What is Criticism? What is the Antidote within a Relationship?

Did you know that criticism is one of the four defining behaviours that predict the success of a relationship? But avoiding criticism within a relationship is commonly confused with never vocalising frustrations.  There is a very distinct difference between criticism and verbalising frustrations or complaints.  Let’s look at the definition of criticism, as well as guidance that will help keep your relationships healthy and secure.

What is criticism exactly? Criticism is a statement or complaint that attacks the character of your partner. It is commonly confused with complaints which is a voiced frustration but it excludes the personal attack on your partner. Understanding the difference between these two can help strengthen your relationship.

For example, ‘We never spend time alone together. You never prioritise me or our relationship. I am so tired of hearing about how busy you are’ is the perfect example of a criticism. Why? Because this example specifically makes a personal attack on the character about the partner. ‘You never prioritise me or our relationship’. Another trademark of a criticism is the use of indefinite words like ‘never’ and ‘always’ or phrases like ‘You are (selfish)’. Criticisms are unfair in a relationship because the partner may be guilty of the accusation, but they are rarely guilty of a ‘never’ or ‘always’ accusation.

How could we turn this completely valid frustration into a complaint, and remove the damaging personal attack hidden within it? One easy trick to ensuring you are vocalising a complaint and not a criticism is by utilising the phrase ‘I feel’ or ‘it makes me feel’.

A great example of this would be to use the previous example. ‘It makes me feel like you don’t prioritise our relationship because we never spend time alone together. I am tired of hearing about how busy you are’. The partner is now sharing how they feel and is not making personal attacks or accusations against their partner.

It is also beneficial to vocalise what you need from your partner.  We often make the mistake in relationships that our partners are supposed to simply and magically understand our needs. We need to vocalise our needs to our partners if we want these needs to get met. In the example above, perhaps the partner shares that they need a weekly date night.

It is incredible the power of words within a relationship and gaining the skills on how to choose your words correctly can help establish a foundation of support and encouragement within a relationship. It is hard to feel loved and supported with a partner using phrases like ‘you never’ or ‘you always’. Making simple adjustments in communication can make a big impact in your relationship.  Psychologists can provide you with tools to help improve communication and help you heal from past wounds within the relationship. To book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Dealing with Defensiveness: Why they do it and How to deal with it
Communication Styles to Improve Relationships
Top Reasons for Divorce- How to Prevent it from Happening to You

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