My partner is overly critical, especially about how I cook and clean. I am unsure if I can live like this forever, their nitpicking is chipping away at my self-esteem.
Romantic relationships typically start off with people that are on their best behavior. As a couple gets used to each other and the newness wanes off, partners begin to see their person as ‘real’ and complete, but not perfect. This is when the relationship starts growing deeper intimacy.
Nobody likes everything about their partner, however, and learning to navigate differences is crucial. It requires working together, and not habitually finding fault or criticizing the smallest of things.
How to Deal with a Critical Partner
What we want most in our relationships is to be loved and supported, unconditionally, and when we are frequently subjected to criticism, it is painful, and it is common to look for blame in ourselves. The first focus point should be on where the criticism is coming from, and not on our own self. What is the critic unhappy about?
Why Is Your Partner Criticizing You?
Criticism is the expression of disapproval of someone, or something, based on perceived faults or mistakes. When a person criticizes small or unimportant errors or faults, it is defined as nitpicking. What should you do when you live with an overly critical person?
You may not have the answers right away, but start here:
- When your partner criticizes you, what are they disapproving of?
- What are they perceiving?
- Are they nitpicking – criticizing something that is not necessary?
- Are they also critical of themselves?
Your partner may not know the root of their displeasure. They may think it has something to do with what is currently happening in your home, or with you. But their negative feelings or thoughts can be a deflection of an internal issue, such as perfectionism, something from their past, their work, or anxiety from something that occurred just hours before.
Without automatically self-blaming, step back and ask yourself:
- Are you doing something that could be deemed upsetting in your relationship?
- Are there areas of your relationship that need improvement?
Attribution can be tricky. Not knowing the real cause of unhappiness can lead a person to attribute their feelings, judgment, and their behaviors onto others…especially onto their closest loved one.
Respond to Criticism Constructively
The key here is to be helpful and supportive, but do not accept your person’s behavior as ‘okay.’ Typically, there is a reason behind nitpicky behavior, but not knowing where it is coming from does not justify its continuation. It can be difficult when you feel under attack to respect your partner, but regardless of what they (or you) are dealing with, it is not helpful to throw flaming darts back at them. Avoid criticizing or nitpicking. Approach disagreements that you have constructively. Be assertive without being blameful. Tell your partner that their words are hurtful to you.
Always find time to prioritize your relationship. When you give your relationship your very best, you are taking care of yourself too. Always give precedence to:
- Emotional intimacy
- Time to understand your partner’s thoughts and feelings
- Time to protect and nurture your partner
- Put your relationship first and foremost (trust, honesty, compassion, and open communication)
Take Care of You and Your Self-Esteem
Sometimes, when you are doing your very best, you can still feel less worthy. So, when living with a critical partner, make an extra effort to support your self-esteem:
- Are you living up to your personal values?
- Are you engaged with your spiritual beliefs?
- Are you being a good steward of your resources (other relationships, work, etc.)?
- Are you maintaining physical and mental health in your life?
- Are you setting boundaries – saying ‘no’ to what is not acceptable?
Maintain a focus that your self-esteem is outside of your partner’s criticism. It may feel impossible to do this alone. Remember that we all need a support system, a person, or persons who we can turn to who provides a positive impact on our life.
Get Help for Your Marriage
Despite our best efforts, sometimes things in our relationships just do not get better. We need help to sort it all out – understanding each other, developing a deeper bond, recognizing dysfunction, and learning how to fight fair. Simply put, we need help healing our relationships when things get off track.
Are you ready to make your Love Work?