Pieces of Feedback

Pieces of Feedback

Q: First, I have a great marriage and really love most things about my husband, BUT, I am so annoyed with him constantly correcting me or telling me how I could do something better. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I always feel like he has an idea for a better way to do it and cannot resist the urge to let me know. I’ve asked him in so many ways to stop critiquing my every move, but he cannot stop! He’s crazy! How can I get through to him that this is beyond annoying!?! 

She: Oh boy, welcome to my world! As therapists, we are taught that, although having experienced an issue in our own lives makes us better at being able to help those struggling with the same issue, it is not appropriate to help clients with issues with which we are still dealing. So…. My friend… it is hard for me to do anything in this situation but commiserate.

This is a chronic issue in my home. I call them “pieces of feedback.” I call it this because they are delivered to me in a sweet little package, as if the information given is a gift, of which I should be eternally grateful. When the feedback is meant to be more informative, I like to call them “nuggets of knowledge.” This sounds like, “you should water the plants at night; California is in a drought right now”. I mean, I am a doctor of psychology, I think I know we are in a drought!

It is actually amazing the ways that Andy can find to enlighten me, and it’s amazing that at age ‘43’ I am still needing feedback on such things as: how to properly pound out chicken (strangely there is a lot of feedback in my house around the handling of raw chicken), how long to microwave leftovers, and ways to remember to take my lipstick out of my pants pockets so they don’t go through the wash. In the middle of writing this I received some feedback on the better way to clean up the dog’s vomit!

As with you, I have asked Andy ad nauseam to please resist the urge to constantly look over my shoulder and critique the most mundane tasks of my day. To sit with the low level anxiety that he must experience when he sees me not cleaning out the yogurt carton to his standard before putting it in the recycling. To practice deep breathing when I put too much toothpaste on my toothbrush. But alas, I, like you, continue to receive my “pieces of feedback” on a daily basis.

What do I suggest? Have a sense of humor. Learn to tune out these critiques if you can’t laugh them off. If I’m in a good mood, I like to make Andy think that the information given is a real life-changer, and he is my god. Know that his anxiety over you screwing up the small details of your life is probably more intense than your annoyance at him pointing it out.

And, please, if you come up with a better solution, I am all ears!

He: They say there is more than one way to skin a cat. Even if you can get past the disturbing and macabre imagery of that dated adage, there is still a missing fundamental piece. Yes there is more than one way, but some ways are much better than others. As a society we have evolved from scratching pictures on cave walls with a pointed stick to being able to voice activate one’s Twitter account. These important advances in civilization do not come without one person offering lessons and advice to another.

Jen often refers to my lessons as “feedback” or “corrections,” which implies some carried agenda- like correcting a bull elephant with a whip and staff in order to teach it to do circus tricks. Maybe this is how it feels to have someone offer unsolicited suggestions to you, but to me, the strong reactions to these suggestions certainly seems to be loaded with emotional energy. I would characterize the lessons as more like helpful suggestions- ways to make a life a little simpler and a little more efficient.

When I make a suggestion, it is merely out of the desire to help the person I love have an easier time with something. In my mind, it is the equivalent of offering some sort of physical assistance, like extending an arm for my wife to hold as she is walking on an uneven sidewalk with high heels. No judgment or pretense, just a desire to help.

My guess is that when a guy offers physical assistance, it doesn’t invoke an emotional reaction because most women do not think of themselves as physical equals to their significant other. Therefore there is no emotional energy there. When a man offers assistance outside of the physical realm, this may bump into a perceived challenge of the woman’s intellect, autonomy, or other complicated interpersonal or power dynamics that arise in a relationship.

Jen can get a bit touchy about these suggestions, and even to her detriment, will purposely dig in her heels just to make a point. For example, I have always suggested that there is a faster way to get to our house, which involves getting off the highway on a different exit than the one she takes. Jen insists that her way is faster and refuses to do so. So when we are in a situation where we are both separately driving home from somewhere, she will go her way, I will go mine. No matter how many times she pulls into the driveway to see me already sitting on the couch watching TV or playing with the dogs, she refuses to change her thinking about that. I will continue to suggest the different route to her, not because I feel like exerting power over her, or questioning her intellect, but merely because I love her and don’t want her to have to waste any time on the road. Your husband may be doing the same thing.

I would recommend that you do a quick self-assessment. Do you have an emotional reaction when your father or your boss makes suggestions? If so, there may be some general control issues that you need to explore. If not, and it is just your husband’s suggestions that annoy you, I would recommend that when he offers a “lesson,” that you try to mentally reframe it, and start to see it as another way that he shows his concern and love for you.

 

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for ten years (currently happily). They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California. Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question to coastalcounseling1@gmail.com. Check us out on the internet at www.coastalcounselinggroup.com.

 

Disclaimer: This blog and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.

 

 

 

 

 

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