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February 6, 2014
by Casey Truffo, LMFT

Breaking the Habit of Constant Criticism

February 6, 2014 02:55 by Casey Truffo, LMFT

A Negative Habit

Have you ever noticed how easy it can sometimes be for people in long-term relationships to fall into the habit of picking on the little things that can irritate or criticizing things that should probably be left alone? It can happen when you’ve become comfortable after so many years together. It can also happen early on if one is a habitually hypercritical in general.  Are you guilty of treating your spouse or partner in this way? Maybe your spouse is starting to resent you or is feeling less than adequate when in your presence? Whatever the case is, controlling and critical behaviors can put a serious strain on any marriage or relationship. If this is an issue in your relationship, it’s time to break the pattern of habitual criticism and begin looking at your loved one with a renewed perspective.

Accept That You Are Being Critical

Before change can begin, one has to first be willing to admit that they exhibit critical, and maybe even controlling, behaviors. Accepting and/or admitting this does not mean pointing the finger and blaming others for your behavior. You do, however, need to take a serious look at yourself and realize that your critical ways are causing a negative effect on your relationship.

Understand that Perfection is Impossible

You can hear the saying, “Nobody is perfect” repeatedly; however, many people try to maintain a “perfect” lifestyle nevertheless. In order to stop being critical of others you have to realize that perfection is unattainable, no matter how hard one tries. You need to come to the realization that you and your spouse are different people and therefore your way of doing things might be the exact opposite of how your spouse chooses to handle the same situations. Neither approach has to be “right” or “wrong” as long as the main goal is accomplished.

There is a Thin Line Between “Helping” and “Criticizing”

Many times, people are clueless that they are being critical; quite the contrary, they believe that they’re being “helpful” to their loved ones. It may very well be true that you are trying to help your spouse or partner; however, the perception that you are being overly critical could have something to do with your delivery. Maybe you’re trying to help them with time management, but instead of setting alarms and helping with a schedule, you decide to reprimand them or pick on them every time they’re late. In turn, this does not come off as “help” to your spouse, so they immediately become defensive and shut down because they feel criticized. A more acceptable approach would be to communicate your issues to your spouse and ask them about out how you can help. Take the time to talk it out.

Accept That Only YOU Can Change YOU (and No One Else)

Maybe you’re in a relationship in which you wish that certain aspects about your partner would change or evolve. It is not uncommon for this to happen in a relationship, especially once you get through the blissful “honeymoon” stage. Whether you believe they could accomplish more at work, at home, or otherwise, you must accept that you cannot change them. It is important to understand that no matter how much you gripe, complain, nag, and criticize, a person who does not recognize or believe that they need to change will not do so. Instead, they are going to resent you for continually bringing up their flaws or shortcomings. The only person whose ways you can change for better or for worse are yours.

Understand How Your Spouse or Partner Might Feel

A simple way to put the brakes on the urge to criticize is to take a moment and put yourself in your spouse or partner’s shoes, and imagine how it must feel to be habitually criticized by the man or woman you love. Below are a few emotions that a person feels when they are constantly criticized by someone they really care about, and why:

  • Inferiority - they might begin to feel as if they don’t measure up to your standards of intelligence, common sense, etc., or that you feel they are inferior to you in some way.
  • Devalued - the more you complain about and criticize your spouse’s actions, the more they will feel that you don’t value their love or the significance of their role in the relationship.
  • Stressed - trying to please a critical person is a 24/7 job and can be very stressful. In the minds of your spouse or partner, nothing they do is going to be quite good enough to satisfy you.
  • Resentful - after a while of trying to please you, and feeling like they’ve failed, your spouse will grow tired of such treatment and then begin to resent you for trying to change them or never being satisfied with who they are.

Allowing your spouse or partner to feel this way for a prolonged period can lead to them acting out in a rebellious way. There may come a breaking point where criticism and complaining may push them to throw in the towel and do whatever makes them happy. In the worst-case scenario, this could lead to them ending the relationship.

These are just a few suggestions as to how you can get on the road to ending the pattern of habitual criticism and better appreciating your loved ones for who they are. If you are still having difficulty with criticizing or controlling habits, it may be beneficial to speak with a counselor who can work with you to pinpoint the cause of this behavior. Give the trained counselors a call at 949-220-3211, or book your appointment today via our online calendar. Remember, it takes a while to break a pattern and form new, healthy habits, but once you do, you’ll see the love and joy come back into your relationship.

About the Author

OC Relationship Center OC Relationship Center, LMFT

You deserve to feel better - in your life and relationships. At OC Relationship Center we want to help you find more love, more joy, more peace...and less conflict and less stress. Our licensed and caring counselors can help if you are single, dating, married, divorced.

OC Relationship Center can be found at
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