How many times have you heard a friend say their spouse is always criticizing them? How many times have you told your own spouse he is too critical and needs to stop it? 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, the chances are you are going to stop listening.
It is really annoying at first when your spouse never seems to agree with how you do something. It can seem that no matter what you touch or say or do, your husband or wife has better ideas. They come across as a know-it-all and you get aggravated. 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 spouse is always criticizing you it can affect your marriage. It's difficult to feel close to a person 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 the right way to deliver criticism? First make sure you really need to give the 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 spouse.
You don't want to ever use generalizations. When you use words like "you always" it sends the message you don't think your spouse ever does much 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 spouse you know what you are doing.
Turning Criticism Into Solutions
Criticism is intended as advice. It's just delivered the wrong way. Sometimes your spouse 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 spouse 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. You need 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 spouse 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 marriage counselor. Sometimes an overly critical spouse is really someone who is expressing unhappiness over larger issues. The only way to find out for sure is to explore your marriage and identify potential areas that can be improved.
Your marriage is to valuable to let it be damaged by words that are thoughtlessly spoken. By pointing out to your spouse the way constant criticism makes you feel it is possible to begin new productive communication patterns.