One of the things that makes marriage so difficult is the fact that human beings are flawed. Although we have trouble seeing our own flaws (that’s one of them right there!), it’s all too easy to see our spouse’s flaws.

Of course our children are also flawed, but we are often even blinder to their flaws than to our own. Hashem has made us very much biased in favor of our offspring. At home then, the most flawed person will typically appear to be our spouse.

“I’m sick of my wife’s complaints about me. Everything I do and say is wrong. It’s come to the point that I leave the room when I see her coming because I’m not interested in hearing what she has to say.”

This fellow’s wife is probably right about all of her negative observations. Many women are proficient at seeing what’s wrong with their husband’s words, actions, and even thoughts. Many men are equally critical of what they find in their wives. In fact, anyone can become an expert fault-finder. All you has to do is keep your eyes open and focused on personal flaws, and after some time, you’ll become quite good at finding them. In fact, as psychologist and relationship-expert Dr. Harville Hendrix writes:

“If you pay attention to the things your partner does wrong, then the neural pathways of anger and fear get reinforced, and the accompanying neurochemicals are released throughout your body. If you focus on your beloved’s positive qualities and the efforts they are making, your brain releases the pleasure neurochemicals. This rewires neural pathways, training your brain to notice even more of the good stuff. What is exciting is that this is something you can develop by practicing.” (The Space Between, 2017)

We see from Dr. Hendrix’s remarks that we shape our own perceptions and dose ourselves with neurochemistry of our own making. We choose where to focus our attention and then reap the results of that choice. Often, while we can see no bad in our kids, we can see no good in our partners. However, if we look for it, we will find it. All human beings have their strong points as well as their flaws!

“My husband is what I call ‘an underachiever.’ I was always giving him advice on how he can advance himself, accomplish more, be more efficient — be more like me! Nothing I said or did made a difference. He continued to plow along at a snail’s pace, doing the bare minimum. I was miserable and I know I made him miserable too.

“We eventually went for marriage counseling and I was sure that the counselor would slap some sense into my husband and make him step up to the plate. To my shock, the counselor turned to me. He told me that I needed to accept my husband’s flaws and focus on his good points. I didn’t know what ‘good points’ the man was talking about! But he helped me to see that my husband actually was full of good points: He was caring, affectionate, positive, generous, easygoing, a great father, honest, helpful, reliable, handy, and much more.

“I was shocked when I realized how many good points I had been ignoring. Even though I had friends whose spouses were selfish, irresponsible, demanding, dishonest, uptight, and otherwise extremely flawed, I never appreciated my own husband. Instead, I concentrated all my attention on the fact that he moved slowly and lacked ambition! I realized how ridiculous I had been and how much pain I had been causing myself, him, and our marriage. Now I recognize and treasure my husband’s good points and I’m full of gratitude and joy.”

It’s tempting to focus all of our attention on our spouse’s flaws. Yet this focus on negativity will never yield positive results. When someone looks at you as the sum total of your weak points, how does that make you feel? Feeling negative judgment makes people want to shrink or run away. It doesn’t make them stronger or better in any way. Interestingly, the feeling of negatively judging others is toxic even for the one doing the judgment.

What brings out the best in us, in our spouses, in our marriage and in our homes, is cultivating a “good eye” — an eye that sees and dwells on the good.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 577)