This Type Of Communication Is Disastrous For Your Relationship

Photo: getty
How To Communicate Effectively In A Relationship Without Using Criticism

There are many models of couples therapy today, but one thing that they have in common is the advice to eliminate negativity and criticism and improve your communication skills.

This is a hard thing to do but is vitally important when learning how to have a healthy relationship.

Does your lover do things that bother you? Maybe he comes home late without calling. Or perhaps she leaves the cabinet doors open.

You might not like the way he talks to the kids or how she spends hours on social media.

Maybe you’re annoyed about money, or sex, or your mother-in-law's interference.

If you’re like most of us, these behaviors may leave you feeling annoyed, angry, frustrated, hurt, or disappointed.

You feel the need to criticize but know that you shouldn't.

So, how can you express your frustrations without starting a fight and making things worse between you?

RELATED: 2 Phrases That Will Shut Down A Critical Partner Fast (And Help Your Relationship In The Process)

We’ve all found ourselves embroiled in a heated argument over something that started out as rather small.

Things just seem to escalate quickly as soon as we start with negativity.

In his research, Dr. John Gottman found that there are four types of communication that spell disaster for your relationship. One of these is criticism.

When we attack our partner, we invite defensiveness.

Along with stonewalling and contempt, defensiveness is another indicator of relationship distress.

Criticism and defensiveness lead to reactivity: shutting down or blowing up.

Now, we’re fighting about the fight and the original issue remains unresolved.

In Imago Relationship Theory, Dr. Harville Hendrix says that couples must enter the Zone of Zero Negativity.

This means that they must learn how to communicate effectively — and responsibly — their negative feelings.

Instead of criticizing and attacking, there is a formula for expressing complaints in a way that doesn’t destroy the basic emotional connection.

He tells us that it’s important to pay attention to timing. Rather than launching in when our partner isn’t ready, it works better to say, "There’s something I’d like to tell you. Is now a good time for you?"

It rarely goes well if your partner is hungry, busy, in a hurry or distracted.

If now is not a good time, it helps to set up an appointment for a better time when you’ll have his full attention.

Let’s take the example of the guy who comes home late without calling. Instead of "Why didn’t you call? You never call. You’re so inconsiderate", try: "When you are late and don’t call to let me know, I worry and feel disrespected. Would you be willing to call me in the future?"

In this example, I’m taking responsibility for my feelings and inviting my partner to understand me better. No need for him to get defensive at all.

RELATED: It's Time To Raise The White Flag If This Is Happening In Your Relationship

Also, by asking directly for what I want in a vulnerable way, I’m helping him to have empathy and compassion for my distress.

I’m also far more likely to get what I need from him. Of all the wonderful qualities your partner may possess, mind-reading isn’t one of them!

As obvious as it may seem, he probably hasn’t truly considered his impact on your feelings before.

Both members of a relationship are 100 percent responsible for the quality of their relationship.

That means that each of us must pay attention to speaking in loving, kind ways.

It does not mean that we can never experience negative emotions. It’s more about the commitment to keep each other emotionally safe so that we can feel connected and work through difficulties as a team.

Did you know that when conflict happens in your relationship, it's growth trying to happen?

Each time we successfully negotiate a disagreement or negative feelings with our partner, we are deepening our emotional connection and nurturing our loving feelings for one another.

Couples who invest in learning and practicing effective communication tools become, in the words of Dr. Gottman, the Masters and not the Disasters of Marriage!

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

Mary Kay Cocharo is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California. For more information, visit her website.

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.