Have you ever asked your friends and family what they think of your spouse? Have they ever offered up an opinion regardless of you asking for it? Should you listen to what they say? And if so, how seriously should you take their opinions to heart?
Is there any benefit to hearing feedback about your relationship?
Relationships in general – let alone marriages— do not exist in a vacuum. They are intricate tapestries woven from not just two lives becoming intertwined, but rather two complete lifetimes full of families, friends, and all of those individual and shared histories.
Given the amount of moving parts involved, is it any wonder relationships are often complicated?
Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good thing to have people in your corner cheering you on as you face life’s challenges! However, it gets a little bit tricky when those challenges include your romantic relationships and marriage.
When should you ask for feedback?
There are times when asking for feedback is not only appropriate, but also very helpful.
One of the major benefits of asking for feedback about a situation or dynamic in your relationship is that it provides the opportunity to hear a different perspective. Especially when we believe strongly or passionately about something, it can be really difficult to shift our lens to another viewpoint.
Asking for feedback may help you to see things from your partner’s perspective, gain empathy and even bring you closer together.
When should you not ask for feedback?
Can I take off the professional hat for a second here? As someone who was her friends’ go to ‘feedback giver’ long before I ever decided (or learned how) to do it professionally, I feel like I need to advocate for all the dear glorious friends and family members out there who so patiently lend an ear when needed:
Please do not ask for honest feedback if you’re not ready to receive it. No one likes the experience of feeling baited. (Am I right?!)
Do not ask for feedback when what you want is a box of tissues, your best friend nodding along and a cheesecake a la The Golden Girls.
On a more serious note, asking for advice about something to a friend or family member that involves very intimate, personal details about your partner could really backfire—especially if it was something that person shared with you in the strictest of confidence.
If that person breaks confidentiality—even by accident… ugh! By going that route you’re taking a tremendous risk with your partner’s faith and trust in you.
If you absolutely need to speak to someone about something your partner has disclosed in the strictest of confidence, then I highly suggest you seek out a professional or clergy member.
Folks may offer feedback under a variety of reasons and circumstances—but when should you actually listen to it?
When should you listen to feedback?
It’s important to listen to feedback—even if you don’t like it—as it comes. It’s whether or not you choose to see it as a valid point, throw it away like junk mail, or file it away as something to revisit.
My best advice? Listen for patterns. Patterned feedback is feedback that has a similar theme or message and comes from several sources.
For example: If one person expresses concern over how your spouse speaks to you in front of others, it might be easy, and perhaps even reasonable to dismiss their concern as ‘just a bad moment’ or something ‘caught out of context’.
However, if your mother, your best friend, a coworker and your running partner express concern over how your spouse talks to you in front of others at different intervals, you might want to consider whether this behavior is a pattern.
You should also take note of positive feedback. Listening to positive feedback from others about your spouse or your relationship can help you rediscover aspects of them that you’ve grown accustomed to and therefore, kind of take for granted.
“Your husband is such an attentive father.”
“I really respect your [spouse] as a professional/colleague/coworker.”
One time, my mother-in-law (who is a woman of few flowery words) told me, “You are very good for my son. He is happy. I can see it.” Receiving that reaffirmation of our relationship felt awesome!
When should you not listen to feedback?
For all the times that feedback is great, it’s also important to acknowledge the times when you should take someone’s feedback with a grain shaker of salt.
I’m sure we all know at least one person who wouldn’t recognize a healthy relationship if they got smacked over the head with one. Ask yourself: Does this person have relationships I admire, even if they’re not currently in one? Are they honest and forthright, or do they play games?
Another issue to consider is whether or not someone has anything to gain from drawing attention to negative aspects of your relationship.
Truly toxic people will place a negative spin on almost anything. For example, when someone’s feedback focuses on a truly superficial issue—like someone’s appearance or how his or her job/profession stacks up against perceived “social status.”
Feedback can be a really great tool to have in your marriage toolbox, if you know how to ask for it and when to listen to it.
Feedback can add valuable perspective when it is offered from a place of integrity, love, and concern.
Now it’s your turn!
Who do you think would be good sources of feedback? Who would you NOT ask for advice? Tell me in comments below or on social media!
On Twitter? Remember to include @EngagedMarriage & @SimplyEJS in your tweets!
E.J. Smith is a Nationally Certified Counselor, motivational speaker, writer and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. She is also the face (and mouth) behind SimplyEJ.com. Born in New Jersey, and transplanted to Texas, this self-professed holistic health nut enjoys a wide variety of athletics, reading, and cooking. Raised Catholic and the wife of an active duty Marine, E.J. uses introspection and pragmatism to help readers create loving, fulfilling relationships from the inside out. Follow EJ on Twitter @SimplyEJS