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Couples Therapy: Avoiding Criticism
Couples Therapy: Criticism
If you are familiar with the world of couples therapy, you may have heard of John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen”. The Four Horsemen were trends that Gottman noticed in the couples he studied. And these four trends tend to be able to predict if a couple will stay together or break up. The more of these four things are present in a relationship, the more likely it is that the couple will end their relationship. (Related article: Causes of Divorce).
That might sound bleak, but there is good news! Understanding the horsemen can help you understand how to improve your relationship and increase your chances of success as a couple.
Today, you will learn about the first of four horsemen: criticism. You will learn how you can avoid criticism in your relationship, and how couples therapy may help.
What is Criticism?
First, it is important to understand that criticism in this context is different from a critique or complaint. Criticism is more general. When you are participating in criticism you are giving negative feedback about your partner as a person overall. You are criticizing their character or personality, not just a specific situation.
Criticism tends to always have a few things present. First, criticisms tend to be “you” statements, that are directed at your partner. For example, you might say “you only care about yourself”. That is a very general criticism directed at your partner.
Criticism also tends to have words like “never” or “always”. They are generalizations about you or your partner that are very black and white. For instance, you may criticize your partner by saying “you never pull your weight around here!”. This statement is very definitive. It may imply that your partner has a major, irreversible character flaw.
Are you starting to see a pattern? Criticism is harmful because it attacks a person, not a specific situation or area of improvement. And once criticism starts between you and your partner, it can be easy to make a habit of criticizing each other. These comments wreak havoc on your trust in each other and your relationship as a whole. (Related article: Creating Emotional Safety Through Fixing Marriage Problems).
If these descriptions sound like your relationship, just know that there is hope! If you and your partner are committed to changing your criticism habits, you can create real change in your relationship. It starts with improving your communication skills.
Let’s talk about a strategy you can try to work away from criticism in your marriage.
Stick to One Topic
In an argument with your partner, it can be easy to get carried away. And when you become emotional, stressed, frustrated, or any of the other emotions that come with a difficult conversation, it can be hard to avoid criticism. One minute you are addressing an issue, the next you are criticizing each other! How can you avoid the slippery slope that comes with criticism? (Related Article: Couples Therapy- Fixing How You Fight).
One effective way to combat criticism is to agree to try your best to stick to the topic at hand. Let’s say that you start out talking to your partner about how they still haven’t mowed the lawn. You are frustrated because you have asked a million times! It’s been weeks since you first asked nicely and now the lawn is overgrown.
It is a common mistake to go from talking about the lawn to saying something like “you never do anything I ask you to do, and you don’t even care about me!”. That escalated quickly!
Here’s where you can make the decision to stick to the topic. If you aren’t looking for it, it can be easy to miss when critiques turn into criticism. Sometimes avoiding criticisms is as simple as deciding to stay on topic. Staying specific can create a better opportunity to have a productive and effective conversation with your spouse about your frustrations. (Related Article: Avoid Harsh Start-Up).
Couples Therapy Can Help
When it comes to fixing and avoiding the Four Horsemen in a relationship, couples therapy can be a useful and effective tool. A therapist can help you identify these aspects of your relationship. And, they can provide personalized guidance and advice that can help you and your partner improve the quality and longevity of your relationship. (Related article: Couples Therapy).
Ready to get started? Start couples therapy in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork.
Written By Lauren Adkins