Foundation of a happy married life is the process of two-way communication. And this process needs to be healthy. As part of a healthy two-way communication, giving and receiving feedback is inevitable but how you do it can make or break your marriage.
Giving and receiving feedback can be a tricky affair. Whether it is a parent giving feedback to a child or a boss giving feedback to the employee, the process needs to be managed carefully.
But when it comes to marriages, the feedback conversation can easily snowball into a major argument. So, if you are looking for unlocking another secret to a happy married life, just keep reading.
In the last blogpost – Should you compare your spouse with others?, I discussed the case of Tanuja and Anil where Tanuja was frequently telling Anil how his friend was better than him while accompanying his wife to a party or how his friends dressed better than him.
It goes without saying that nobody is perfect and Anil accepted that. However, what he didn’t like was the direct comparison with his peers. Tanuja could have been more subtle with the feedback. When someone is direct or negative with feedback, the other person feels that he or she is being accused of doing something wrong. They immediately become defensive and the conversation breaks down.
Tanuja could have said,’ Anil, I am so happy that we are together and you take good care of me. But I would have enjoyed the party more if you could be with me for more time.’
To this Anil would most likely reply,’ Yes sure, Tanuja. I will keep that in mind whenever we go for a party next time. I also don’t mind being with you but it just happened that many of my friends were sitting in a separate group and I wanted to catch-up with them.’
So the response was much more positive. Anil not only accepted the feedback but also offered to act on it. It pays to be less direct and confrontational in such cases and you can set the base for a happy married life.
If you see the case of Deepak and Smita (in the previous post), you may notice that in addition to accusing Smita, Deepak also uses a harsh tone. He questions her again and again on why can’t she act like their hostess at a friend’s house. Tone of the voice is another very important factor in how the other person will take your feedback.
In this case, the feedback was quite scathing and hence Smita was bound to feel bad irrespective of Deepak’s tone. But studies have shown that even positive feedback may be perceived negatively if the tone of voice is harsh and vice-versa.
This routinely happens in many interactions that I witness. So, keep the tone calm and loving while giving any feedback to your spouse.
Avoid using words like ‘always’ and ‘never’. Phrases like, ‘You always do that’ or ‘You never take care of this’ set off a powerful vicious circle in the head of the listener. When Deepak says,’ You always disappear’, he is implying that Smita literally didn’t spend any time with the guests. Whereas in Smita’s mind, she was barely away for 15-20 minutes in all. Anyone with not accept an indefinite feedback. We need to understand that nobody is perfect in even being imperfect.
Many times we are not able to accept our life-partner or spouse as he or she is. When that happens, there is a virtually endless stream of feedback that the other partner needs to cope with. Look at the story of Jay and Sonia. Sonia is not happy with their financial status, specially as compared to Jay’s brothers and cousins.
In some cases, one spouse is not happy with the other’s looks, body shape, nature or habits. Hence, it becomes very important to be clear about what kind of person you like. And you need to have this clarity before marriage. It is too late to keep cribbing post-marriage.
Once you have married the person, please accept them as they are. In spite of your best due-diligence, long courtship or even live-in relationship, there are bound to be surprises after marriage. You may be surprised that in most cases, people are actually not aware of their own likes or dislikes. When they discover their choices later, they end up blaming the spouse for being imperfect.
Also accept that it is impossible to find that perfect human being that you want as your spouse. Either that person doesn’t exist or you do not have the capacity to hunt him or her down from among 7 billion human beings. Search for the perfect ONE is the biggest enemy of a happy married life.
So, accept what you have got. List down the things that you like and that you dislike about your spouse. Devise a game-plan on how you will go about giving feedback to your spouse. In my next blogpost, I will talk about a game-plan to influence your spouse without ending up with a mud-slinging match.
Last but not the least, understand that feedback is a two-way communication process. Just like you are unhappy with some aspects of your spouse, they surely are not completely happy with you.
Be as open to receiving feedback as you are to giving it. When they ask you to work on some improvement, try and not take it as an accusation. At best, you should tell them if you are unhappy with the way the feedback is being given. Make them read this post to explain yourself better!
Share your personal experiences with me on similar situations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to comment here.
A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.