Turning What Feels like a Criticism into a positive--How Do You Do This?

Updated on May 14, 2017
O.L. asks from Long Beach, CA
11 answers

Over the last 20 years, my husband has gotten to know me very well. He knows that I have a real "fire" inside of me to fight inequality and injustice. It's part of who I am and I know, that he loves that part of me. We have a child with special needs and I am on a journey of knowledge, justice, and fairness for my child. Unfortunately, we've had to take some pretty strong steps to try and help our child, and as a result, this has truly become a major part of my life.

That being said, I have been expressing that I am tired, exhausted, and i've pretty much been the one consumed with the emails, research, reading, etc. Except now, we've hired professionals to help us with this process--but I still want to be informed, aware, and on top of things with my son. Last night I opened a new book about special ed advocacy and law and so i started telling him about it this morning.

After I started talking about the book he immediately expressed that he worries about me because he sees me obsessing over things and he's concerned (because he knows that i have a pattern of this). I get really focused and it has a negative impact on me (i get really exhausted, consumed, etc). Hearing that from him was not easy. I started to explain why i was so focused and he validated that he knows why i care so much but that he's concerned about what this does to me, both physically and emotionally. And yet, I don't know any other way to be. This is a part of who I am...

How do you listen to something that someone says without feeling shame or judgment? I guess I'm trying to figure out how to receive an opinion without feeling defensive and criticized. Any thoughts on this? I know that my husband worries about me because he sees the impact it has on me. He told me that he wants me to take breaks from thinking about these things, so I can avoid feeling completely depleted. According to him, this is why we've hired professionals to assist us through this process.


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answers from Portland on

Boy, it sounds like you have a very caring husband. :)

I'd start from that place, really. Sometimes, hearing a caring person's concerns about our behavior is difficult. Add to it, when we are focused on one person's needs in our relationship, the other gets the crumbs or 'what's left'. I think this is one reason the stress of having a child with delay/disabilities or special needs often leads to divorce. People get so pulled into what the child needs that it's easy to let what the whole family needs get out of our grasp.

Having a kid with a few challenges myself, I can understand some of what you say. I've had to be deliberate in figuring out healthy balance for our family. I'm the primary ADHD researcher in the household; when Kiddo was in school, I was the one looking up information and trying to work with the school. Having other things to focus on as well, like gardening, volunteering (and then teaching when we started homeschool, which is a fun blessing as I love learning, research and teaching), seeing friends, taking time to STOP.... it is all important.

One thing I would strongly suggest, as someone who has and does work from home, is having a stopping time each day. I tend to go whole-hog on things; when I had my preschool here, I had a rule of stopping at 8 pm. No cutting out stuff, no record keeping, no lesson plans....NOTHING after 8 pm. It was to be only reading or tv or something fun. I'd say, give yourself a reasonable time boundary.

I also want to say something, and it isn't meant to discourage you, but just to temper your perception of this work: you can make the best, first impact by taking care of yourself and your family. Of course we want to see our children, and the children of others, better served. And yet, even with all of the resources available to us, we often have a limited sphere of influence. Our job is not to make the world pay attention, our job (esp as parents)is to first help our family, our child/ren, and then do what we can to help others.

Consider why you hired experts. Is it to have to keep up with everything they know as well, or is it to provide perspective and guidance? It is to make you work harder, or is it to give you a team to help so you can *enjoy* your family? Because, when it comes right down to it, I know that *this* is what my family needs from me: to feel loved, enjoyed and appreciated just for who they are, to feel that I can give them my time and just relax with them. Sometimes, going out of town and disconnecting from daily life is very helpful. Or planning an afternoon to go out and explore something new, a new place, a new ice cream shop or park or something.... our kids and partners need us to be present in those moments too. I hope this helps a little.... there is nothing noble in getting so fully immersed (and, if we are being honest, a bit stressed ) by advocacy that we push peace away. Sometimes, it's very important for us to Just Be. We are still worthy when we love ourselves and allow ourselves to stop work. The work will still be there, years from now. The time and the moments? Not so much.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

To me that doesn't sound like criticism, it sounds like concern. It can be hard sometimes to not feel judged but so often those judgments we perceive from others are not really what they are thinking at all, we are projecting our own concerns and issues onto them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Do you think that there is merit in what your husband is saying. Do you see his point of view and if so do you agree and want to change?

Long ago I recognized the value of doing things for myself. My kids are older now (19 and 14) but when they were younger my husband would say why don't you plan a GNO. He knew when I was in desperate need of a GNO. My husband also told me to get a hobby. I went through many things before I found something I was passionate about. I believe you can not be your best if you lose yourself in your child's life and needs. If you lose yourself then your child and husband will suffer too.

