In the first year of my marriage, a friend encouraged me to interview my wife about the effect I had on her each day. Truth be told, I thought it would be an easy interview. After all, we were generally happy — but then shortly into the interview, her tears started flowing.
We could grow so much in our marriages if we didn’t have a panic attack every time our husband or wife takes us to task.
I had no idea how much of a negative effect I had on her. I just assumed that because I had gotten used to my personality during my first 29 years, she would easily get used to it as well. But she was getting hurt — a lot of times by careless communication — and I was missing it, even when she would try to let me know. As I processed the interview with friends and mentors, the experience served as a valuable lesson.
As we married couples grow more and more familiar with each other, we start giving unfiltered and uninvited feedback. If we’re on the receiving end of it, we resist, dismiss, defend, and explain — which is our way effectively ignoring the concerns of our spouse. But the problem with ignoring our spouse’s feedback is that eventually, he or she will start to feel disrespected and invalidated, which can harden into toxic contempt.
We could grow so much in our marriages if we didn’t have a panic attack every time our husband or wife takes us to task. I know that’s much easier said than done — especially when our spouse is only 86% correct in their criticism and we can focus on the 14% that’s wrong. But as Sarah Groves says in her song, “Loving a Person,” “Love and pride can’t occupy the same spaces, baby, and only one makes us free.”
Why not consider doing a little interview with your spouse? Remember, all you’ve got to do is take notes and ask questions. You’re relieved of your duties as your personal defense attorney. Then ask these questions and let the self-discovery begin. [i]
1. What’s it like to be on the other end of my personality?
2. What are some ways I’m doing a good job as a spouse?
3. What are some ways I could be a better spouse?
4. Do you feel like I understand your frustrations?
5. What do you see in my life that’s off-putting?
6. What do you see in my life that you admire?
7. Where do you see my life headed in five to ten years?
8. What do other people think of me but don’t have the courage to say?
9. Go ahead and share the 10% you may be holding back.
When I suggest this exercise to others, they invariably say, “Oh, I already know what the answers to these questions are. I don’t have to ask.”
Not so fast.
You may have an idea what your spouse might say, but there’s nothing like allowing your spouse to speak for him or herself. So go ahead — try it, and when you do, let the experience to be humbling instead of humiliating. In that place of humility, you can learn about your imperfections from the person who knows them best. And you might just have the courage to change for love’s sake.
Author's note: The suggested interview and listed questions were adapted from the book Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud and a sermon by Aaron Damiani.