It’s pretty safe to say that when is someone is being critical and impatient with you, it’s easy to notice. You can hear it in their voice, see it in their body language, and even if they aren’t being totally direct about it, it’s not too hard to sense when someone just seems irritated by everything you do.
It’s not a good feeling, right?
In a marriage, it’s even worse. When you love someone, you’re more likely to treat them in the opposite way – that is, be more patient, overlook flaws and mistakes, and give them the benefit of the doubt as often as possible. So, when your spouse is consistently critical, it’s a sign of some serious problems in the relationship.
This type of criticism comes in a few forms, and can indicate a few different issues in the marriage.
One of the most common – and easiest to identify – comes as overt criticism centered on a specific topic. It could be doing the dishes or the money you spend, you going out with friends or how you fold the laundry… The actual issue could be just about anything, but if it seems like a point of particular irritation with your spouse, it’s because they’ve begun to fixate on it as an annoyance, and now they’re basically laying in wait for it to happen. They’re primed and ready to be mad about it each and every time.
This is also the simplest solution. If you see this happening, ask them about it directly. It should ideally lead to some kind of compromise, where you realize that a lack of follow through or your specific way of doing something bothers them, and take action – and also talk with them about the unhelpful (and often unrealistic) nature of simply being angry without offering solutions or attempting to help improve the situation.
This might be the most obvious way to tell your spouse is being overly critical – when they don’t really listen to you, don’t respond to what you have to say, or most of the communication is terse and matter of fact. This is first a sign that communication – in a general way – has come off the rails. Second, it’s a sign that there’s something missing from the intimate, tender, affectionate part of the relationship.
When spouses feel truly connected, they don’t treat each other this way – and if it goes on long enough, it can start to lead to a total breakdown of communication, avoidance of addressing issues, and an ultimately “loveless” relationship.
This can be a tough problem to fight back from, but it all starts with communication and breaking through that barrier of impatience/closed off way of speaking. Ask your spouse to open up, to tell you specifically what’s bothering them so you can both get to work on improving.
To separate this from the other two scenarios covered, this means almost ongoing, unprovoked criticism, impatience, and even cruelty that seems to permeate every interaction you have with one another. This kind of criticism is the most concerning because it’s much more a reflection of the state of the whole relationship.
In order to mask larger issues, people can (intentionally or not) resort to petty remarks and ongoing belittling, focusing on tiny annoyances or invented mistakes instead of addressing a marriage-threatening problem like feeling “out of love,” feeling neglected, feeling disconnected, and so on.
It can also be a product of “overload” – that is, being dissatisfied with many parts of the relationship, and instead of articulating those problems, they behave in a generally disgruntled, emotionally apathetic way. The hypercriticism may be a way of deflecting blame away from themselves, as well as the culmination of many complaints they just can’t find a way to bring up.
As we mentioned in the beginning, when couples feel connected and in love, they don’t tend to treat each other in such a way. This isn’t to say that all is lost, just that if this is the current state of your relationship, you may be more disconnected than you think.
As with so many other relationship problems, the solution begins with communication. You’ll need to dig into what’s really causing the problems and address them one by one. If you’re having trouble talking to one another in a calm, civilized way, it’s likely because you’ve gotten out of the habit of doing so – and haven’t been spending quality time together.
If you want to rebuild your existing marriage into the relationship you’ve always wanted, the tools inside the StrongMarriageNow system can get you back on track. You can learn about what conscious and unconscious motivations may be driving your actions and emotions, learn how to communicate and forgive, and rediscover the importance of time spent together, physical intimacy, and shared expectations.
An environment of hypercriticism is toxic to a marriage, and will only drive you further and further apart the longer it goes unchecked. Address the problems head on and start rebuilding your marriage today.
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
I’m sorry, but the solutions in this article seem much too simplistic, and don’t invite my confidence in the program. When one is critical of another, yes, obviously communication has broken down.... and a lot more! Addressing the problems one by one will probably not work unless both partners are willing to alter behavior or truly care enough to want to listen and work on solutions. This is often not the case once things go down the “hyper criticism ” path. Criticism is a way to express displeasure when other attempts have been made at rectifying a problem, but to no avail. That’s how I see it anyway! I will give an example: It annoys me to no end when my husband washes the dishes, because he usually rinses with hot water, which isn’t necessary, and also rinses each item after washing it, for a very very long time. I wash each dish, place in the sanitized section of sink, and rinse many at once, to save water. We are poor. We cannot afford so much hot water. I have explained how and why I ask him to rinse dishes differently. I give the practical reason (expensive, wasted water, no hot water left for sons shower) and I also give the broader picture. I say it “makes me feel like we are not working together to conserve resources, and therefore I feel disconnected and have trouble with respect.” I say “thank you” for doing them. None of that matters. He does what he wants, and I am “critical and think my way is always right., and I should just be happy they are being washed.” And then I can’t get a shower. Tiny example. I just think it’s funny to believe that telling a spouse directly what is bothering them will work. I can most assuredly say it does not. Unless of course you’re a newlywed.
Ellie as was mentioned in the post you situational specific criticism likely has less to do with the dishes and is more like a "sign that there’s something missing from the intimate, tender, affectionate part of the relationship." This is not about addressing everything that is bothering one spouse or the other it is about digging deeper 'into what’s really causing the problems and address them one by one." Hint: It is not the dishes. If you have not already please watch the 3 Free Video Series with a focus on Communication. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/3-free-save-marriage-videos-01-communication/