The famous relationship researcher, John Gottman, talks about the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in terms of relationship. We’ll be taking these one by one this week. The first is criticism.
Just so we’re clear – what is criticism? Criticism is a negative comment about the qualities of your partner, or something your partner does. When you are out of eggs, a criticism would be “I can’t believe you forgot to get eggs at the supermarket again!” or “I can’t believe you eat so many eggs!” When she’s running late, the comment, “Why are you always taking so much time to get ready?” is a criticism. Worse yet are criticisms that suggest that your partner is some how faulty, or broken. “You are selfish! Why don’t you ever think about me?” “You’re so annoying. Stop bothering me!”
Criticism is called one of the four horsemen because it is deadly. It doesn’t necessarily spell doom immediately for a relationship, but over time, it erodes intimacy, creates conflict, and destroys trust. You can’t have a truly joyful, loving relationship if either or both of you is critical of the other. And criticism also opens the door to the other horsemen, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. (More on those soon!)
So what’s the answer? First, if you find yourself criticizing your partner, make a commitment to stop. Make a commitment to notice those times when a critical comment is on your tongue, and get curious about where it comes from (hint: it probably isn’t about your partner at all.) Notice if you might be feeling some fear. (That is very likely.)
And if you find yourself on the other end of criticism, know that it’s probably not about you. Make a request to have your partner stop criticizing you.
For each negative interaction you have with your partner, you need five (yes five) positive ones. So another commitment to make is to tell your partner what you appreciate about her. Have an appreciation practice, where you both share what you appreciate about each other, and the bond you share.
A pattern of criticism can be changed, but it takes effort and commitment. If you need support, we’re here to help. But left alone, it will eat away at your relationship until there is nothing left.
Check out the short video below: