Negative Wife, Negative Life? Not Necessarily!

Nate and Kathryn are working to improve their marriage, but Nate has a pet peeve that he can’t seem to let go of. Although Kathryn is a wonderful woman and a great mother, it drives him crazy how negative she’s become. She’s critical about the most insignificant things. If it’s not the laundry, he didn’t pick the right pajamas for the kids or he bought the wrong brand of cereal. It really bothers him, but he knows that jumping all over her for it won’t win him any points or strengthen their relationship. He’s wondering how they can improve their marriage when she’s so negative.

If Nate’s situation sounds familiar to you, listen up! Because wrapped up in your frustration with your wife and her criticism, there’s an irony: the reality is that you are being negative about your wife’s negativity! And guys, I totally get it. In my women’s books and conferences I constantly remind women to ruthlessly avoid criticism and negative words because it is so painful for any spouse… but especially for men! My guess is that your wife—like Nate’s—is not a mean person; she simply doesn’t see how painful her negative words are for you. Or doesn’t see them as negative at all.

But here’s the hard truth: if you want to improve your marriage, you cannot depend on her to change. In fact, to break the cycle you’ll have to try the same no-negativity approach with her that you wish she had with you. And in order to control the way you respond to what she says, you’ll have to control how you think about it as well.

How do you do that? Let’s take a look.

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  • CJ

    You end by saying, “Remind yourselves, men, that your wife appreciates you and truly doesn’t realize how she sounds.” I have to call BS to this comment. While I did 99 percent of things right, my wife would always find the 1 percent to criticize me over and she kept mental records of this 1 percent that she would then call “A Pattern” that she would use whenever it was time to remind me of the 1 percent I would do wrong. And then when I tried to point out the 99 percent, it made no difference in her eyes and in her heart. She knew exactly what she was doing and she lost respect and, after 18-plus years of trying to be the best husband I could be (the past 6 have been agonizingly painful on many levels), she lost her love for me. Years later, she still no longer says she loves me and I know she finds me incapable of doing what is correct in her eyes. I have felt like the Farm Boy in “Princess Bride” who just takes the emotional abuse and replies, “As you wish.”