Jump directly to the content

Loving Your Negative Spouse

How to handle constant criticism
Average Rating:

From the looks of things, Jenny* was the proverbial have-it-all-together woman. She was attractive, lived in a nice house, and didn't need to worry about money. She even had a caring husband, two healthy children, and was very "needed" at her church.

But as the marital therapy began, it did not take long to understand one of her husband's frustrations—Jenny was negative about almost everything, especially about everything her husband, Ron, did. Jenny expected that sooner or later, all aspects of her life would turn sour. The children would become ill, her husband would have an affair, their money would run out, and she knew she wasn't really attractive. Ron's brief attempts at encouragement were always met with an argument. Rarely a day passed that Ron didn't hear how his way of doing things was somehow wrong or disliked by Jenny.

Therapy for them had two challenges. The first was to help Jenny realize the reasons behind her behavior and how to make healthy changes. The second was to help Ron live with her in an understanding and yet maritally beneficial way. That second part cannot be overlooked. It is not uncommon for a negative, fault-finding spouse to avoid changing at the beginning of therapy, primarily because they don't want to. That being the case, the other spouse is often left wondering, "Is there anything I can do that can encourage them, help me, and ultimately improve our marriage?" And the answer is "yes."

Why Do People Become Negative?

From a very early age, we learn to act or not act a certain way because a behavior benefits us. A baby cries and gets fed; a child brings home a good report card and gets praised; an adult works hard and gets promoted and a raise; and a person learns to see things from a negative vantage point because that is what their family did, it brought them attention, or it is where they find confidence or validate their lack of confidence. In short, spouses who are always finding fault with their mates do so out of what it gets them—good or bad. It is the way they feel most secure in life.

We could also have a long discussion as to why a person would marry someone who continually shows their disapproval, and the reasons are similar. For example, it is common for a woman who had a critical father to marry a man who will continue to be critical of her. First, it is what she knows, and, second, she is still trying to find the approval from a significant male who has eluded her all her life. All of this is to say that there is more to why we choose to marry someone than we may think.

No First PageNo Previous PagePage 1 of 4Next PageLast Page

Sign up for TCW's free Marriage Partnership e-newsletter for weekly updates and encouragement through the joys, trials, and tribulations of marriage.
Related Topics:Criticism; Marriage; Spouse

also in this issue


Growth by Dependence

Contrary to what the world may say, our mutual surrenders are what enrich us.
Get Physical

Get Physical

How to strengthen your abs as well as your marriage
Boundaries for In-laws

Boundaries for In-laws

Establishing rules to protect your marriage

ratings & comments

Average User Rating:

Displaying 1–3 of 4 comments


December 18, 2013  8:11am

Thank you - I know this information but I so often need to be reminded. While I cannot love my spouse when his negative attitude impacts my own, I can love him when I allow God to work through me. Without Him, I can do nothing. And I must remember, I am not my husband's God, nor is he mine. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." The world tells me to leave him, that I deserve better. God's Word tells me to love him, that he is a child of His. Today, I choose to believe the TRUTH. Above all else, I can pray. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power" (1 Cor. 4:20).

Report Abuse


November 22, 2013  11:05pm

very helpful... thank you! it made me understand somehow why my husband has such a pessimistic view about him and things in the future. makes me angry that someone who has such faith in God constantly pronounce negative things in his future. i tried countering it but he says it's a "name it claim it" philosophy when i tried to say positive things.

Report Abuse


September 11, 2013  11:22pm

Very interesting article. I never thought of my husbands negativity towards me as how he was treated or hurt in the past. This now makes very good sense to me. God is my strength or I would have left several years ago.

Report Abuse

Rate and comment on this article: *



1000 character limit

* Comments may be edited for tone and clarity.

More For Women
Gifted for Leadership

gifted for leadership

The Leadership Journal blog inspires and connects women leaders in church ministry
Her Meneutics


The Christianity Today  women's site provides news and analysis for evangelical women