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Overcoming the urge to criticise

Sunday January 19 2014
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Think about the emotions behind your partner’s behaviour. Anger’s often a plea for affection. And withdrawal usually means your partner doesn’t want to be criticised. PHOTO/FILE.

By CHRIS HART

Do you ever put down your partner? Maybe even treat them with contempt? Then there’s trouble ahead.

Because contempt is the single biggest predictor of divorce there is.

It probably all started off when your reasonable disagreements and complaints gradually became personal criticism.

“I worried when you didn’t call” slowly grew into “You never think of me!” “Let’s go out more” became “You never take me anywhere.”

And because criticism rarely works, it easily becomes contempt.

Sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, eye-rolling, hostile humour and mockery.

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Your partner feels despised and controlled — and you’ve forgotten all their good points.

Even why you fell in love in the first place. And so now you’re on a slippery slope…

It’s best to take action as soon as you notice you’re criticising — before the contempt starts and things really start to slide.

You’ll still need to complain sometimes, of course. But in future do it without blame or criticism — because complaints are really wishes.

So instead of attacking, tell your partner exactly what you want without bringing up old sores.

Or making accusations. Instead of “You never pay me any attention!” try “I’m feeling lonely. Can we talk?”

The idea’s to shift from telling your partner what they’re doing wrong. “You’re always late!” to making a request: “I’d so appreciate you being on time.”

It’s hard work and even more difficult if the contempt’s already started. 

Now you need to completely rebuild affection and respect.

And when your relationship’s in deep trouble, that’s very hard.

The best way’s to start talking about happy things you’ve done together.

Like how the two of you got together.

What do you remember about your first date?

How did you decide to get married? What do you remember about your wedding?

What were the happiest moments in your relationship?

Rebuild affection by noticing the nice things about your partner again and letting them know you’ve noticed!

Remember you’re a team, and show your partner that you’re on their side.

Say how proud you are of them, how much you appreciate the things they do for you, and how much you love and respect them.

That’s really important! Because relationships eventually fail without mutual affection and appreciation.

And make sure you lay the real issues on the table.

Because although most fights are about simple stuff like taking the trash out, it’s the emotional needs underlying the rows that are the real problem.

Moaning about him coming home late is really code for “I’m not getting enough attention”.

When he says he can never do anything right for you, it’s code for “I don’t feel you need me...”

So admit your real fears. Like rejection or failure.

And think about the emotions behind your partner’s behaviour. Anger’s often a plea for affection.

And withdrawal usually means your partner doesn’t want to be criticised.

This approach can work magic. And so, before long, your relationship will be blissfully happy again.

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