Dr. John Gottman, psychologist and researcher, wasn’t the first one to warn against criticism. Criticism just hasn’t been seen as healthy for a relationship for a long time. There were countless others before him who have preached acceptance and peace in relationships. Buddha, Solomon of The Proverbs, Gandhi, Mark Twain, Eleanor Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt and Jesus all spoke about criticism.
“Should you find a wise critic to point out your faults, follow him as you would a guide to hidden treasure.”
“It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” Proverbs 27:15 NLT
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matthew 7:1-2 NLT
We know criticism just isn’t good for a relationship when it is just dumped and dumped and dumped. Dr. Gottman has discovered the “Masters of Marriages” have a ratio of good interactions versus bad interactions of 5 to 1.
I know you want to stay out of the “Disasters of Marriage” category. But, what do you do when you feel overwhelmed by life and the criticism between you and your partner just keeps running like a constant dripping faucet? The criticism fills the pools of your relationship with a bitter, hopeless, and despairing toxic chemical. You and your spouse both feel the spew of it on a regular basis. You need refreshment. But how do you turn off the toxic criticism and turn on refreshment?
Here’s 10 Ways To Remove Criticism From Your Relationship
1. Take Care of Your Oxygen Mask
You know those days when nothing ever looks good to you? Everything looks and smells bad? Everyone is getting on your very last nerve? Yea. Me neither. But let’s pretend we’re having one of those days for the sake of this point.
Taking care of yourself spiritually, physically, mentally and socially is vital to having a healthy perspective in your relationship. Research has shown depressed and worn out people don’t even see bright colors in life. If you’re finding yourself seeing the negative in nearly everything around you, it is a sign. The sign is “Put Your Oxygen Mask On – You’re About To Crash Your Relationship!”
2. Focus on What You Are Not Contributing and Contributing to The Relationship
Before you start rattling on about what your partner is doing (or not doing) that you don’t like – Stop. Take a moment to think about how you might do something (or not do something) similar.
“Log Eye” is one of my favorite principles of relationship. Jesus is talking to the people. He says, “Why worry about the speck in your friend’s eye, when you have a log in your own eye?”
True confession: I have be known to refer to my children as “Log Eye” when they tattle on each other.
Anyways -Think about it. Before you throw your stone at your partner. Stop. Take a moment. You just might ‘drop it.’
3. Walk Away
If you are about to burst into a tirade of criticism, simply walk away. Take a walk. Go meditate. Breath. Let your partner know when you’ll return. But do yourself a favor and take a time out.
4. Remember There are Two Ways to Skin A Cat
It’s an awful saying, isn’t it? Yes. Well, I grew up with a few awful sayings that spoke to the truth quicker than a jack rabbit on steroids! (My hubby’s contribution to this blog).
Just remember there are usually multiple ways of getting tasks done. Do you boil the water and then put the egg in for a boiled egg? Do you put the egg in and then boil the water? Either way, the egg gets boiled.
Keep this in mind –
5. Focus On The Positive
Sometimes people can feel taken for granted in their dearest relationships. When is the last time you thanked your partner for washing the car? When is the last time you thanked your partner for doing the laundry? -locking the door? -washing the dishes? -giving you a hug? -going to work?
Take the 5 seconds it takes to start saying, “Thank you” about the little things.
6. Be Mindful
Mindfulness is the practice of Being Still and Being Present. When you notice the urge to start the criticism, take a moment. Notice how your body feels. Notice your surroundings. Notice your emotions. Take an inventory and begin the practice of noticing the present. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you taste? What are you touching? What do you smell?
The practice of being mindful allows you to slow down. When you slow down, you can begin to notice things you weren’t seeing before. You can notice how tired your wife looks before you ask her why the house is such a mess. You can notice how overwhelmed your spouse looks before you criticize them for not listening to you.
7. Learn How To Issue A Complaint
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – Issuing a complaint is one of the healthiest things you can do in your relationship. If there is something that is bothering you, you need to express it to your partner. It is healthy to state a complaint. And it’s simple.
