Turn Your Spouse’s Criticisms into Clues

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What does “around six pm” mean to you?

It’s crystal clear to me. After my dad and I chucked papers at o dark thirty every morning we would eat breakfast, get ready for work and school respectively, then he’d head out the door and tell my mom, “I’ll be home around six.”

At my house, “around six” meant, “sometime between 6 and 6:45 pm.” My dad had this sweet built in 45 minute buffer. Punctuality was in the eye of the beholder.

So when I got married and started my routine I would tell my lovely bride the same thing. And I applied the buffer principle.

I started noticing when I came home my wife didn’t always greet me as congenially as my mom greeted my dad. I just figured she had a bad day. I didn’t really need to ask her what was going on. If you’re like me, you know us husbands have a spidey sense about such matters.

So one day as I was coming home “around six” (translation, about 6:30 pm) and my spidey sense started tingling in the nape of my neck. I thought Jen probably had one of those days so before I got home, I stopped at the grocery story and picked up a few flowers for her.

When I walked in the door and saw my wife’s face I thought, “Yep, thank you spidey sense! She must have had a terrible day.” I flourished the hidden flowers and waited for that frown to turn upside down!

She grabbed the flowers, threw them on the kitchen table, and blurted out, “You don’t get it do you?”

Incredibly offended that Jen treated my pre-packaged $5.00 grocery store flowers with such contempt, I retorted, “I guess I don’t. Enlighten me.”

“Why would I want flowers that are going to die in 15 hours when you could have been home 15 minutes earlier. You said you’d be here at six.”

“Correction. I said, ‘around six.’”

In the next few minutes we had a lively discussion about the interpretation of “around six.” Turns out her dad always said the same thing. Unfortunately for me he had about a 2 minute buffer. He would roll in every day between 5:58 and 6:00 pm.

A few years later I was reading a book by UNCOMMEN coach, Dr. Gary Chapman about The Five Love Languages. In there he gave some uncommon advice that would have saved me months of heartache.

“Turn your spouse’s criticisms into clues about their love language.”

Unfortunately we men have thin skin. When criticisms start flying, we run start hiding from the shrapnel or hurling insults back. We rarely stop and actually listen. The old adage is true, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so we should hear twice as much as we speak.” Next time your spouse hurls criticisms or starts nagging, instead of being quick to anger or shouting back, be quick to listen:
“We never go out anymore!” translates as the love language of time

“Why is it you only buy me gifts on my birthday?” translates as the love language of gifts
“Don’t you see all this work I have to do to keep this house up?” – love language of acts of service

“Why is it you only hold my hand when you want sex?” – love language of physical touch

“Kristin’s husband is always telling her how beautiful she is and how much he loves her.” – love language of words of affirmation.

You probably guessed my wife’s love language: quality time. Now I’m still not the most punctual guy in the world, but I love my wife enough to give her plenty of time to know when “around six” is going to be 6:45.

It took me a while, but I’m starting to speak her language.

Bible Reference: Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

By UNCOMMEN Coach and Sr. Creative Director at FamilyLife, Brian Goins. www.catapultconcepts.org


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