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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Relationships: Learn to Stop Criticizing Each Other

Sometimes, without even realizing it, people harp on the negative rather than the positive qualities they see in their spouse.  Being critical of each other becomes their habitual way of relating, which can ruin a relationship.

Relationships: Learn to Stop Criticizing Each Other 

A Brief Vignette Illustrating This Dynamic
I remember being at a dinner party several years ago when the hostess went on and on reciting a litany of criticisms about her husband, who was sitting, red-faced, next to her:  He wasn't handy in the house, he always forgot where he put his keys...on and on.

It was all done in a humorous way, as if she was teasing him but, after a while, everyone began to shift uneasily in their seats.  People sensed that underneath the humor was thinly veiled hostility.

After a while, when she paused to take a breath, her husband said with a tight smile, "Do  I can do anything right?"  There was a tense moment of silence when no one said anything.  Then, thankfully, someone changed the topic and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Like so many people, the hostess seemed to be so accustomed to criticizing her husband that she had little awareness of how she was coming across at her own dinner party.

When Being Critical of Your Spouse Has Become a Habitual Way of Relating to Each Other
It can be so easy to fall into a pattern of being critical of your spouse until it becomes a habitual way of relating.

Often, when this occurs, there are deeper underlying issues in the relationship that aren't being dealt with by the couple.

Either the couple is unaware of these other issues or they are aware of them, but they're uncomfortable talking to each other about them.  Rather than addressing the more important issues, like a lack of sexual intimacy in the relationship, one or both people nitpick and criticize each other about other issues.

Learning How to Communicate With Each Other and Change This Dynamic
When I see people for couples counseling who have this dynamic, aside from helping them to become more aware of it, I also help them to remember what brought them together in the first place. I will ask them about the positive qualities that brought them together.

More often than not, they still admire these positive qualities, but they haven't been focusing on them (or even remembering them).

Of course, this doesn't mean that they shouldn't deal with the aspects of their relationship that each of them want to improve and the more complicated underlying issues.  They do, but they need to learn a better way of communicating with each other where it's not all critical, which can erode a relationship quickly.

Getting Help
The good news is that it is possible to change a dynamic where one or both people in a relationship are being overly critical of each other.

Learn to Stop Criticizing Each Other: Getting Help

Many couples have learned to change this dynamic.  It takes work in couples counseling, especially if this has been the pattern for a while, but if both people are motivated to work on it, they can learn to change. And, in doing so, they're often able to salvage their relationship.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many couples to learn to improve their communication with each other.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com





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