What Constnat Criticism Does To Your Relationship

Photo: couple arguing.
Couple fighting
Love, Heartbreak

It's hard feeling close to someone who's always pointing out your flaws and thinks they know better.

How many times have you heard a friend say their significant other is always criticizing them?  How many times have you told your own partner that you feel they are too critical of you and that they need to back off?  It's easy to get into the habit of criticizing. 

Criticizing is when you give someone feedback on something they say or do and the feedback is perceived as negative. In reality criticism delivered correctly can be a great tool for learning how to do some things differently. But when you perceive the advice as being critical of you, chances are you are going to stop listening.

It is really annoying at first when you feel that your partner never seems to agree with how you do something. It can seem that no matter what you touch, say, or do, your partner has better ideas. They seem to come across as a know-it-all and you get aggravated. 

Over time the aggravation grows in proportion to the amount of criticism.  Instead of being taken as advice, it is seen as a questioning of your abilities and can even erode your self-esteem.

In fact one of the tactics used by someone who uses domestic abuse for control is constant criticism. It can be an effective tool for exerting power over another person. Of course, in most situations the criticism is not part of a plan of domestic abuse. It was only mentioned to prove how damaging criticism can be to a person.

Right and Wrong

When you feel as if your partner is always criticizing you it can affect your relationship. It's difficult to feel close to a person who you think sees you as too flawed and incapable of making even small decisions.  Criticism can also be delivered in a way that makes the person look like a know-it-all. 

No matter what you do, he or she knows better. They can do it better, faster, and differently. When the receiver of the criticisms perceives that you will always have something to say about how they handle things, the end result is they quit listening and just get annoyed or even angry.

So what is an effective way to deliver criticism? 

First, make sure you really need to give the feedback or advice you are about to give. If you decide you need to say something you should make your statements as factual as possible. You don't want to inject a lot of personal statements that can be taken as insults. You do want to find equal amount of time and opportunity to praise your partner.

You don't want to ever use generalizations. When you use words like "you always" it sends the message you don't think your partner ever does anything right. Of course when you are on the receiving end of criticism it may feel as if you are being attacked. Often the first response is to get defensive and tell your partner you know what you are doing. 

Turning Criticism Into Solutions

Criticism is usually intended as advice. However, more often than not, it is  just delivered the wrong way. Sometimes your partner will know a better way to do something or sometimes you are right to point out a mistake.

But finding the right way and the right time is important for insuring the advice is taken to heart.

A cycle of criticism can be broken.  If you feel as if your partner is too critical then you will need to sit down with him or her and begin talking about the problem.  This takes some mental preparation because initial discussions will probably be emotionally charged or sensitive. 

It is advisable to discuss the problem with as little defensiveness as possible. Quick sarcastic responses to honest statements can kill discussion in a moment.

The one thing you should not do is ignore your feelings.  If you believe your partner is too critical then he or she needs to understand that you feel that way. If deeper issues come out during the discussion then you can consider seeing a relationship coach

Sometimes an overly critical partner is really someone who is expressing unhappiness over larger issues. The only way to find out for sure is to explore your relationship and identify potential areas that can be improved.

Your relationship is to valuable to let it be damaged by words that are thoughtlessly spoken.  By pointing out to your partner the way constant criticism makes you feel, it is then possible to begin new productive communication patterns.