Strong Men
Strong Marriage

Stop the Hurtful Criticism!

Recently, a therapist friend of mine told me about one of the largest studies of marital happiness and longevity. The results, published a few years ago, came to one conclusion: the number one best predictor of marital success—more important than values, interests, age or anything else—was the couple’s ability to communicate.

Some couples think that if they communicate well everything will go well in their marriage. This, of course, isn’t at all true. We first have to have the strong commitment to communicate with integrity. Then, we have to acquire and use the skills to make it work. Do you and your spouse have an equal commitment to communicate with integrity? Do you have the skills?

Men and women each criticize their mates, but they do it for different reasons. Men usually criticize their wives to diminish them, to “put them in their place”. A man that criticizes like that is feeling a lack of power or love and appreciation in his life. So, he attacks his wife. Some men take out their inadequacies and frustrations this way. They feel weak and “feminine” and it scares them, so they put down their woman to feel better. Criticism like this is a form of abuse; it is completely unacceptable, and a man who repeatedly does it is less than a man. Men should take a strong look at their motivations and at the effect criticism is having on their marriages.

Some women criticize to hurt their men because they feel hurt and under appreciated. A sharp tongue is their best weapon. However, most women I know criticize or “nag” for a very different reason: they are actually trying to help their man. Of course, we men don’t know that (and it may not sound very helpful either). What we experience is that our wives are trying to change us. And nobody likes to be changed; we want to be the one who decides whether we’ll change, so we resist or tune-out any effort to change us.

There’s another dynamic at work here: men feel shamed by women’s criticism. To us, it means we haven’t performed or taken care of our woman. The more criticism is perceived as making us wrong, then, the more we men will hate it and defend against it.

Men need to accept and listen to criticism to find out if a criticism is true. We need to stop resisting criticism unless it is abusive. The fastest way to get a woman to stop criticizing is to listen! Believe it or not, criticism can be one of the benefits of marriage if we are strong enough to take it in, stand our ground, and use it to become a stronger human being.

Women, of course, can be more effective when they criticize their men. They need to understand their needs, take responsibility for them, and request what they want in a loving, personal way. Few men will resist a sweet, specific request for something they know they can do well. Men want to please their women, and they want to take on tasks with which they can feel successful. But, every man instinctively recoils at criticism, and repeated, harsh criticism can wreck a marriage.

Let’s take hurtful criticism out of our marriages!

©2010, Marty Friedman

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Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years. - Simone Signoret

Martin G. Friedman is the author of “Straight Talk for Men About Marriage—What Men Need to Know About Marriage (And What Women Need to Know About Men)”. For many years, Marty Friedman taught corporate managers how to create good relationships at work before tackling male/female relationship issues--and applying what he learned to his own marriage. The founder of Men in Marriage, Marty is regularly interviewed on radio and television, and talks to organizations and individuals from a unique, inspirational and humorous perspective. Find out more at

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