I admire you for being such a strong advocate for your child. It is certainly commendable but not at the expense of losing yourself.

I promise you that taking an hour or so for yourself a day will not negatively impact your child. Join a gym, an art league, bowling league, bikers club, knitters club etc. Having a wide circle of friends and a way to clear your mind I'm betting will actually make you a better advocate for your child in the long run.

Edit...one other thought...years ago I read something...you can stop working at 5:00pm and not be done all there is to do or you can stop working at 11:00pm and still not be done. My advice...stop working/worrying at 6:00 and be done for the day. Everyone needs balance in their life.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

To me it sounds like you've expressed (vented?) how exhausted you are and if he's a problem solver, he's just pointing out something he thinks will help. Don't take it personally.

I used to vent about my health. Friends would say "Why don't you try this..". I was in a very vulnerable spot and didn't feel mentally up for it. I didn't want to discover I couldn't do it. I felt very defensive, and I don't normally.

Your son is a big issue to you, and that's normal and appropriate. To be invested as you are - is a wonderful thing. You care about him so much. Of course you want to be involved. Your husband is not suggesting that you not be. He's not criticizing you. He's just concerned about your well being. He loves you both.

So as you were concerned about his diet (?) I think it was, out of love and concern for him, he did not appreciate how the message was delivered. You meant well.

The thing is - maybe you guys can work on how you deliver your messages. I am a sensitive person. My husband is super direct and honest. I had to adapt a bit to his method of communicating, and he had to adapt to mine a bit. Communication stuff.

Just don't take it personally. He means well - and it's not criticism. You're not doing anything wrong :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Here's my thought on this. You need to actually figure out that someone other than you can be right. THAT'S how you listen to someone without feeling shame or judgment.

It's really THAT simple. You already know that he's right. You've said it here. You just don't want to listen. And not listening is really foolish of you. Your child is depending on you to be his or her MOTHER. Not his or her medical specialist.

You are probably feeling that I'm being judgmental, but I have sat in your seat with one of my children who needed early intervention. I DID study his issues and diagnoses and differential diagnoses. But unlike you, I trusted the professionals that helped me. And I didn't let it overwhelm my health. And I didn't let it keep me from seeing the forest for the trees. Getting too myopic with this causes you to not see the bigger picture.

Listen to your husband and think about HIM. He's actually on your AND your child's team. Healthy mom, healthy child. Healthy family.

Let the pros help and stop trying to be one of them...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It is hard to get past the perceived criticism. From what you write, you know you have an issue with what he has said. You know he is right. My daughter can get like this about some stuff and she can get defensive when I respond. She has gotten better though, especially when she allows herself to step back and look at the whole picture. She has gotten better at considering other's comments and looking at her actions to see if maybe they were right or even a little bit. It has given her some good insight and improved the way she relates to people.
I don't know how you have handled in the past. You write that you do have the issues. You need to step back and look at the whole picture. What can you do to change it? Maybe you need to put the things aside, don't touch, look, think for just a little while and slowly increase that time.
I know how it can be when you have a child with health issues or needs. You find something and just totally focus on it but still have other things to handle so end up exhausted. When it comes to our kids, we can totally run ourselves ragged trying to make sure they have all the care they need, to the expense of ourselves.
Maybe you need your own "professional" to help you find yourself as well. THis could be a counselor, a friend, clergy etc.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Well, I don't think he is criticizing you or your personality, I think he is just genuinely concerned for you. He means well. Don't take it negatively, or personally. He doesn't want you to feel worn out over all this research, which can be tiring and also put you in a frazzled state of mind. It might also be taking a toll on your marriage. Maybe he wants to have some couples time or some time to talk, but feels you have no time for that or that all your conversations are relating to this subject.

Put yourself in his situation. If he was up late every day reading a book, you'd probably tell him to tone it down a bit. You're not mad that he reads, you just think a lack of sleep is not helpful for his health, just as he thinks the stress may make you ill (and it can). Genuine concern, to me, is no criticism. He probably enjoys the fact that you're such a strong, powerful, educated woman, but does not want this to be the entire bane of your existence.

Can you dedicate maybe an hour a day into your advocacy research, rather than spending the entire day doing so? It might actually benefit you, believe it not, if you have more time for other things. You'd still be able to be educated on the subject, and allow the professionals to do their job, but you'd also have time to perhaps do some meditation, gardening, or other activity that might help you relax and clear your mind.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think learning to receive "criticism: is a lifelong process that we all have to deal with, and some are better at it than others. Hopefully we all learn how to do it, although I've known some people (my mother) who go to the grave without ever learning this skill.

