Sunday, February 2, 2014

Shalom Bayis: There is no such thing as constructive criticism by Allan Katz

Guest post by Allan Katz      There is no such thing as constructive criticism – it is criticism and destructive to shalom bayis as various experts have said. Instead why not engage in CPS – collaborative problem solving and work on a mutually satisfying solution. The process is not easy , but we can avoid the following mistakes -  don't try to solve problems in the heat of the moment, talk about concerns and  problems – not behaviors . Once we have a clear understanding of the concerns of both parties, only then we can talk about solutions. 

CPS - Collaborative problem solving between spouses 

The following comment by Terisa Atkins made me appreciate how valuable a tool CPS – collaborative problem solving is for families – not only for solving problems between parents and kids and of course between kids themselves but also important for the marriage relationship. So raising kids with CPS, prepares them for life and especially for marriage.

'All too often, women think that talking to our husbands is the way to make them see how their behavior affects us. If the behavior doesn't change when we first bring it up, we want to talk more, longer, or louder because we think maybe they didn't get it the first time. One of the biggest pet peeves for men is that feeling of being nagged or badgered, especially if they don't know what the problem really is. Also, the rules of polite, kind, nice conversation that women try to follow often come off as indirect, manipulative and mysterious to men. Women often conclude that their husbands don't care because they haven't changed after a particular conversation.
What really amazed me was that same lack of skills that parents display when trying to solve problems with kids is evident when trying to solve a problem with a spouse. The husband is coming out of the conversation not really knowing what the problem really is and the woman comes off as indirect and mysterious.

This is because the woman has difficulty in articulating the problem and her concerns and in most cases is being too general and vague. She may be talking about behaviors which can be happening in many different situations and  contexts, such as 'not helping' and with this type of ' clumping '  of problems together , the man does not have a clue what the woman is saying. When the problem is too general and vague the man will have difficulty in responding in an effective manner. The response will be defensive and vague. Problems can only be solved when they are defined, are very specific and in detail.

Before I share in a real problem in the home, here are some tips to help one be more successful problem solvers. CPS is a skill and needs practice. click here for rest of post


  1. Going to Allan's full post, I noticed this:

    "Try to understand your spouse's perspective and getting a clear understanding of his concerns before you put your own concerns on the table. If you are willing to hear him/her and make him/her feel understood, he/she will understand your concerns".

    Excellent advice. Here's what the חסיד יעב"ץ says about this - (he lived during the times of the spanish inquisition & is often quoted by the first Chassidic Sefer - תולדות יעקב יוסף)

    חסיד יעב"ץ (הי' ממגורשי ספרד) על פרקי אבות פרק ב' מ"ה - ואל תדין את חבירך עד שתגיע למקומו: שזה כלל גדול להתמדת השלום והאהבה בין האנשים, וזה כי רוב הקטטות הנופלות בין בני אדם הם בסבת שפוט האדם משפט אחד לעצמו ומשפט אחר לזולתו ולכן הזהיר אל תדין חבירך עד שתגיע למקומו ויהי' דעתך ונפשך תחת נפשו המשל חרפך בן אדם על איזה איזה דבר שעשית לו אל תשיבהו עד שתדין אתה בעצמך אם הי' הוא עושה לך מה שעשית לו אם לא היית מחרפו יותר ממה שחרפך וכן המשל בכל משא ומתן שיהי' לך אצל חבירך אם אתה נושה בו חשוב בדעתך אם הי' להפך מה היית רוצה שיעשה עמך ותשוה לו גם אתה. סוף דבר זה כלל גדול להרבות שלום בעולם...

    One gripe about this, though "If you are willing to hear him/her and make him/her feel understood, he/she will understand your concerns"...

    should be amended to "If you are willing to hear him/her and make him/her feel understood, YOU STAND A BETTER CHANCE THAT he/she will understand your concerns

    I wish the world was such a nice place, where the reasonableness of reasonable people is always reciprocated. lol

    1. Agreed - I generally say , you are more likely to be heard and understood

    2. Being judgmental or even having our theories why people or kids behave in a certain way , does not help in us really to getting a clear understanding of their concerns or perspectives - info which we need to get from them

  2. @Allan Katz - Articles urging women to correct their behavior, like the one you linked to "6 Mistakes Married Women Make That Lead To Divorce" can be insightful. There are a number of intelligent non-Orthodox or non-Jewish women who are concerned that some women are unnecessarily destroying their marriages. These intelligent women seem to be aware there is a growing mass of divorced women who made serious mistakes during their marriages.

    Teaching Jewish couples CPS techniques may have some positive effects in saving marriages. But can Torah hashkafa and therapy techniques save marriages while pro-divorce feminism is reigning in many parts of the Orthodox community? Where are the voices of pro-marriage women in the Modern Orthodox community?

    1. Again, you seem to think that just the wife has to change behavior, while husbands are perfect (because they are male?).

      It will certainly not save a marriage to tell the other spouse how they have to behave.

    2. @Patience - "husbands are perfect" - I never claimed this and I never believed it. I fully agree that in divorce conflicts the husbands usually need to change their behavior also.

      But I am claiming that Western secular pro-divorce attitudes have generally influenced women much more than men - its apparent from the much higher percentage of divorces initiated by women compared to men initiating divorces.

  3. Emes:

    Your desire is noble, but I doubt you'll find many takers in the M.O. community,

    Perhaps this is because their emphasis is on freedom & liberty, which unfortunately often comes along with a diminished sense of responsibility for actions that impinge on community responsibility.

    I suspect that in this worldview, the woman's supposed "right" of freedom trumps her responsibility to exert effort for keeping the family unit intact.

  4. The need for a husband or wife to change ' behaviors ' is not the focus of cps . The focus of cps is solving problems and acquiring lagging skills , underlying those behaviors . Behaviors just tell us that the demands of the situation outstrip the skills that people are blessed with. If we apply the CPS mantra ' kids do well if they can and not kids do well if they want to ' to adults we can be more empathic and say that our spouses are doing the best they can . This helps to take out the 'blame ' factor and allow the couple , maybe with outside help to start prioritizing problems and then work together to find mutually satisfying solutions . Feeling being heard and understood goes a long way to foster respect and caring. And once the pile of problems becomes smaller , the home becomes more peaceful. Not easy

  5. Every child needs to be happy, have a childhood. And parents must understand them. Especially if you have some problems with it. If you want to spent more time together, just ask 1st writing service for help. I'm sure they'll do theirs best.


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