Do you get defensive when your spouse speaks? Do you wonder if you’re being too critical in your relationships? Criticism is absolutely INEVITABLE in relationships – whether married or not. It is born from a normal, natural drive that lives inside of all of us that makes us want people to do things our way. We have our own way of living, of relating to the world, and personal beliefs of what we “should” do, or “have to” do, or the way things ‘need to’ get done in order for the world to make sense. BUT…like most things (couples must be so tired of me saying this!), the way it is issued and accepted and processed is the real difference maker. You can allow it to blow you up, or you can experiment with softening the conversation so that you have a chance to let it help you grow closer! Yes, the way criticism is handled can actually help you connect and feel more closeness!
Here is one way you can use it to your benefit when you feel criticized by someone, including your partner (this requires the ability to regulate your emotions so start there if needed!):
LET IT SIMMER. Chew on it. Don’t spit it out right away. I know it sounds challenging and the immediate reaction is to become defensive (which also makes you human). However, there is probably some part of your partner’s criticism that is valid. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they are saying but finding validity does mean you will not argue as much and you will open up the possibility to empathize. If you are seriously insulted or your partner is using contempt and it is violating a boundary, I’m not recommending you engage and feel weak. But if the criticism is somewhat constructive and you want to defuse fighting, learn to pause. Give yourself a few seconds to parse out what you hear your partner saying that DOES make sense to you rather than what you can refute. Good luck!