How To Deal With Your Spouse's Constant Criticism (& Get To The Underlying Problem)

In any relationship, things can get bumpy between you and your partner at times. Between stresses in life, irritations, and new obstacles that you have to tackle, resolving issues that have arisen can be difficult — especially if you have a partner that constantly criticizes you or suggests that the way you do things is wrong.

It could even be that you are the one who always has something to say on the topic of a spouse’s actions or interests.

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When you’re subjected to criticism from your spouse, it can feel painful, like you’re being attacked. But, says psychologist Stan Tatkin, while it can be difficult to hear these things, we shouldn’t automatically assume that they come from a place of real criticism or that they’re being said in a mean-spirited manner. And one great way to check this is by reading your partner’s body language as they speak to you.

Words might suggest that someone is angry, but what are their body movements and facial expressions telling you? This is an important part of determining if your partner is actually angry or if there’s some other issue going on. Therapist Jill Kahn goes a step further, suggesting that we try and envision where this emotion might be coming from before we respond in anger ourselves.

In fact, looking “behind” the anger that they might be showing can teach you a number of things that their words alone cannot. Are you sure that your partner isn’t experiencing some other problem, perhaps loneliness, frustration, or even sadness? This isn’t to excuse abuse from your partner — quite the opposite. This method is to check that there isn’t some other underlying issue behind the criticism that you’re missing.

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This response can make sure that you are remaining empathetic to their needs and can guarantee a much gentler response, which may help defuse the situation and calm your partner down while also making sure that you don’t feel like you have to go on the defensive.

Sometimes, lashing out at someone we love can feel like the right thing to do in a moment, even if we know in the long-term that we wouldn’t ever want to hurt the person we’re talking to. There can be any number of difficult to express or perhaps even confusing problems hiding under the layers of criticism that someone keeps handing out.

But that doesn’t mean you have to continually accept their words or simply push them off as a “bad mood.” And this method can help you from responding in kind and escalating the argument to something much worse.

So if you have a partner that doesn’t seem to want to stop criticizing you, take a little bit to look behind their anger and try to understand where they’re coming from before you respond. This will help mitigate the situation and even keep them from continuing it in the future.

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Jill Kahn is a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor in Sandpoint, Idaho. She also uses EDMR therapy to help patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you have any questions about your relationship issues or would like to reach out to her for any other reason, you can contact her here.