Cope with a Critical Spouse

1. Try to listen without getting defensive. Hear your spouse out and let him (or her) say what’s on his mind. It will only make things worse to become defensive and cut your spouse off prematurely. You want your spouse to feel “heard.”

2. Even though you may be thinking “Here we go again–same old gripes,” keep an open mind to the possibility that there may be a different twist this time. Fox example, perhaps a certain gesture, tone of voice, or oversight you weren’t aware of at the time has intensified your spouse’s critical reaction.

3. Recognize that your spouse’s perceptions are different from yours. And you can’t argue with a spouse’s perceptions or tell her that she’s “wrong” to feel that way. Launching a direct attack to convince her that she’s off-base will almost always fail.

4. Resist the urge to counter criticism with criticism in return. That will only add fuel to the fire and ensure that negative feelings will escalate.

5. Consider whether your spouse is making any valid points that you need to look at. It’s all-too-easy to get upset and decide that the criticism is off-base and miss the part of the criticism that may be valid.

6. Work on not taking the criticism so personally. This can be difficult because it feels so personal–after all, it’s directed at you.

But it’s not always just about you. Your spouse may really be irritated at herself but instead take her feelings out on you by throwing barbs of criticism in your direction.

7. Realize that just because your spouse criticizes you doesn’t mean you have to let that determine your mood or spoil your day. Don’t give your personal power away so easily.

You get to decide what to focus on, and you are responsible for how you feel. Your spouse can’t “make you feel bad” without your consent.

8. Schedule a time to talk with your spouse about your reactions to the constant criticisms. Tell him (or her) that frequent criticism doesn’t make you want to try harder.

Instead, it produces feelings of discouragement and negativity. State that over time, it could also negatively affect your passion and sexual relationship.

9. Write your spouse a letter outlining your concerns about the damage that constant criticism could do to your feelings of love and emotional intimacy. Use the “sandwich technique.” Start off the letter by expressing what you like and appreciate about your spouse.

Then state your concerns about the long-term effects that frequent criticism could have on your feelings toward your spouse and the marriage. Last, end by making more positive remarks and sharing how much you love your spouse and value your relationship.

10. Ask your spouse to go to marriage counseling with you. Say that you need to take care of some emotional debris that is accumulating for you in the marriage.