Many people live with a spouse that is overly critical of them. However the injured spouse can use these criticisms as a way to grow as an individual. If you use these techniques in a non-threatening way the criticizer may have to actually focus on things they truly feel about themselves when they’re focusing on you. Learn to set boundaries in your marriage without being disrespectful or unloving.
1. Agree – Marriage is not a competition. If you are with a person who HAS to be right, let them. There is a great deal of security in knowing you’re right and not having to argue about it.
2. Give compliments – Ex: “You think you know everything. Your reply, “I don’t think that at all and I’m sorry you feel that way.”
3. Take compliments – Ex: “You think you know everything. Your reply, “I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but I know I still have more to learn. No one knows everything especially me.”
4. Label Feelings – Ex: “You did (whatever always comes back up) to me 4 years ago.” Reply: “You’re right, I apologize again for that. What am I doing now that upsets you.”
5. Sympathize – Rephrase or validate feelings when critical remarks come from genuine anger.
6. Ask questions – Ex: “I’m so irritated with (whatever it is) and you.” Reply: “I understand so what can I do now to fix it or avoid it in the future?”
7. Express feelings, wants, limits – Ex: The critical partner blows their top and displays their anger by throwing something. Reply: (Make sure you are somewhere safe is #1) “I know you’re upset by (whatever) but angry or not, I won’t allow you to curse at me. Let’s talk when we’ve both calmed down.”
8. Humor – Laugh, because you have to admit sometimes when we’re angry we say stupid things.
Megan, a native of Kansas City, Kansas is an empty nest parent of three adult children Ayanna, Jonathan and Isiah. Megan is a Christian and active in ministry at her church Cornerstone Baptist Church, in Arlington, TX. She is currently a Doctoral student working toward a Ph.D. in Marriage & Family Therapy at Texas Wesleyan University. Her personal interests include independent film, music and marriage enrichment. Megan is the co-founder of the Minority Behavioral Health Provider Networking Group along with colleague Cynthia Thompson.