This is a blog for couples who feel they are in crisis in their relationship because criticising each other has taken over. In this blog it will explain what to do in your relationship when criticism has taken over, so you can reconnect lovingly.
Criticism is a common issue in many relationships. It can be a destructive force that can lead to resentment, anger, and even the end of a relationship in some instances.
According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, who have done extensive research on the effects of criticism on relationships, criticism is different from offering a critique or voicing a complaint. Critiques and complaints tend to be about specific issues, whereas criticism has to do with attacking your partner’s character and who they are.
Criticising your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. For example, a complaint might show up verbally as:
“We haven’t gone on vacation together in so long! I’m tired of hearing about our money troubles!” Here we see a specific issue being addressed that is a problem for one partner.
A criticism might go something like this: “You never want to spend money on us! It’s your fault we can never go away together because you spend all our money on useless things!”
The latter example is an attack on the partner’s character, which is likely to pull two people further aparty. It is guaranteed to put them in ‘defensive mode’ and sets the tone for conflict.
The main problem with criticism is that it can pave the way for the worst of the horsemen — contempt.
Contempt is about holding your partner in a negative light without giving them the benefit of the doubt. The contemptuous partner is usually attacking from a place of superiority. This can send their partner the message that they are not liked, appreciated, understood or respected. This does little to create a safe, secure and trusting bond in the relationship.
Criticism can take over in a relationship when it becomes a habit. It can be easy to fall into the trap of criticizing your partner when you are feeling frustrated or angry. However, if you find yourself constantly criticizing your partner, it can be a sign that there are deeper issues in the relationship that need to be addressed. Criticism can also take over when it becomes a way of communicating. If you and your partner are constantly criticizing each other, it can be difficult to have a healthy, open, and honest conversation.
So, how can you stop criticism from taking over in your relationship? Here are some expert tips:
Focus on what you need: When you are feeling frustrated or angry, it can be easy to focus on what your partner is doing wrong. Instead, try to focus on what you need from your partner. For example, instead of saying “You never listen to me,” try saying “I need you to listen to me right now.”
Use a “soft startup”: When you need to bring up an issue with your partner, try to use a “soft startup.” This means starting the conversation in a gentle and non-confrontational way. For example, instead of saying “You never help me around the house,” try saying “I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately. Can we talk about how we can work together to get things done?”
Try “I wish” statements: Instead of criticizing your partner, try using “I wish” statements. For example, instead of saying “You never spend time with me,” try saying “I wish we could spend more time together.”
Be patient: Changing the way you communicate with your partner takes time. Be patient with yourself and your partner as you work to improve your communication.
Be open to communication and compromise: Communication is key in any relationship. Be open to listening to your partner’s perspective and be willing to compromise.
Seek professional help: If you are struggling to stop criticism from taking over in your relationship, consider seeking the help of a professional relationship consultant. They can provide you with the tools and support you need to improve your communication and build a stronger relationship.
In conclusion, criticism can be a destructive force in any relationship. However, by focusing on what you need, using a “soft startup,” and being patient and open to communication and compromise, you can stop criticism from taking over in your relationship.
Remember, it takes time and effort to build a healthy, happy, and strong relationship, but it is worth it in the end.
If you’re experiencing disconnect in your relationship and finding that criticism is a go-to in your relationship, there is a way to restore positivity in your relationship through couples work. As a relationship expert and coach, i facilitate the use of Imago dialogue to help couples find a way back to one another conversationally.
I work with couples over a minimum of 4-6 sessions whereby they recommit to each other and they also commit to the process of positive reconnecting. If you want to know more about how I work with couples and how relationship therapy and coaching with Imago works, enquire here or explore more about how I work here.
Sarah Louise x