A few of my wonderful clients right now have partners who can be critical or easily irritated with them. As is totally normal, these women feel hurt when their partner acts so unskillfully. And then they get prickly, and say something critical or snappy back. This starts a mini battle. And it escalates into anger and a tense sort of distance that just hangs around a lot of the time.
Now, of course the goal is to eliminate criticism from their partners side. But that is not really in their direct control. What IS in their control is their own reactions: their feelings and their actions. What IS in their control is how much authority they give their partner’s thoughts about them. When our partner’s spoken opinion about us bothers us, it’s usually because 1 of 2 things is going on: 1) We are giving his thoughts way too much authority. We are confusing his thoughts about us as facts about who we are--believing at least a shed of his opinion to be the truth about us-- rather than a passing story about us that his brain is telling him... This really hurts. And drives a wider wedge between us. 2) We are judging the opinion he expressed about us as absurd and ridiculous… Then we get defensive and aren’t able to understand or have compassion at all for this other person we supposedly care about...Which can lead to him feeling completely disregarded. And drives a wider wedge between us. There is a middle way. A way you can NOT feel hurt, and also stop writing off this person you care about. A way you can avoid having a mini battle and driving a wider wedge between you....A way you can even invite in some compassion or understanding. Here’s how: Know that those words uttered are simply your partner's thoughts… But those thoughts aren’t Truth. They aren’t FACTS. They are simply thoughts that feel real in the moment to him. And because of that they are creating a (painful) experience that feels real to your partner. This is so much more effective, because: a) when he’s believing something not great about you, you don’t have to take that personally, or feel hurt. Because what’s going on in him is just that he’s believing some thoughts he is having, not the truth about you are. b) It helps you understand why he might be feeling how he is feeling, why he might be hurting or upset, so you can show him some understanding and respect —even if you know he’s just not seeing clearly. It’s still his experience, and therefore a reason to bring understanding, if not compassion. When you approach things this way, YOU feel so much better. Which allows you to interact with him in a way that YOU feel good about, AND get better reactions back. You pave a new path for your relationship, one that leads the marriage into the land of way more peace, understanding and love. Give it a patient try. See what happens. oh, and This approach NEVER means you let yourself become a doormat for your partner to walk all over. If your man is prone to being critical of you, you may want to set some strong boundaries (click here for more) and learn how to really stand up for yourself (click to watch a video all about it).