How To Deal With Criticism In A Relationship

Updated August 2, 2023  

Being criticized is a severe concern in any relationship.

Even worse, people worry about criticizing others because they hate being criticized themselves.

Sometimes it’s a horrible feeling, especially if done negatively.

The truth is:

Critical feedback can often be a good thing and is vital to any healthy relationship.

It can deteriorate relations and pull people apart, especially if the criticism is constant and excessive.

Criticizing can make or break a relationship, depending on whether it’s done right or used as a weapon.

You should follow a few guidelines if you want things to change.

But you are too scared you’ll insult your partner by telling them:

5 Things To Do When You’re The One Criticizing:

  1. Start with a compliment before criticizing; don’t jump straight into your ‘attack.’
  2. Express yourself explicit and don’t use words like “always, never”; exaggeration only fuels the potential for an argument.
  3. Make sure that your partner still feels loved and respected.
  4. Make sure your partner knows this is your opinion only, not necessarily fact.
  5. Ask what your partner thinks about it. Be open and honest.

4 Things to Do when you're being criticized:

  1. Ask if you don’t 100% understand the criticism; your partner might be saying one thing, and you are hearing another.

    Give them a chance to clarify what they mean; it might differ from what you heard first!
  2. Remind yourself that this is not criticism about you as a human but on the part of your behavior.
  3. Remind yourself that this is only a personal opinion.
  4. Accept whatever has been criticized and think about if you feel that you want to change that; is it something you agree with?

A good friend of mine who has been together with his girlfriend for 2 years came to me one day and told me:

“She is constantly nagging and criticizing me that I should change myself, and only then could she truly love me. I’m feeling so pressured, and I ask myself sometimes, ‘is it worth maintaining this relationship with her?’”

The thing is:

You are not in this relationship to live up to HER expectations.

A relationship that begins with the condition that you need to change before she can truly love you is almost doomed to fail (if this problem isn’t addressed early on).

However, it’s unrealistic to expect a relationship where both partners love each other unconditionally.

You just need to accept the behavior or opinions that you don’t like about your partner.

Accepting your partner’s imperfections and character flaws is fundamental to developing a healthy bond.

Healthy relationships are also based on approaching your partner and trying to find compromises you can handle.

However, ensure neither of you is trying to attain something unsustainable when compromising.

Otherwise, one or both of you will likely be dissatisfied and unhappy.

If you change something about yourself just to please your partner, you risk losing yourself.

Your partner’s happiness should be important to you.

But don’t sacrifice your sense of self and dreams. You are still the most important person in your life, no matter what.

Suppose you change fundamental parts of yourself simply to please your partner.

In that case, you will depend on them for your self-worth and validation: a responsibility no one can bear long-term.

It would only make sense to change yourself when your partner is the initiator, and you’ve already considered it yourself. I.e., you make their goal your goal.

How to Constructively Criticize

If something bothers you about your partner enough to impact you negatively, it is vital to tell your partner.

Otherwise, your anger and disappointment will cause a rift between you two that your partner might not even be aware of or know the cause of.

Try to explicitly tell your partner what’s bothering you and let them know you’re telling them because you love them.

You’re saying that because your relationship and your partner are important to you.

Allow your partner to be disappointed, angry, or hurt.

You don’t have the power to prevent that from happening.

It’s only natural your partner will express disappointment after finding out something about them makes you unhappy.

The Art Of Criticizing And Getting Rid Of Your Bad Feelings Successfully

  • How can I tell her it’s driving me nuts when she comes home late?
  • That he should wash the dishes without having to ask him every time?
  • That I hate it when he smokes when I’m eating?
  • That it annoys me so much when she’s interrupting me when I’m talking to someone else?

We always encounter situations where we want to criticize our partner because they do or say something that annoys and upsets us.

You know what you want to say, but you might be afraid of your partner's reaction, that they will take it as an insult and become hurt and resentful.

You want to tell them how you feel, but you’re afraid it would come off as insulting.

Just try. You don't know how your partner will react to your criticism.

You cannot determine or predict how your partner will take it. Be aware that no one likes to be criticized, even if you try to be helpful.

But criticism is inevitable, whether you like it or not.

You and your partner won’t be able to develop further as a couple and move past things that bother you without giving feedback.

For example:

What happens if the majority of the guests in a restaurant answer the question of the waiter, “Is everything alright?” with “Yes, thank you” - although they didn’t like the food?

The chef won’t have a reason to improve their cooking skills.

Criticizing and also accepting criticism are very important in any healthy relationship.

There are a few possibilities to tell your partner what’s bothering you without them feeling snubbed.

Which makes it easier to accept your criticism as well-meant feedback. Here’s how…

4 Tips To Turn Your Criticism Or Nagging Into Helpful Feedback That Won’t Upset Your Partner

1. Express your criticism in the “I-form”:

“I’m feeling uncomfortable when you are smoking while I’m eating and would like you to…” instead of saying, “You are so reckless. How can you smoke while I’m still eating?”

The “You-form” and the assessment of your partner as a person like “You are being impossible, mean, unfair…”

This leads to your partner feeling offended: they will automatically get extremely defensive. You will end up fighting over who is right, not necessarily over the issue itself.

2. Concrete and clear

Ensure that your criticism is concrete and formulate it in a way that refers to a specific behavior in one particular situation.

Generalizations such as “You never do this…” or “You always do that…” will again result in your partner feeling mistreated, provoking defensive behavior.

Instead, express it this way: “I don’t like it when you interrupt me when I’m talking to someone else. I feel stupid and disrespected.”

3. Try to tell your partner what you like about their behavior

It will make it much easier for them to accept your criticism as they notice that you don’t dislike them generally.

A better approach: “I like that you…I’m having difficulties that you…”

4. Empathize

It is also constructive if you try to empathize with your partner and say: “I know this is very important for you. However, I would like you to…”

Wrapping things up

1. Never criticize your partner as a person, but rather the behavior you don’t like.

2. No matter how clearly and calmly you express your criticism, you have no control over how your partner will take it and react. Be prepared for a difference of opinion; it’s normal.

3. People being criticized will get defensive over their behavior; no one likes being the baddie.

4. Criticizing is important for your well-being and the amount of happiness in your relationship.

The worst thing you can do is allow nagging little things to grow into resentful big things.

5. Feedback is necessary to develop yourself and your partner further – even though your partner might feel hurt initially. Remind your partner that you love them, despite some things you don’t like.

No one is perfect, but there’s always room for improvement!

  • good day…please advise what do i do with a partner thats happy with nothing im doing..
    doesn’t show any appreciation
    always want things to go her way
    never admit to been wrong
    constantly falsely accusing you
    compare you with other men
    is there any future in such a hostile relationship..
    and on top of it all is very secretive…
    and constantly on social media…please advise..

    • Hey Quinton,

      Do you really want to be in such a relationship where you have to be dismissive (and not yourself) in order to make it “work”?

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    About the author 


    Sebastian loves analyzing statistics about anything that has to do with the dynamics in a love relationship. He enjoys researching why people behave the way they do (and drinks horrendous amounts of coffee when he's in the zone).

    He uses his knowledge to help couples in troubled relationships reconnect with their partners and create a perfectly imperfect relationship.

    Dowload my free 14 mistakes ebook 

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