Solutions to Couples Criticizing

Couples often get stuck in destructive habits with each other. Criticism is one of these habits. Criticism often starts a spiral downward for the couple. One partner criticizes. The other Partner defends. One partner ramps up the criticism to contempt. The other partner stonewalls. And so it goes. The negativity cycle of destruction spins a couple into loneliness within the marriage. The once happy and carefree couple often wonders if they will ever be able to get out of the walking deadness of their marriage. There are solutions. There is hope. Criticism has antidotes to it. Whether you are the Culprit doing the criticism or you are the Criticized. There is hope. And - in reality - we all know partners often swap and trade out these roles. Today you criticize. Tomorrow your partner criticizes. Even if it switches from hour to hour. There is hope. Criticism The following are some practical Solutions to Criticism: If you are the Culprit
  1. Make Certain You Are Taking Good Care of You - Often times we feel blue or miserable. Perhaps we just aren't taking good care of ourselves. We're Moms. We're Dads. We're employees. We're volunteers. No matter what our roles. We sometimes wear so many different hats, we forget the hat of taking care of ourselves. Physically. Emotionally. Socially. Spiritually. Losing ourselves often leads to being unhappy in general. When this happens, we find it difficult to keep the negative thoughts in check. Take time to do an inventory of how well you are feeling. How's it going for you? Physically? Emotionally? Socially? Spiritually?
  2. Breathe and Notice - Notice what you are unhappy about. Notice how much it truly matters to you. Ask yourself questions. Is it life or death? Will anyone be harmed if you are silent? If you wait an hour, will it still bother you? Notice. Take 5 Breaths. Take 10 Breaths. Take 5 Minutes. Breathe! But, take the 5 minutes if necessary. There is no shame in taking a break. Not everything needs to be addressed right away.
  3. Learn to Issue A Complaint - Dr. John Gottman, researcher and psychologist extraordinaire, makes it clear in his findings that happily married couples know how to issue a complaint. It is really quite easy.
    • Start with an "I" Statement - Try not to use any "You" in the complaint. I know it's hard, but try.
    • State the Behavior - Don't make it about your partner, but make it about the behavior.
    • State how a Behavior makes you Feel - Feeling words. Think the animated feelings in the movie 'Inside Out.' Sad. Angry. Scared. Disgusted. Joy.
    • State what you need/want - Be specific. Be realistic. -- Here's a BIG TIP - Don't be afraid to say you aren't sure. Sometimes we know an action or saying makes us "uncomfortable." We're not certain what it is we are feeling. We're not certain what it is we need. It's OK. Give yourself a break. Chances are that if we're just learning how to Issue a Complaint, we didn't grow up knowing what we feel, think, want or need.
Remember what I said before in 'Ways We "Accidentally" Criticize'? Just because you're trying to keep your Negative vs. Positive Interactions as a couple at a 5 to 1 Ratio, doesn't mean you don't ever get to state what you are unhappy about. What this ratio does mean is that we all need to learn to Issue a Complaint with Love and Admiration for our partner. Because we want to Let the Reins out on Love!

The next entry will cover what to do when you're the Criticized - Because we all trade roles!

 Give this "Issue A Complaint" a try! Test it out. Let your partner know you're trying to change the dance steps of your relationship because you want to Ride Happily Off in the Sunset together! If you need help, call or email me. We'll talk. We'll decide together if I am a good fit for you as a therapist. or 530-268-3558