ZeeZee is a certified Relationship and Marriage Coach who believes her purpose in life is to equip couples with the right tools for a successful relationship. Through her website and YouTube channel she shares practical tips and principles that help couples understand the inner workings of a healthy marriage.
"I'd love to hear from you! Do you think your spouse is just too critical? What exactly can you say to them to stop them from 'stomping' on your self-esteem? I can help. Wishing you unending joy in your marriage". - ZeeZee
Do you feel like your spouse is constantly criticizing you? The second they open their mouth to utter any words, you "dock" because surely, the daggers will soon come flying out. Communication between the both of you has now become extinct, as God-forbid you engage them in conversation, only to end up dealing with such callousness. Right?
You watch out for yourself!
What your spouse does goes beyond criticism of your actions and extends to criticism of your character, which could have a long-term effect on your self-esteem. (Yes it does! You always avoid them because they make you feel less than adequate once the critical comments start flowing).
In most situations, this negative behavior has always existed in the relationship (you just overlooked it hoping they'll see the light and 'change') and eventually the partner who is constantly being criticized - YOU – will get to a point where they can't take it anymore.
So how do you earn your respect back, after you've allowed yourself to be disrespected for so long? Here is one key tip that can help change the course of your relationship for the better.
Your partner needs to learn how to complain and not criticize!
I hear you asking...is that not the same thing? Doesn't complaining still prove they disrespect me? Why must they complain? I'll tell you why. If your name doesn't follow the designation 'St.' (for saint), there is NO possible way you could do everything right in your relationship. Be honest! (If you still need convincing, check in with me ASAP and I'll help bring home a few truths.)
In a relationship, no one person is always right. You are two different people from two different backgrounds with two different experiences. The fact that you see things differently proves that what might be considered right...is totally subjective.
They are very different!
Criticism is an attack on your character, while a complaint is expressing displeasure about a situation. Calling you names because you did something wrong is criticism. Here's an example; you had to pick up your partner at a certain time but were horribly late. Then, your partner resorts to calling you stupid, irresponsible (true story!) or spews negative attacks at your character - Ha! This behavior signifies that they have formed the habit of criticizing you.
All hope's not lost!
Your partner needs to understand how to separate who you are, in essence, your character (i.e. you are not stupid and you are not irresponsible) from what you did or didn't do (i.e. you picked them up late).
Your partner has to learn that instead of criticizing and disrespecting you, all they need to do is complain about what they are not happy with. It's really that simple. It's actually ok for them to have issues with things that you do - believe it or not, conflict teaches you both more about each other, your likes and dislikes – but you have to communicate issues by complaining not criticizing before you can actually have a healthy, fact-finding discussion about each other.
This is how it should be done!
When your partner modifies their speech towards you from phrases like "Why did you pick me up so late? You are so stupid and irresponsible!" to phrases like "Whenever I ask for a ride and you show up very late, it makes me feel hurt and a bit abandoned."
Talk about your feelings and not their character!
Your partner has to bring up discussions with you in a more neutral manner. They need to talk about how the situation made them feel – not attack your character. Tell them the words they say that hurt you (for a marriage to thrive, you both need to be vulnerable with each other). Notice I'm not saying you should tell them to not bring up issues because like I mentioned earlier, they just might have valid issues to talk about (i.e. your always being horribly late). However, they need to learn how to bring issues up without attacking your character. They need to separate you from the issues.
Here's a big BUT...
While this is one sure-fire way to ensure your spouse doesn't hurt your feelings with their unending criticism, you can't force them into changing their critical ways in the middle of one of your arguments. How easy is it for you to listen to anyone when you are all fired up and ready to blow? The both of you must be thinking with a clear head when you initiate a discussion asking them to quit being so negative and critical.
And this is when you strike gold!
When you are both calm, your request for them to revisit the way they address you won't come off as being irrational or emotional. At this stage, they become more willing to evaluate their behavior and make the necessary changes. There is nothing more beautiful than a marriage void of criticism. Nothing!