Think about the last time you criticized your spouse, what were you thinking and feeling just before you gave your criticism? It’s often hard to identify because it’s most likely not a thought or feeling we want to have. It may be a feeling of anxiety or insecurity, for example, and those are very uncomfortable feelings. Thoughts might be something like “Do you really value me?” or “Can I count on you when I need you?”
What’s interesting is that what we are really thinking and feeling is that we want to be reassured that our spouse is there for us, that we are securely connected. However, instead of asking for that reassurance, we criticize, which usually creates even more emotional distance and thus increases our anxiety and insecurity. As the scripture says “It is not good for man (or woman) to be alone”. We want and need to be close and connected. It is a universal, even biological need.
So instead of criticizing, we can look at what our needs and desires really are and express those to our spouse. For example, instead of saying “You need to quit being so disrespectful”, we can say something like “I feel really hurt when you do that. It makes me feel like you don’t value me and it's important to me to know that you value me.” By recognizing and sharing these kinds of feelings honestly and sincerely, we are much more likely to receive the reassurance we need and as a result, feel even closer and more securely connected to our spouse.