"My husband keeps criticizing me", a woman complained bitterly. "No matter what I do, it's not good enough for him. I can't cook as well as his mother did, the house is never clean enough for him, and so on. I don't know how to satisfy him anymore, so I have given up and stopped trying."

Knowing that there are three sides to each story; his side, her side and the real side, I spoke with the husband. He explained to me that his complaints are justified and he has to bring them to her attention so she can change. "Have you managed to change her in the last ten years?" I asked "No," he replied. "In fact, the situation has become worse."

One of the ironies of life is that we do the same things over and over again, but expect different results. "If you do what you always have been doing," a wise man once said, you will get what you always have been getting." If what you're doing doesn't give you the right results, stop doing it and try something different!

People do not change as a result of criticism. If anything, it makes them bitter towards the person criticizing them.

The couple in question was caught in a negative, downward spiral. He kept criticizing her and instead of building up the relationship, every criticism created another barrier between them. The situation had reached such a stage that she started avoiding him because she knew that any conversation would end up in a criticism. "If only my husband would look at my good qualities" she said, "our relationship would be much better."

I suggested to the woman that if she wants her husband to appreciate her good side, perhaps she should begin by doing what she wishes her husband would do to her. I advised her to be on the constant lookout for any positive words that come out of his mouth and compliment him for being so positive. "The more praise you give him for being positive and for focusing on the positive," I said, "the more chance there is that he will eventually pick up the habit of doing so."

A relationship can sometimes get stuck in a dead end where each party is waiting for the other to change. The way to break out of this impasse is by one party taking the initiative and acting out that positive characteristic that they wish their partner would have. The more we become a living example of a positive trait, the greater the likelihood that our partner will follow suit and reciprocate the desirable behavior.

Try it — it works!