- State what the behavior or statement was/is: “When you forget to put your coffee mug in the sink…”
- State how it makes you feel: “I feel disrespected and taken for granted.”
- State what you want: “I’d like you to make more of an effort to put the coffee mug in the sink
See? Easy-peasy! And you just kept a mole hill a mole hill. You didn’t wait until it became a mountain between you and your partner.
8. Ask Questions
This one is tricky. Because we often try to be sneaky with our criticism, don’t we? We sometimes cloak the criticism in a seemingly innocent question.
So let me make it clear. I am not talking about, “You’re not wearing that to the concert tonight, are you?”
I am talking about noticing the mess on the floor when you come home and waiting until you are in a loving frame of mind. -An open frame of mind – Inviting more information. I am talking about asking, “Hey, I notice the mess on the floor. Was it a tough day today?” or “Is there something I can help you with today?” or “I truly appreciate your hard work. Was today pretty hectic for you?” Or a sympathetic, “Can you tell me about the mess on the floor?”
Please don’t assume you know how your partner’s day went. Or what they have planned. Or what they’re thinking. Ask. Invite more information. Suspend your criticism.
Empathy is the art of feeling what the other might be feeling. It is different from sympathy or pity. It isn’t feeling sorry for your partner. Instead, it is thinking about what life feels like for them. -Seeing life from their vantage point. -Putting yourself in their shoes.
Try asking for a word picture from your partner about how they see things. There was a time when my husband was making some very hard decisions regarding some difficult relationships in his life. Of course, difficult relationships for my husband means difficult relationships for me, also. However, even though I had a stake in his decision-making, I wanted to support him. I wanted to come alongside and understand why the decision was difficult for him – how he felt. What I heard was the following:
“It’s like I’m a soldier in the desert. I see the enemy coming from across the horizon. They are coming towards me and my family. They are determined to cause harm, not good. But I am alone. I am only one man who is tired and thirsty. I know I must make a decision, but the sun is blazing on me. I am thirsty and tired. I just want to collapse.”
When my husband shared this word analogy, I understood how he was feeling. I backed off of pressuring him to make a decision regarding the difficult relationship. I gave him the space he needed. I gave him the refreshment he needed. I tried to provide a safe place of respite as he took the time to heal and decide what his strategy needed to be. -I was able to empathize.
10. Be Intentional About Love Languages For Both of You
I love Gary Chapman’s book of “The 5 Love Languages.” Personally, I have all 5 Love Languages and believe I am a princess who needs those Love Languages presented on a regular rotating basis! Of course, my husband has truly become a King in knowing my Love Language and lavishing acts of service and words of affirmation on me. While I, in turn, make certain I give him small gifts and physical affection.
If you don’t know your partner’s love language – or if you don’t know your own love language – Learn it. Buy the book. Take the test. Learn the love language. Apply the love language daily.
Bob (the King of my Castle) and I have recently discovered an excellent way to give to each other a love language. Don’t worry – I’m not going to get all TMI (too much information) on you.
We have started to hike together for a few hours on the weekends. We absolutely love the views. We discovered after each of the first couple of hikes, we both felt so loving towards each other. So- We talked about the reason. We absolutely love the chance to chat about our dreams, our hopes, and our joys with each other while we are hiking. We were both getting our love tanks full of quality time. -And let me tell you – Being on a cliff at 8,000 feet – I was thankful my love tank was full AND Bob’s love tank was full!
Fill your tanks with love by practicing the Love Languages.
There’s your very practical list of 10 Ways to Remove Criticism From Your Relationship. But – I want to hear from you. Do you have ideas you use to pour good vibes in your relationship, rather than toxic criticism? Are you going to begin trying one of the ten this week?
Do it! Start a Revolution! #stopcriticism
“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. -Dale Carnegie
The above is great advice from a professional therapist who would love to help you if you need encouragement in applying these ways to your marriage. But – the above isn’t professional counseling. If you want to see if I am a good fit for you as a therapist – give me a call at 530-268-3558 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My office is in the Grass Valley or Auburn, California area.