How a Judgmental Spirit Wounds Your Marriage

And How I've Vowed to Change

Joel Weldon, a motivational speaker, was giving his talk “Jet Pilots Don’t Have Rearview Mirrors.” He was sporting an Arizona tan, but his accent gave him away. He was a New Yorker.

It was 1984, and I was in Maui, Hawaii at the annual sales awards for the public company where I ran one of the divisions. Surrounding me were top performers from all over the world. It was an honor to be there. It was also a lot of fun. We were the best of the best.

Then Joel asked, “Do you want to be married to a princess?”

When he asked this, he had a cartoonish visual of a princess on the screen. A beautiful, young lady being attended to by maids in waiting. I still remember the image, the room and even where Joel was standing on the stage. I was sitting next to Kathy.

Bringing It Home

He asked this question because he understood top performers. We were people who bought into the meritocracy. We were tough on ourselves and everyone around us. We were always judging whether we were good enough and always judging our competition. Sizing them up.

Do they work hard enough?

Are they smart enough?

Do they want it as much as I do?

What do I need to do to win?

Joel knew this bled right into our personal lives. Our belief in meritocracy, judgment and resultant behavior didn’t end when we left the office. We took it home to our wife and kids.

When Funny Isn’t

I was at my friend’s house the other day, and he made a crack about his wife being a terrible cook. He told me what he had said to his wife and how they both laughed about it.

While he was laughing, I said, “That’s not funny. What did she say when you said that to her?”

He said, “She knows she is a terrible cook. She laughed, too.”

It was at that moment that I thought of all the “funny” things I’ve said to Kathy. These statements come from my judgment of her behavior. When I say them, in a joking way of course, I know it hurts her. I know because of how she reacts. It makes her sad. I see it.

On the way home that night, I promised myself I wouldn’t say these “funny” things anymore. Then I thought of Joel Weldon and what he said over 30 years ago, “If you want to be married to a princess, then treat her like one.”

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2 thoughts on “How a Judgmental Spirit Wounds Your Marriage

  1. Love this.

    I think often about the two best indicators of a person for hiring are: 1) how well have they performed in the past doing the job you need them to do, and 2) how happy/fulfilled/confident is their spouse. One tells you how they will perform. The other tells you who they are when no one is looking, their empathy, and how well they separate work from life.