Criticism is toxic to happy marriages, poisoning happiness and sabotaging your growth as a couple. A critical nature kills intimacy and causes the victim to build walls around themselves in an attempt to ward off future criticism. Worse, criticism can cripple your personal growth and your emotional health.
When your spouse criticizes you, it hurts. Being picked apart and scrutinized by anyone is hurtful, but when it’s your husband or wife, it’s worse. Not only is criticism demoralizing, it lacks the appreciation and regard we want to feel from our spouse. If you have a servant heart, spousal criticism will undoubtedly break it.
If your spouse is (or has been) critical and you’re having a hard time healing, there are a few things you can do to move forward.
Understand Why Your Spouse is Critical
First: your spouse’s critical nature has little–perhaps nothing–to do with you. People who criticize are often high-maintenance, controlling individuals. Their criticism of you is a way to stay in control of the ways things are done in your household and family.
Another possibility is that your spouse isn’t pulling their weight in one way or another. When this is the case, they’re more likely to point fingers at the things you aren’t doing “perfectly” in order to keep attention off themselves.
A third scenario is that your spouse has a low self-image and feels the need to be critical of your strengths. Whatever the case, these scenarios point back to your spouse’s own proverbial “heart problems”.
Address How the Criticism Made You Feel
Communicating with your spouse about the consequences of their critical behavior is paramount to your healing. Your spouse must understand how damaging their words have been to you. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to solve the problem after one conversation. Be prepared for a series of conversations instead.
Talk to your spouse about how their criticism affected you. It’s important to be honest about how their words made you feel. Many times, we aren’t aware of how our words affect the people we love. This is an opportunity for your spouse to gain a much-needed perspective.
Be sure to let your spouse know how much you love them. Your love for them is one reason why their words hurt so deeply. That’s because you truly care what they think. Let them know that you appreciate constructive feedback when appropriate, but that the way they approach issues needs to be adjusted. Then, guide them toward a feedback style that works best for you.
If your spouse has been harsh in the past, moving forward can be hard. Suddenly, you find yourself walking on eggshells to avoid further criticism. It’s important for your spouse to understand the position they’ve put you in.
You and your spouse have the right to communicate with one another about unmet expectations, disappointments, and problems you encounter in your relationship. But you should not meet those challenges with a critical attitude. Layering criticism on top of another problem will just make it harder for you to solve the original issue.
How You Can Combat Criticism Moving Forward
Going forward, you’ll need to actively manage your spouse’s critical behavior. Communicate early and often, guiding them into more appropriate interactions with you. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Remember that critical behavior is your spouse’s problem, and that it’s not really about you.
- Use humor. Humor is a great tool for deflecting your spouse’s criticism. It can also shield you from negativity they try to throw your way.
- Alert your spouse when they’ve gone too far over the line. It’s okay to say something like, “Time-out; we’ve become too negative. Let’s pull back a little and start again.”
- Speak up when you’re feeling the weight of their critique. Let them know when you’re feeling dragged down.
If all else fails, you and your spouse might need to seek professional counseling to work on your communication and problem solving. An individual who is unable or unwilling to adjust damaging behavior patterns may need a deeper intervention.
Have you ever had to confront your spouse for being critical? How did you work together to overcome the issue? Let us know in the comments.