Your partner might be a flat-out bully who says and does things that make you feel bad, wrong or inept. Or, your spouse might more subtly pick at you. The criticism may be said in a “sweet” or soft voice, but the sting still hurts.
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When living with a critical or nagging partner, you might frequently feel defensive and like lashing back. Instead, your reaction when you feel attacked could be to withdraw into yourself.
There are many things you can do in response to your partner's criticisms. Some of these reactions will strain your relationship even more.
For example, you might meet your spouse's complaints about how you manage money with passive aggressive behaviors like hiding your spending or purposely overspending. This could be an unconscious or unintended reaction, by the way.
You might criticize and push back. If, for instance, your mate puts down the way you parent your kids, your reaction may be to look for weaknesses in your spouse's parenting and point that out.
In the short term, some of these reactions feel rewarding and comfortable. However, the lasting effects on your marriage are never positive.
Want to know some effective and positive ways to deal with your partner's nagging and complaints?
Here are 4 responses to try...
#1: Put it in perspective.
Sometimes, an off-handed comment feels like a nag or a criticism when it's actually not. If your spouse has a history of putting your down, you might be reading more into a particular comment than is really there.
This can be tricky to figure out.
Remember to pause and get curious when you feel triggered. Instead of having your usual reaction to what your partner has said or done, back it up. Ask yourself if you absolutely know it's true that your partner meant that you are somehow doing it wrong, are bad, incapable or whatever it is you think he or she was saying.
Ask yourself if it's possible that your partner did not mean anything negative or critical by the comment.
If you are confused about what your partner meant, ask the question, “Would you please help me understand why you said _____.” Asking for more information from your partner needs to be done with a true sense of wanting to understand and without an accusatory tone to the voice.
#2: Don't take it personally.
There are all kinds of reasons why a person might be prickly and critical. In the vast majority of cases, the criticism has more to do with the one saying it and less to do with the one the criticism seems directed toward.
If at all possible, don't take it personally.
We're not suggesting that you allow yourself to be bullied. At the same time, if you can find a way to see the complaint or nagging for what it is, this can free you up to connect and have the relationship you want.
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