View all Ask a Priest |
“Ask a Priest: How can I handle constant criticizing from a spouse?”
Q: I wonder if you could give me some spiritual guidance for how to handle constant criticizing … from a spouse. Thank you. -L.G.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: A spouse who criticizes constantly can be challenging, to say the least. It might be one reason why Our Lord gives married couples a special sacramental grace to help them live together.
There are no guarantees that a spouse will be perfect. On the contrary, the early years of a marriage can be a slow, painful discovery of just how imperfect a spouse can be. Yet, imperfections in a spouse can be an opportunity for the other’s growth in holiness. For instance, annoying habits and constant nagging can be among the traits that try, test and toughen a spouse’s exercise of patience.
Since I don’t know much about your specific situation, I can only offer you general principles.
First, be sure to pray daily for your spouse and for domestic peace. Offer up sacrifices for these intentions. Take the initiative spiritually. This will include cultivating a merciful heart toward your spouse — accepting your spouse sincerely even with all his or her flaws, just as God accepts and loves each of us with all our flaws. “Blessed are the merciful,” our Lord explained, “for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Second, try to read up on dealing with marital problems. Catholic psychotherapist Gregory Popcak has written or co-written a number of good books on marriage, including For Better Forever: A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage, Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage, and A Marriage Made for Heaven (Leader Guide): The Secrets of Heavenly Couplehood.
Another good point of reference is Focus on the Family, a Protestant ministry that offers valuable resources and even free marriage counseling
Depending on your situation, you and your spouse might benefit from counseling. The habit of nagging can have various roots, including those that reach back to a person’s childhood.
In the meantime, try to keep up a spirit of hope. Stay in touch with friends and extended family members; they can help you maintain your own psychological balance. Take advantage of the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist.