Are you dealing with criticsm from your partner?
Are you hurt? Frustrated? Feel like giving up? We look to our partner for support and love, and our relationship is where we expect we can be free, vulnerable and accepted.
So, criticism can be especially damaging to a relationship. The good news is that it can get better.
Before you can improve an environment of criticism you’ve got to understand the context; that is, where the criticism may be coming from.
Is your partner going through a personal crisis like stress at work, loss of a job, death of a family member or a health issue?
Stress tends to make us be our worst selves, and we often lash out at those who are closest to us (emotionally and physically).
This may sound weird but is very common.
When one partner (instead of the couple) gets involved in personal growth they often start having different expectations of what their life and relationship can be like, even what they think they should be like.
Have YOU changed in some way?
If you’ve taken on new responsibilities at work, for example, perhaps you have less time and energy for your partner and they’re lashing out.
Same is true is, for example, you’ve developed a health condition that has changed your relationship in some way, especially if they’ve become a caretake or are afraid of what might happen to you.
Are they negative or critical in general or just to you?
If they’re critical in general then it’s important not to take their criticism personally. That doesn’t make it right or acceptable, but it is different than if you’re the focus.
If they’re mainly critical of you then it’s worth taking a step back to see if they’ve always been this way or if it’s recent.
Also, is it specific or seemingly about anything or everything you do?
If it’s specific (for example, the way you wash the dishes or get the kids dressed) then it can probably be addressed with clear conversation about why they want things done a particular way and how the two of you can find a way for them to get what they want/need.
To be clear, if they want something done but aren’t willing to do it themselves then they’re not allowed to criticize how you do it!
Criticism can also be an element of their culture.
In fact, this has been something my wife and I have dealt with as she grew up in harsh conditions under Soviet dominion and her family and country developed a kind of reflexive negative and critical way of being. With consistent support it can get a lot better!
Is it possible your partner is having an affair?
Don’t jump to conclusions, but it’s worth keeping your eyes open because an affair tends to stir up a combination of emotions that can make them critical of you.
Finally, is it possible that you’re being over-sensitive?
Is your partner actually criticising you or expressing what they’d like to be different or what they’d like from you that perhaps you’re not giving?
Remember that actual criticism is personal and acutely negative.
After you’ve done your best to identify the possible cause of the criticism the next step is to address it at the source.
All marriages (ALL marriages) deal with times of stress and challenge, and chances are that with a little patience and support you’ll get past this.
If your partner is struggling then be the most connected, supportive and loving spouse you can be. That will go a long way towards helping them relax (and with that the criticism will often fade away).
If your partner suddenly seems to want “more” from you or the relationship then give them credit for reaching higher. ALSO explain to them tha tthe criticism is having the opposite effect, and work together to create the best relationship possible for both of you!
If you’ve changed in some way then appreciate how difficult it can be on your partner and do your best to make sure you both get what you need.
If they come from a negative culture then gently remind them of all the blessings they have, and how negativity/criticism prevents both of you from being grateful and happy.
If it’s possible that you’re being a little sensitive then do your best to step back and be less defensive. Also own up to your partner that you’ve been defensive and work together to chart a path forward.
Finally, if none of the above seems to fit then it’s possible they’re having an affair but be very, very careful about jumping to conclusions. Look for additional clues (like mysterious nights out or weekends away) and, if present, ask them gently. Remember that confronting a guilty partner will only make them defensive and resentful, and if they’re innocent then you’ll likely cause a big upset and rift in trust.
Finally, if the two of you are having difficulty communicating about what you need or understanding each other then consider marriage counseling or my “Bulletproof Marriage” coaching program.