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Criticizing Each Other

Read 2 Samuel 6:1–23

Every couple goes through a stage during which they move from “me” to “we.” From that point on, couples think in terms of what is best for “us,” not just “me.” For the most part, this bonding is good and healthy. But sometimes the sense of oneness in marriage can lead us to forget the ways in which we remain unique, separate people.

A few years ago, my husband and I noticed we had a tendency to criticize each other in front of other people. Since neither of us felt good about this, we tried to figure out what was going on. Eventually, we realized that our criticism was a way of distancing ourselves from something the other person was doing that we found embarrassing or annoying. So if I thought Jim was monopolizing a conversation, I’d say something sarcastic about it.

What was really going on was that I was more concerned about what people would think of me than I was about my husband’s feelings. I used criticism as a way of siding with other people against my dear husband. As we talked about ways to change this behavior, we recognized that the key was to remember that we aren’t the same person. I can let Jim be Jim, knowing that anything he says or does isn’t nearly as off- putting to others as watching me take down my husband with a few sharp words. I can still be “me” in the midst of “we”—but only when I remember how important “we” are.

That’s a lesson Michal, David’s wife, could have used. David and Michal had had a rocky start to their relationship. King Saul had given his daughter Michal to David in marriage for the bride- price of a hundred Philistine foreskins, in the hope that David would be killed in battle (see 1 Samuel 18:17–29). After David fled from Saul, Saul gave Michal to another man. Later, after David had married other women and been crowned king over his own tribe of Judah, David demanded that Michal be returned to him—at least in part for political reasons (see 2 Samuel 3:12–16). While the Bible tells us that Michal loved David before they were married, it’s not clear how David felt about her. So while we don’t know what kind of bond existed between this man and woman, we see that Michal’s initial love wasn’t enough to keep her from being embarrassed by her husband’s enthusiasm.

We all have moments when we cringe at our spouse’s behavior. Sometimes my husband might genuinely be acting inappropriately. Other times, he might just be expressing joy or enthusiasm in a way that seems over- the- top to me. That’s when I need to pull back and remember that being “we” means standing side by side with my beloved, even when he embarrasses me.

After all, the beauty of being “we” is having someone who will love you even when it’s your turn to be embarrassing.

 

Let’s Talk

• How do we handle situations in which one of us does something that the other finds embarrassing?

• How can we demonstrate commitment and connection even when we’d rather distance ourselves from each other?

• How are we different in how we express our emotions?

• How can we learn to appreciate these differences in each other? What can we learn from each other in this area?

• What are some ways we can show each other support when we are with other people and are tempted to disassociate ourselves from each other?

(Carla Barnhill)

 

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