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5 Things to Avoid With an Overly Critical Spouse

couple2Few couples start out with the desire to criticize or belittle each other. Usually criticism begins with a sincere desire to improve the marriage, but breakdowns in communication change suggestions into insults. When couples begin their marriage with poor communication strategies, they often create a self-perpetuating cycle that plays itself out over and over again. Understanding each other and arriving at agreement is the ultimate goal.  To avoid repeated pitfalls, there are five things you can do to avoid continual frustration and hurt with your spouse.

1. Don't fall back into old habits.

Cycles are very hard things to break. When you and your spouse are working together to end the cycle of criticism, it will be very easy to fall back into old habits. If you want different outcomes when communicating with your spouse, you will need to use different techniques.

2. Don't respond to criticism with personal attacks.

When your spouse criticizes you it can be very painful, and the automatic reaction is often to respond with another cutting remark. If you fall into this pattern you will never be able to stop the cascade of insults. Be patient and forgiving.

3. Don't allow yourself to become a victim.

Some people respond to criticism by allowing themselves to assume the victim role. They avoid conflict by accepting their spouse's criticisms passively. While it is wise to avoid conflict, it is very dangerous to accept every criticism your spouse may offer. Passively accepting criticism rewards your spouse because it makes him feel like he'll always get his way. If this becomes a constant pattern, it may very well lead to harsher forms of abuse. Try to communicate calmly about the problems your spouse may have but don't accept them without discussion.

4. Don't stonewall your spouse.

Even though it's very difficult to listen to criticism, actively ignoring the criticism will only make it worse. Listen to what your spouse is saying and try to understand it with as much empathy as possible.

5. Don't just drop the discussion.

If you feel like your emotions are running on too high a level and you are not able to contain your negative feelings, it is wise to postpone your discussion until everyone is calmer. It is not helpful, however, to end the discussion and never address it again. Until an argument is resolved peacefully, it will always fester in your minds. If you have to end a discussion, fix a specific time and place to calmly resume your discussion and resolve your problems.


Tucker-Ladd, C.E. (1998). Psychological self-help. [On-Line] Available Internet: Hostname: File: psyhelp.


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