I dunno, just try to understand that your husband is coming to you from a place of love and concern, not judgment. And it's certainly nothing to be ashamed about. Even you acknowledge this part of your personality, so there's no point in feeling bad that your husband pointed it out.

Improving ourselves should be a lifelong goal. We all have flaws. Probably you should listen to your husband on this one.

Good luck with it all.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

It may need to be done, the way you need to do it, but throwing yourself totally into something to the degree that it damages you (and therefore ultimately your cause - because if you drop dead from a heart attack - NO ONE will be able to do it like you do it)
THEN - really try to see it as the concern your husband has for you and try to do things in a way that is less damaging to you.
Really - is this a hill worth literally dying on?
Most people have some sort of sense of self preservation - please try to get in touch with yours.
Your husband needs you.
Consider thinking about what he says - I think he's trying to help you.

When our son was about 1 1/2 yrs old - I was killing myself trying to be Super Mom.
I literally had my days planned out in 15 minute increments from 4am in the morning till 10pm at night - and sometimes with being up with a sick child I was getting LESS than 6 hrs sleep per night.
It was totally insane - and yet - I just could not see what I was doing.
6 months on Zoloft got the hair on the back of my neck to quit standing on end all the time.
Please, see your doctor and consider that you might have a touch of depression.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Some of us do things with passion and verve because of a strong sense of justice, and that's an admirable thing. Some of us do things constantly for others because we don't think anyone else can do it as well. Some of us don't feel validated unless we can list all the things we do, all the things that would fall apart without us, and get others to see/do the same. And some of us bridge the categories, finding some of each in us.

You might spend some time figuring out where you are. It sounds to me like this comment of your husband's has you seeing all criticism of not being good enough, of not being able to handle the burden, as if somehow you are less of a person because you are exhausted and consumed. As much as you feel consumed and burdened, maybe there's a part of you that says, "Well, if I were truly competent, I could do all this and more without being tired." So your husband, who is validating you and saying what he sees in you, both physically and emotionally, is being rejected by you because he's "insulting" you.

After all we read on Mamapedia about women who don't feel validated and appreciated, it should be wonderful to see that you have someone who needs, wants, loves and cares about you.

So as much as you want help and professional support, you are a little lost without the constant daily burden, and you can't let go. Maybe you don't think the professionals are good at this, maybe you think they might overlook something because they don't know your child as well as you do, maybe you just don't know what to do with yourself with the extra time, maybe you feel guilty that you couldn't handle it all.

I grew up being told that nothing I did was quite good enough. Maybe that was your experience too. I didn't learn to really accept a compliment until I was around 40. I went to counseling and learned to find myself and value myself without other people's approval. It was hard to do things differently from how I always had done them, and I often slid back and went back to my "comfortable" old way of doing things - I often felt I needed to justify (to others, to myself) what I had done all along.

So my advice to you is, don't decide that you can do yet another thing all by yourself without a professional. That includes "getting over" your negative behaviors that sabotage how you feel about yourself. I don't give myself my own Pap smear, do my own taxes, change my own oil and tires, or cut my own hair. I don't do my own counseling either. It's really okay to use a pro to get some perspective and make a plan. You deserve it, and so does your marriage.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

It sounds like he is being concerned, but I see something else possibly. I'm guessing there isn't much talking you out of your gusto in doing what you do for your child. You are mama bear, so this is what we do, but I know that some people tend to be hyper-focused on things (you get a new book and just devour the information, no pacing for you!!). My husband is this way, I've accepted that I can't slow him down. I'm wondering if you are just this way. You would go crazy trying to slow down, as much as you know you are being worn down.

So hubby sees this and worries for you. But it's also possible that he may have feelings that your behavior brings up in him. Maybe he feels like since you are doing so much, that means he isn't doing enough. Not that you make him feel like that or try to get him to go at the rate that you do, but just the fact that he isn't at your level of participation. Totally could be off base here, but my point is that maybe you could try to see what this all might be bringing up for him- reading between the lines. He sounds like a great guy, and you sound like you are doing so much for your family. And it's easy to get wrapped up in things and not always see what it does to those around us. Again- nothing with bad intentions, just not seeing past our current focus.

If nothing else, if you can't take time out for you to relax, you might be able to when framed as doing something for him- a date night or something!!

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