I am not a perfect wife. Not even close. If my husband were honest about my flaws, he could tell you just how not-perfect of a wife I am.
However, to his perpetual credit, he remains silent on my flaws. He certainly never criticizes me in public, and only very cautiously criticizes – or even questions – me in private. While some of that is an ingrained and wise “don’t air dirty laundry in front of your neighbors” habit, the fact is that there are ways to say things subtlely that come out sounding as criticism, and he doesn’t do that. If he has a problem with something I’m doing, he will tell me, but he takes great pains to phrase it in the nicest way possible. He’s always been very sensitive to how things are phrased, much more so than I am.
When I got married, one of my goals as a wife was to never criticize my husband in public or to say things in such a way as to make him look bad. I have, of course, failed at this many times. But, if I’m honest, I think I do a pretty good job, although I’ve certainly become better at it from seeing my husband’s excellent example towards me. Besides avoiding saying bad things about him, I also try to look for ways to compliment my husband both in public and in private. He seems to like it :), so I have had positive reinforcement to continue. It’s not always instinctive for me to watch what I say and how I say it, but JJ says I’m doing better than I used to.
Because I have tried to sensitize myself to this, I now notice when other women don’t talk nicely about their husbands. Many times it’s not so much that they speak negatively about their husbands (although that does happen), but it’s the words they use to phrase a statement about their husband. Their subtle digs and indirect innuendos often surprise me. “Don’t these women hear what they’re saying?” I wonder. “And why don’t their husbands tell them to stop talking that way?” Sometimes it’s almost embarassing to be part of a conversation where the wife is saying things that reflect negatively on her husband, especially when the husband doesn’t seem to react to it at all. That kind of situation makes me think: “Poor guy. How many times has she said these sorts of things already?”
For the record, I think there are ways to constructively bring up problems that a wife might be having in regards to her husband, or vice versa. No couple is perfect, and sometimes a spouse needs to talk about problems with a trusted friend in order to gain insight and a new perspective on a situation. But I don’t think that constructively discussing an inter-personal problem is the same as ripping on one’s spouse.
Just as parents should never say anything nasty or harsh about their children in front of their children, that same consideration should be shown to spouses. I believe it’s important for a couple to put on a united front to the world. It’s not one person’s decision, it’s “our decision.” It’s not one person’s problem, it’s “our problem.” And for wives, it’s not “He said that I have to…” Instead, it’s “He thought it was best to…” It’s important to speak kindly of those we love, and it’s even more important when there are children involved, with their little ears listening not only to our words but also to our manner of speaking.
I love my husband, and I pray that I will love him even better as our marriage progresses. He’s not perfect, but then neither am I. We are an imperfect match, but together we make a pretty good pair. 🙂