Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain, members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, have been married more than 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

He says: 

Martin says: Although Gloria has been a bit critical all of our marriage, recently the level of criticism has become most bothersome … and even hurtful. From the time of my meeting Gloria, I recognized a bit of an edge, but I have attributed that to her need to feel in control, or feel good about her ability to be funny or sarcastic.  We are now mid-life with our kids being teenagers, and us looking at the half-century mark.

The type of criticism varies, my driving, my eating habits, my dinner conversation.

This past year I changed jobs. My new job has presented some challenging aspects that were unexpected, and having Gloria’s constant criticism has not been helpful.

I am withdrawing more and more from interaction with Gloria and I don’t like that. I wish we could be more honest in our conversations and let her know that I need her support … not her critiques. What can I do?

She says: 

Gloria says: Martin is way too sensitive for his own good. All I try to do is to point out ways Martin can improve himself. I am not being critical. I am just affording Martin good advice that will improve his ways or his focus or his driving.

I really love Martin, but he seems to need my constant affirmation. I cannot be dishonest and say “Oh Honey, you poor thing … come cry on my shoulder.”

I believe the demands of this new job have him feeling insecure. He does well at the job, even though it requires him working harder than he needed to in his last job.


Martin needs to get his confidence back, but I am not the one to give it to him.

“A path to life is his who heeds admonition, but he who disregards reproof goes astray” (Proverbs 10:17).

What should they do? 

It appears that Gloria’s critical tone is not new in this marriage. It also would appear that Martin and Gloria have not learned how to communicate well or to share their true feelings with one another. Even if Martin has provided “I Messages” to let Gloria know how he feels, Gloria appears to be tough. She does not appear to see that she may not be all that perfect.

Her need to assist Martin to “improve himself” seems a shabby excuse to eliminate any of her actions as being unsupportive.

Gloria needs to develop some sensitivity for her husband who does appear to be going through some pressure at work. It seems that Gloria truly does not see her putting down or blaming as negative. She might ask a good friend to honestly evaluate how Gloria treats others.

Martin needs to learn to let Gloria know how her negative criticism affects him.  There is a simple formula that Martin could use to help Gloria understand his feelings.

He could:

  1. Give a specific example of Gloria’s criticism.
  2. Describe how he feels when she criticizes.
  3. Describe what needs to be done.

There are weekends such as Marriage Encounter and Retrouvaille that focus on helping married couples to rediscover the specialness of each other. These are presented by couples who have “been there” and share personally their story, which could be very much like Martin and Gloria’s.

“My soul will glory in the Lord that the poor may hear and be glad. Magnify the Lord with me; let us exult his name together” (Psalm 34: 3-4).