How Recognizing My Inner Critic is Helping My Marriage

Maybe I’m alone in this, but on the off chance that I’m not and you can relate, I’m going to tell you about a marriage issue that’s been a cycle in our relationship for a while now.

I believe my husband thinks he’s better than me.  I think he thinks I just need to try harder and get my act together.  I’m pretty darn convinced that he sees this mom gig as easy.  He never struggles.  EVER!

This one issue is a huge blow to my ever precious and oh so fragile mommy ego.  I live with freaking real life super dad!

How reframing the way I see things makes all the difference in my marriage.

Is it true?  I bet I could come up with some pretty good evidence to build my case.

Here’s the thing though.  I could also come up with good evidence to support the opposite.

We can usually come up with “relevant” points to back up what we want to believe.

I’m in the middle of reading Self-Compassion By Kristin Neff. (Who am I kidding I am 1/3 of the way through and I’ve had the book for like a month.  reading a paper book with a toddler in the house is like trying to ride a waxed turtle).

Ok back on track.

So I’m hiding in my bedroom with the door closed, trying to soak up like 10 minutes of meaningful information from Self-Compassion and I come across an AHA passage.

… highly self critical people tend to be dissatisfied in their romantic relationships because they assume their partners are judging them as harshly as they are judging themselves.  The misperception of even fairly neutral statements as disparaging often leads to oversensitive reactions and unnecessary conflicts.

Say what!  This happens in my house all the freaking time!  Well probably less than it used to because I have been more aware of when my inner perfectionist wants to come out and play and handling her as lovingly as possible.

But still this happens.  And big feelings erupt and it’s like a smoothie full of hurt and crazy explodes all over the kitchen.

On Craig’s days off he cleans and organizes (every wife’s dream come true right?) instead of feeling relief that I have another adult here to take on some of the home responsibilities, I would hear Madame Perfectionist’s critical voice in my head.

“He’s cleaning the house because you suck at it.”

“How can he even stand to live here with you?”

“Why can’t you manage your responsibilities?”

For some reason Madame Perfectionist chooses to ignore the fact that I have actually been keeping control over the kitchen, and we have a system for toys in the living room so they can be quickly tidied up.  And not only that, but I have successfully educated my children, created some really awesome online content to help my tribe love themselves and worked on my own practices to have a healthy mindset.

I am killing it!

Of course I have tried to solve the problem of the cleaning husband.  There have been calm conversations where I ask “Could you please not do projects or deep clean the house on your first day off work?”

Somehow this turned into a debate about what is and is not a project.

Then there was the begging.  “PLEASE just sit and hang out, or better yet let’s go out!”

Finally I would have a tantrum and drudge up every feeling of unworthiness that I have ever had and make it Craig’s fault because of course he NEVER listens to me.

Seeing Neff’s words in black and white on the page, while I was calm and not in the middle of a shame storm, gave me a few ideas on how to handle this:

  1. What if I didn’t make this bigger than it is? If my insecurities about how clean or not clean my house is could be dealt with in a kind and loving way… by me!  Then would they stop erupting like that smoothie in the blender?
  2. What if I re-framed the situation?  How about instead of seeing Craig’s cleaning as a personal attack on me, I look at it as Craig helping out and taking some things off my plate?  I re-frame it as my husband being kind to me and not criticizing me.

What!  Is your mind blown yet?  Mine is.

Isn’t it interesting the ways we can see things when we are working on being calm?  We get to choose how we want to walk through this life and if we live better by believing that those who love us actually wish us well and want to come alongside us, then I’m buying a ticket for that train of thought.

 

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