Continuing our discussion today of John Gottman's book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, we have come to the first of the four horsemen of the marital apocalypse, criticism. Gottman says,
"On the surface, there may not seem to be much difference between complaining and criticizing. But criticism involves attacking someone's personality or character - rather than a specific behavior - usually with blame." p.73
Having pointed out that criticism is a deadly sign of a deteriorating marriage, Gottman quickly points our however, that complaining is a good thing in marriage.
"Expressing anager and disagreement - airing a complaint - though rarely pleasant, makes the marriage stronger in the long run than suppressing the complaint.
The trouble begins if you feel that your complaints go unheeded (or if you never clearly express them) and your spouse just repeats the offending habits." P. 73-74
As I used to say to my children. The complaint department is always open. If there is something you don't like, something you disagree with, something you think is unfair, tell me. But I expect that you will do so in a courteous and polite way. Name calling, put downs, sarcasm, swearing, are out of bounds.
So, without knowing it, I was on the right track with my kids. Gottman is clear that its a good thing to complain, but rein in the criticism.