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Most of us envision a partner who is caring, romantic and kind. We also want them to appreciate the little things we do from time to time, and acknowledge our presence. But what if your significant other has a habit of finding faults in whatever you do? Are there any tips on how to deal with a critical partner?
Divya Andar, clinical and counseling psychologist, IWill, tells HealthShots, “A relationship for most of us is the epitome of unconditional love and patience. That’s why an over-critical partner can affect not only our relationship, but also our entire well-being.”
Hypercriticism or over-criticism can be defined as being judgmental, blaming the other, and/or focusing on only the negatives of the other person. Often the over-critical partner may think that they are being helpful with their critical comments, without realizing that their words and actions could crush their partner’s self-esteem, self-confidence, and overall sense of self.
It is important to consciously separate yourself emotionally from them by reminding yourself that their words are a mere reflection of how they perceive themselves, as opposed to this being about you.
“Try not to defend yourself in times like these, since it will only worsen the situation and end up in a full-blown fight. We feel the need to defend ourselves only when we believe there is something we need to prove. Stay calm and avoid screaming back and try and stay respectful, without stooping to their level of distorted communication,” says Andar.
Do not allow their criticism to seep in and dismantle your self-esteem. Start building a close connection with yourself, as it could be exhausting to remain positive through a daily dose of negative criticism. You may feel anger and resentment and that needs to be acknowledged and worked on.
Communication is important. You must tell your partner that their words are hurtful. Take responsibility only if it is your fault. That’s a great way to crack how to deal with a critical partner.
“It is okay to walk away if your partner is being extremely demeaning, until they calm down, after which a conversation can be had,” says Andar.
Control is very important for the critical spouse, so allowing them control in certain aspects of the relationship but not all, is fine. But again you need to very particular here!
“Understand that often the overcritical partner may use criticism as a defense mechanism, and may need help to deal with whatever is triggering this behaviour.
It is often difficult to work on things that we don’t understand completely and so doing a little research as to why they are behaving the way they are is important. This helps to understand that it most often has everything to do with them and less to do with you,” shares Andar.
The therapist can help identify the individual issues that the partners are going through and help them work on those. The focus can be on recognizing behaviors that are not working for each other and changing them, based on their capacity. Physical distance and lack of intimacy can be a major side-effect of over-criticism. Helping the couple take small steps to rekindle the intimacy can also help.