I am a 28-year-old woman and have been married for 2 1/2 years. When my husband and I first moved in together (we were engaged), it became abundantly clear that I had a lot of growing up to do. I was not responsible in the area of finances. I spent too haphazardly and I was not very motivated to "just get things done". I had been cared for by my parents and found that the steps towards true adulthood and responsibility were very difficult. It was through the constant (and difficult) constructive criticism of my husband that I finally made the changes that were necessary.
Now I feel that my husband is too critical of me. How do I know when his criticism has moved beyond helping me to grow and improve, and has become more than is necessary?
You have asked a wonderful question and the short and dirty answer is when you feel the relationship is no longer really equal. A committed love relationship is a very fragile and dynamic living organism. A common belief is that when two people get married they become one person. This is a fallacy. People are individuals and they mature and grow at different rates. This is one of the reasons that relationships are difficult. Whenever, people grow at different rates that can cause a problem in the relationship. Each person brings different skills to the bond and these skills should be respected and cherished. If they are then the relationship is healthy and strong. Too often because of these differences, people often specialize. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if one person begins to act in a superior role because of a particular skill then equality can suffer. At times dependence can result. Both partners can even prefer this at first.
It sounds as if you feel that your husband was more mature at the start of your relationship and it fit both of your needs for him to be in more of a teacher or leader mode and for you to be more of a junior partner. Often at first this is highly adaptable. However, if it continues the relationship can become stilted and restrictive. In some cases this can even assume a role of parent and child. This style clearly will bring problems to the marriage. Usually there is no sinister intent from either partner. It is just something that develops if both people are unequal in terms of present maturity.
It would be very important to look deep inside yourself and ask whether you are fostering this superior stance from your husband by your own dependence. If you act like an equal then it probably would be welcomed by your husband. If not then I would suggest you talk with him in depth about the dynamics of the relationship and realign the way you relate to each other. It is often difficult to change the dynamics of a relationship once it has been established. However, it is not impossible by any means. Hopefully your relationship can grow and be one of these. Beneath is a list of characteristics of healthy love that will help. Good luck.
Characteristics of healthy relationships:
- Allow for individuality.
- Experiencing both oneness with and separateness from their partner.
- Bringing out the best qualities in their partner.
- Each partner has the ability to accept endings, if necessary.
- Experiencing openness to change and exploration.
- Inviting growth in their partner.
- Experiencing true intimacy.
- Feeling the freedom to ask honestly for what they want.
- Being able to experience giving and receiving in the same manner.
- Not attempting to control or change the other person.
- Encouraging self-sufficiency of others.
- Accepting limitations of self and partner.
- Not attempting to seek unconditional love.
- Able to accept commitment.
- Each person having a high self-esteem.
- Trusting the memory of the beloved, enjoying solitude.
- Expressing feelings spontaneously.
- Welcoming closeness, risking vulnerability.
- Able to care with detachment.
- Affirming equality and personal power of self and their partner.
Jef Gazley, M.S. www.asktheinternettherapist.com
This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit: http://www.asktheinternettherapist.com/