How to Handle Couple Criticism

Are you a part of a couple where it is starting to feel like you can’t do anything right in your relationship? You make a decision with the kids and get second-guessed. You wear something, only to hear, “You’re not wearing that, are you?” Sometimes it might feel like whether you eat, breathe, or move there’s always a negative comment coming from your partner.

We’ve talked about Solutions for the Culprit of Criticizing. Now, let’s talk about How to Handle being the Criticized.

-POPHow do a lot of people handle the “drip, drip, drip” of a critical partner? And how have you been handling it?

Is it healthy for yourself? Is it healthy for the relationship? If the answer to the first question is “No,” then the answer to the second question is “No.”

Unhealthy Ways to Handle CriticismGuaranteed to make marriage miserable!

  • Pretend You Didn’t Hear Them – Just ignore the comment and go about your business. Try to forget what they said. Act like you didn’t hear or see them. “Forget About it!” – Better yet -Try to forget them!
  • Come back with a Comment About Them – Whoooo! Make it a good one, too. A comment that points out how they have done/said/felt/worn similar ways to what they’re mentioning you have done/said/felt/worn.
  • Give an Excuse – Any excuse will do! Don’t even think about the issue. Just give an excuse about what it is. -Even make the excuse irrelevant to the entire discussion. For instance: “You didn’t pay the bill on time.” Can be responded with, “Well, the trash cans aren’t where they should be.”
  • Blow up – Derail the whole conversation by getting angry and huffing out! Stomp your feet. Slam a few things. Make it BIG so they hopefully won’t ever bring the topic up again. – Or any topic, for that matter!

Healthy Ways to Handle CriticismIncreases your chances for a Happy Home!

  •  Listen and Ask Questions – Hey, Wisdom says, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (The Message) Take a minute. Breathe. Ask for more information. When you’re ready… Listen for exactly what your partner is saying. What are they feeling? Maybe it’s a simple thing.Spouting
  • If it isn’t a Good Time For You, Let Them Know – Give yourself and your partner the respect a criticism deserves. If it isn’t a good time to listen to them, let them know the soonest time you can give them your full attention. Set an alarm if you need to. Just get back to them when you say you will.
  • Ask for a Redo – If you start to blow them off, go back. Ask your partner to state the comment again. Maybe even ask them to say it in a different way so you can fully understand.
  • Empathize – When we listen to each other – when we put the other person’s shoes on – We often feel what the other person is feeling. When we feel the frustration our partner might be feeling, we often respond in a more compassionate way to them.
  • Define what part of it is True for You – If there is only one part of the criticism you think is true for you – Own it. Embrace it. Let them know you hear it. V.A.L.I.D.A.T.E. the part that is true for you.
  • Never Let A Man Determine Your Value or Worth – Never Let A Woman Determine Your Value or Worth – If your partner is struggling with being critical, you’re probably struggling with discouragement. If you find yourself feeling worthless or hopeless, get support. Fast! Don’t be a frog in a skillet as the water slowly heats up and kills you. Your value and worth are never determined by another person. If your heart is beating, you are important and we need you in this world. Your partner knew that and believed that at one time. Get support. Don’t go numb.

There is hope. You might need support while you’re learning new skills in listening and responding. Your spouse might need support while they are learning to criticize less. Remember the ratio is 5 to 1 positive versus negative interactions.

Be patient. You’ll learn new ways and get the friendship and love alive again.

The Gottman Institute research isn’t just about uncovering the habits couples fall into making the marriage miserable. It’s also about uncovering what makes them successful! Yeah! Happy marriages do exist!


The above is not professional counseling. If you’d like some help and support with effectively handling criticism or turning your relationship around, call me at 530-268-3558 or email me at kate@katepieperlmft.com. I serve folks in the Grass Valley, California and Auburn, California area. I consider working with couples an honor. Changing the next generation one couple at a time!

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