality.

It's true people can keep secrets about their lives and lifestyles, but to get married, you need to solve problems first. Many people get premarital counseling for this reason. If you're critical of everyone and everything, you need help and have your husband go to marriage counseling with you. Reply

Anonymous May 5, 2008

Criticism What about when it goes the other way?

What about the women who really try to follow these steps and the men don't respond? Or respond and expect this from the woman but don't give it in return? And, worse yet, don't realize they are doing it? Reply

Anonymous gretna, usa January 18, 2008

Try not to be the hateful boss. Marriage is a lot like work, but its a partnership, not one person being the boss and the other being the worker. I reminded myself when I critized my husband, it reminded me of my boss who used to nitpick to have a reason to complain about anything and everything. Like Rachel said mirror yourself with that old boss, would you like to be that boss that made you feel miserable at work? Who did not look at the positive work and effort that has gone unnoticed? No compliments. Your husband is human, he tries, don't push the communication or the love away, talk to him, see what you all can do as a team to overcome this. Remember no one is pefect and if you go crazy with the small details, or trying to find waldo, you are going to have a panic attack. Good luck. Reply

Jane Flasterstein Sydney, Australia February 7, 2007

'Critical of Husband' and learning I can really understand this situation. Talking about this to my husband has mirrored Rachel's advice. It really is HOW you say something not what. People generally respond better to criticism when criticising calmly. It is hard to do though when in the moment! Reply

S.R. May 8, 2006

Thank you for your answers and for your advice! It's helping me a lot!
All the best! Reply

Jessica Klein Levenbrown Los Angeles, CA May 2, 2006

trouble in paradise My husband and I got very lucky when we discovered we both leave our shoes lying around. But, amazingly, whenever I find myself tripping over HIS shoes I get mad. Then I spot mine on the other side of the room and I have to laugh.

If all your troubles are about things like shoes, or forgetting to put a new roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, or washing the dishes or even being late -- be grateful. Living alone you get to have everything done your way...but you''re all by yourself. Take a deep breath, count to ten, figure out what you really want and need from your partner. And then laugh about the rest. You guys can figure this out together. Remember all the things your mother scolded you about? Chances are you still do a lot of them. Be thankful your husband''s looking the other way...and try to ease up on him. You''re both''ve never lived together before. You can do this. Don''t sweat the small stuff. Reply

Mrs. Scholl Newtown Sa, PA April 26, 2006

Criticism I know that bad habits are hard to break better to get in the habit of biting your tongue and giving your husband praise. i have also learned that even when I feel strongly about something I am not always right so I try to consider his point of view also. Sprinkle your marriage with kindness, gentleness and mercy and you will be a happy couple. Reply

Kelly Temple, TX April 8, 2006

Where was this article 19 years ago? Oh, how this article spoke to me even as a "not so newly married." Things I've had to learn on my own. This article would have been a most welcomed blessing for me to have read early on. It could have saved me some time of frustration. Yet, I've learned it the hard way and maybe the way I needed tom experientially! But I would have liked the "cliff notes."

Today, almost 2 decades later, things are really good in my marriage, because of our commitment to one another to continually work at it. Thi particular sentence really spoke out to me and reminded me: "At the same time he is the other part of your soul, and as we all know, it is the opposites that attract." My husband still makes my heart go pitter-patter and thinking about him in a more spiritual sense that he completes me, really infuses my inner-self.

In other words, relish these comforting words. They are words of wisdom and delight. Thank you Rachel. Reply

Louise M. Silva Newton, MA 02461 April 2, 2006

Your early marriage discomfort And how perfect are you? Do you really love this man or is this something you felt you had to grab onto? What do you really need and want from him that you can't accept? Everybody comes from different lifestyles. The key to a good and loving marriage is compromise. Let it go; love him for who he is, not what he does. You'll be surprised how he will pick up your housekeeping ways, etc., once you set the example. Reply

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