Pin Pricks

John and Mary have been married for a couple of decades, with their oldest going off to college and their youngest starting to look for colleges. The couple had been struggling for years, but this life transition is having Mary question the viability of their relationship. Mary’s primary role as a stay-at-home mom is waning, and she’s assessing whether staying in the marriage is worth it.

She’s often on the receiving end of John’s unintentional criticism and has grown quite weary of being constantly on guard. We often review his critical comments in our marriage counseling sessions. The severity of his criticism is decreasing, but not the frequency. She wants to be emotionally closer with John, but doesn’t feel safe.

John’s criticism act as pin pricks—like a thousand cuts. They take the form of “That’s odd.” (in reference to something Mary said) or “Why do you do this?”. He doesn’t intend to be critical, but isn’t aware that he is.

Since John and Mary have been in couples counseling for a while, it’s not clear that he’s going to get it. However, he needs to step up his game if Mary’s going to stick around.