Jul 15 / Simcha

Criticism: Kiss of Death

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Can it be said enough times?  Criticizing, nagging, fault-finding, accusing — these are behaviors that represent the largest predictors of divorce.  While partners often nag, criticize and point fingers as a way to ask for help with housework or childcare or to urge a partner to be more responsible with money, it is an ineffective way to communicate needs and wishes.  It instead leads to a “shutting down” that deepens resentment, estrangement and disconnection.

If assigning blame, accusing and criticising comprise the kiss of death in a long-term relationship, giving the benefit of the doubt and always assuming the best is the path to a loving connection.  A gracious person who treats his partner fairly and respectfully engenders a positive cycle in which the partner will generally (unless s/he is narcissistic) rise to the occasion and justify the former’s faith in him through his own respectful and generous behavior.

Criticism and blame are a form of invalidation.  When we focus on the negative and assume the worst of our partners, we diminish their self-esteem in a matter of seconds.  Assuming the best and accepting a partner’s style, pace, and even mess-ups is the way we can express faith that our partner is doing the best s/he can at the moment.  Ironically, it is this sort of acceptance and validation that inspires a partner to want to change and do better the next time.

This is a good place to add what is perhaps the obvious:  Criticism is emotionally tormenting for and damaging to our children as well, making them feel inferior, hurt, unworthy, shamed and guilty, feelings they sometimes carry with them through a lifetime.

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See also:   Nagging: Enemy of Love