Pete and Annette had gotten into a constant battle in their relationship and they knew they had to stop the unfair criticism but didn’t know how.
Pete criticized Annette for how she “coddled” and “spoiled” her 3 adult children, especially around finances.
Annette criticized Pete for being a “workaholic” and that it seemed to her that his computer was stuck to him like glue, not only during evenings but also on weekends and holidays.
She couldn’t remember the last time they went out together or spent time watching a movie on the couch.
But with the sharp, cutting words flying back and forth, neither of them wanted to spend anymore time together than they had to.
Annette had reached a breaking point and contacted us to find out if their marriage could be saved because of the unfair criticism that now seemed to be the norm.
As we talked, Annette had several insights into their particular “criticism dance” and here’s some of what she learned that may help if you’re caught up in a similar situation…
3 Ways to Stop Unfair Criticism in a Relationship
1. Take yourself out of the “criticism dance”
As long as you’re having the same reactions over and over, you’ll get the same results–and that’s not what you want.
Annette discovered that her reaction when Pete started in about how much money she gave her kids was always the same…
She tightened up and defended herself and her kids.
It occurred to her that she didn’t have to defend anyone or anything because they money she was giving them was her money from her parents’ trust–and she had a final say in how it was spent.
She also realized that her criticizing Pete for not being present with her and attentive was not bringing him closer.
2. Listen for truth
When you’re so caught up in defending or withdrawing and tightening up when criticism hits you, you can’t really listen to find a possible truth in what’s being said.
Annette realized that she had shut off her attention to Pete because she felt the unfair criticism.
The next time he started in on complaining about her kids and the money she gave them, she listened for some truth.
As she listened with “new ears,” she heard for the first time the concern he had that Annette’s younger daughter was not learning to stand on her own because of the money that was so freely given.
Annette realized that maybe she had gone over-board with enabling her daughter, seeing her as not being able to take care of herself, and that’s not what she wanted.
3. Focus on what you want in your relationship
When you’re mired in an unfair criticism battle, the focus is on defending yourself and what you perceive is wrong with the other person.
You’re pointing the finger of blame outward when there doesn’t have to be finger-pointing at all.
When Annette took herself out of their “criticism dance” and acknowledged that Pete might be right about her enabling her younger daughter, Pete settled down.
When his attention wasn’t focused on making Annette see what she had been missing, there was space for him to realize a few things himself.
He began to see how he had been spending his time and could make a choice if he wanted to continue working so hard and isolating himself–or not.
They both started making healthier choices for their relationship when they weren’t focused on what each of them were doing wrong.
So how about you?
If unfair criticism is eating away at you and your relationship, it doesn’t have to.
You can give yourself the space to see something new which can mean making healthier choices for yourself.
You may see the truth of a relationship and not want it to continue in its current form…
Or you may see how removing yourself from the “criticism dance” begins a path of creating the relationship you’ve wanted.