So maybe I heard this one wrong while I was jogging on the treadmill today, but according to a new relationship book, once of the secrets to having a happy relationship is to balance every criticism with at least 4 compliments.
The woman who was reviewing the books seemed shocked by this advice, simply mired in disbelief as she belittled and thoroughly examined in a slightly bored and cynical voice, how this might be done.
"What, like you should have to tell her she has a looks good in that dress 4 times for every time you criticize her denting the car?"
At first I was laughing along with her critique. I mean, in general, I think across the board dating advice, or any advice, is a bad idea. People communicate in unique and unusual ways and often what makes a successful relationship is how you communicate, and that includes compliments and criticism.
I am also not one for cheap praise or false compliments.
But as I listened to her dismiss the very notion of this particular goal, I found myself wondering: what was so wrong with this suggestion? Why is this so ludicrous? And, in deed, if you really like your partner, or friends for that matter, shouldn't you tend to encounter a greater number of qualities you would want to praise, than those you would want to critique?
I mean, it's not like ithis goal should require a constant firing of inane compliments. That many criticisms would seem to indicate to me, anyway, that something was fairly off. If your friends and lovers have that many issues and things you'd like to change, they are either a pretty unfortunate person, or your just too critical and sensitive to their flaws.
Sure: everyone's got something, but how many issues are of such magnititude that they require your attention?
But more to the point: what are you doing hanging out with someone that you find that many meaningful things wrong with that you are constantly compelled to criticize?
And yes, I understand this is my own personal opinion, but I stand behind it. One should endeavor to spend time with people they like, and for the most part, like without qualification, enjoy wihtout meaningful objection. And while I understand that every single person, even those we adore the most, has faults, if they have so many meaningful faults that they require constant guidance, one might question what's really in it for the critic to be there.
But that's another story.
I guess, in the end, though, it came down to this for me: we create these relationships in our lives, cultivate these intimacies, and to what end? I mean, I'm not talking about co-workers, I'm talking about our friends, our lovers. I'd like to think we have the unique privilege of providing support, comfort, and stimulation to those we share our lives with. These are the people who help us grow and they also just help us be...just be happy, be content, be capable of handling life. Double that statement and multiply it for partners, lovers, spouses or whatever you want to call them. These are the people we choose to share serious bonds with, that we choose to form attachments with on multiple, undefinable physical, emotional and intellectual levels.
As such, don't we the people we choose to share the greatest intimacies with the kind of support and affection that will allow them to thrive? I mean, I am not saying all of our relationships should become corny festivals of affirmation. I'm not thinking we should count out or critiques and compliments like payment for bills.
But shouldn't we like the people that we love enough to want to make them feel good?
Don't we owe it to them to see all the great things about them, to convey what makes them special to us and to give them the kind of positive affirmation that will help cushion the occasional critique?