What Every Couple Can Learn from Walt Disney

To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry. Proverbs 25:12

With gratitude to Les and Leslie Parrott once again, most of you know that The Gorgeous Redhead and I are Disney-freaks. Several years ago, when we could, we bought into the Disney Vacation Club. We have about enough points for a week or two a year for 50 years at one of the Disney properties, and my favorite is DisneyWorld in Orlando, FL. Usually we go with friends who got us hooked on the idea. We share points and can often get a 2BR villa for 10 days. There is something calming when we drive in the gates and one of the cast members says, “Welcome home, Mr. Ivey.”

I bet you didn’t know this about Walt Disney. He was bankrupt when he went around Hollywood with his little “Steamboat Willie” cartoon idea.

Can you imagine Disney trying to sell a talking mouse with a falsetto voice in the days of silent movies? Somewhere in our stuff are some of those early 8mm black and white films. They captured our imaginations back in the…well a long time ago.

Disney’s dreams were big, and he had plenty of critics. People closest to him, however, believe Disney thrived on criticism. He was said to have asked ten people what they thought of a new idea, and if they were unanimous in their rejection of it, he would begin work on it immediately.

A single critical comment, for many, however, is enough to shut down all sources of creativity. I’m terrible about wearing my feelings on my sleeves. I tend to “take a hit” on nearly everything. It has something to do with “boundaries” but that is a subject for another day.

Few among us actually thrive on it like Walt did. But on the other end of the continuum are those whose sensitivity to criticism creates a social stalemate. They stymie all progress for fear of someone saying something critical.

Sir Isaac Newton is said to have been so sensitive to criticism that he withheld the publication of a paper on optics for fifteen years, until his main critic died. Now that’s a serious case of wanting to avoid criticism!

We are not trying to entertain the critics.

I’ll take my chances with the public.

–Walt Disney

But truth be told, nobody can ever truly avoid it. Criticism comes with the territory of being human, not to mention, married.

No matter how hard you work, how great your ideas, or how wonderful your talent, you will be the object of criticism. Even the perfect motives of Jesus were often misunderstood, resulting in malicious criticism.

Of course, no critic cuts deeper than your spouse.

When we are criticized on the home front we feel it to the core. It’s like a knife in the gut.


Because we expect our home to be safe and free from verbal critique. That’s why the next time you are on the receiving end of constructive criticism from your spouse, especially if it’s given in a loving spirit, you may want to press the mental “pause button” before you automatically put up your defenses.

Take a breath. Wait a couple of beats.

Then try to see where your partner is coming from. The more he or she feels heard and understood by you, the softer their critiques are likely to become.

BTW, do a quick analysis of your own reactions to your spouse. When a topic comes up do you stifle conversation when the first thing out of your mouth is a criticism?

Perhaps a gentle note to self…my spouse loves me and would not hurt me intentionally for anything. Can I hear the feelings behind the words? Can I suspend judgment and have good boundaries so a healthy exchange of ideas can occur? On the obverse, do you tend to see the negative in whatever your spouse says as your first comments? Sometimes the choice to critique or not needs to be tempered by whether or not it will help or hurt your relationship.

Watch your mouth…and on the other side…toughen up.

When it comes to critique, do you thrive on or abhor it? What can you do to handle it better? Talk about it together.