How To Deal With An Overly Critical Spouse So Your Relationship Doesn’t Implode

Survive the storm of criticism from your spouse.

How To Deal With An Overly Critical Spouse getty

Are you married to a spouse who's overly critical of everything? Like a hurricane tracker, experts can predict with 90-percent accuracy the track, intensity, and likelihood that criticism will hit, devastate, and destroy a relationship.

Some people are simply negative by nature, and being overly critical seems to be a natural byproduct.

RELATED: How To Stay Positive Despite Your Negative Spouse's Bad Energy


But when their criticisms become about you, your personality, your character, your physique, and the "wrong" way you do things, the destruction has begun and your relationship and happiness can be left in ruins.

If you want to save the relationship, then it’s time to gear up and do something about it.

Here are 5 ways to deal with an overly critical spouse, so your relationship doesn't implode.

1. Understand your spouse.

Critical people are critical for a reason.

Typically, they were "criticized" as a child by someone who was in authority over them. They have internalized it as rejection — a deep, emotional hurt for a child — and as an adult, they adopted the critical role as a defense for their ego.


Critical people tend to have low self-worth and easily feel undervalued by others. So, what may seem like a small thing for them to criticize allows them to feel superior to you.

Even though they actually hold you in higher esteem, this seemingly small "thing" of how you leave your socks on the floor by the bed, can become a point of great contention as it gives them something to criticize.

It’s never really about the "thing" — there’s always a "thing behind the thing."

2. Know yourself.

What do you need to be able to stay calm and not react when your spouse is seemingly overly critical?

The worst thing you can do is react with an equally critical comeback. Then, it becomes a childlike interaction where hurtful insults are flying back and forth until one retreats from the frustration and pain.


What can you do? Gear up for the proverbial storm — put on your raincoat and galoshes, grab the umbrella, and stand in the rain. Thank them for the feedback, and walk away.

What you've just done is take away their power in the moment, and you have protected your energy. You have successfully avoided taking the criticism personally and making it a fight.

3. Try to hear the truth.

When you understand your spouse and know yourself, you can listen from a place of compassion without judgment, which will allow you to hear unfiltered.

The filter of judgment can be removed as you accept that there is a reason your spouse is critical, and it isn’t their fault. The filter of defensiveness can be removed as you know that is has nothing to do with you.


You can listen for what might be a plea for something that you can do differently that will improve the relationship in some way. Then, choose to do it because you want to do so without resentment or bitterness at the way it was brought up.

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

4. Express how you feel.

If their criticism is creating a path of destruction, you must intervene. To stop the destruction, you have to assert yourself.

During a time of conflict is not the best time. However, you're responsible to give your spouse the opportunity to understand how you feel during these storms, so find a peaceful time to have a heart to heart.


Remembering who they are and that their ego is somewhat fragile. Choose your words wisely. Without blaming or demeaning them, talk about your feelings.

You must be truthful and clearly communicate that, "when they say (give example), you feel (give example)." Tell them how important the relationship is to you, how much you care for them, and that you want to survive this. And so, effort must be made.

Know that giving them the opportunity to understand does not mean they will have the ability to understand.

5. Seek help.

Recognize that you are dealing with an overly critical spouse who did not become that way overnight. They may have done an amazing job at hiding it from you for a while, but the roots were deeply below the surface of their smile.


You may have or have had an incredible ability at coping and tolerating so far, but you will not be able to make them "get it," and you may wear down eventually.

As long as you remain the boundary-less safe place for them to dump heavy rain and blowing winds, they will. It becomes your personal disturbance pattern.

We cannot change another person, but we can have influence. Try to influence their getting help.

Be willing to work on the relationship as a couple. It may feel safer and less "critical" to start there.


Most critical people don't see themselves as critical. And, believe me, if they criticize you, they beat themselves up regularly.

While it is often hurtful, their criticism is not about you. It is a learned protective defense and it disguises feelings and fears from long before they met you.

If you choose to understand them, know yourself, hear truths, express your feelings, and seek help.

You can do more than survive — you can come through this stronger and better as individuals — and as a couple.

RELATED: This Is Why Your Partner Is Always Criticizing You ( & What To Do About It)

Ann Papayoti, CPC, is a life and relationship coach helping people heal their hearts by untangling their past. For more information on how she can help you, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook at SkyView Coaching.