Words of Hope: Atypical marriage
One quality I admire about my Dad is that he did not speak poorly or negatively about my Mom. He worked hard to root out criticism. He believed that criticism is poison to relationships. He thought criticism is often an unrecognized form of violence. We would discuss the common marital themes of criticism—for example, a wife daily reminds her husband of his deficits. She points out his breath, teeth, mistakes, and bodily odor. The husband feels criticized and unloved by the wife, who has no physical attraction to him. The unhappy wife feels deeply unsatisfied with the lack of energy her husband has for her or their kids.
He has great energy for his attractive co-worker. He criticizes his wife at the office behind her back by sharing how frustrated she is by her kids and how she often complains. Both criticize the other.
Examination of their thoughts reveals negativity, criticism, disappointment, and frustration. Dad and Mom both worked to speak with appreciation and delight for each other. They worked hard not to tell stories at the other’s expense. They made sure they didn’t create a story where one person was a hero and the other a villain. I am grateful they strove to be a team, united in appreciation and love for each other. At the University of Washington, John Gottman studied the disasters and masters of marriage. The disasters majored in criticism. The masters in encouragement and gratitude. I can’t count how many times Dad would say, “See your Mom over there; she is the most beautiful woman I know.” “Can you believe how brilliant your Mom is? She is always learning.” Or “Mom and I are doing so well and having such a great time together.” Or “Your mom is the hardest worker I know; I learn so much from her.”
I appreciate that my parents worked hard to be great at their marriage and great at relationships with others.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” -1 Corinthians 13: 4-7