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Endless criticism kills relationships

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Learn to Love More and Judge Less

So your married and odds are that the marriage doesn't begin to live up to that near-heavenly time of courting. Why? Simply because during courting phase, once your partner had endeared themselves to you, you knew better than to threaten the relationship by criticizing them.

And it wasn't that back then you simply couldn't find anything to fault in. True, you were focused on what you liked (or had already come to love) about them. But even when you couldn't help noticing some their failings--the clothes strewn on the floor, the frustrating tardiness, the mispronounced words, the blatant misinterpretation of what you'd just told them--the positives far outweighed the negatives. So you weren't about to chance screwing up the wondrous union developing between the two of you. Or risk creating conflict or unpleasantness in a relationship that otherwise seemed so right, so darn satisfying.

The way relationships typically break-down, however, is this. Once you've succeeded in endearing yourself to the person who's become "the one", you feel free--in fact, almost compelled--to bring up a whole host of (concealed) issues you have with them. So what originally seemed almost like unconditional acceptance now becomes increasingly conditional, as you begin to air out all your suppressed grievances.

And--most of the time, your partner feels the same way about you. Once assured of your devotion, they also feel much more at liberty to voice their concerns about what they'd prefer be different about you, how you might be better suited to them.

What’s Accomplished by Criticizing and Complaining?

“By its very nature, complaining and criticizing are obstacles to you finding solutions to your relationship problems.”

So what's accomplished by this more critical attitude both of you now have adopted? Complaining and criticizing are such utterly contorted ways of trying to get what you want that it is almost perverse. A complaint is double negative thinking. Instead of saying, “I’d be really happy if I could have more of this positive thing,” you try to get it by saying, “I would have been happy if only you hadn’t done that negative thing.”

When you use language like that, you box your partner in, leaving them no adequate way to respond. He or she could apologize, but while an apology might be a good first step, you’re still not going to get what you really want because you haven’t asked for it! By its very nature, complaining and criticizing are obstacles to you finding solutions to your relationship problems. They reduce your power, and perpetuate negative momentum in your life. Complaints and criticisms, you see, are framed as acknowledgments that we do not want to take responsibility for our present reality. When you focus your attention on what your spouse “is” (demanding, selfish, uncaring, etc.), you are handing all control of the situation over to them. Instead, take back your power by refocusing your attention on what you need in the situation and how to ask for it productively.

If you believe that your discomfort and dissatisfaction is because your partner is self-centered or controlling or a host of other foibles, then you're helpless to change the situation unless they change. Labeling people puts total responsibility on them for making the situation better; and what you're doing is playing the blame game. What really is at stake is emotional wounds that are coming up for healing.

There's A Better and Easier Way

One of the core milestones on the path of consciousness transformation is the moment when we can fully integrate the radical awareness that our emotional responses to the world and to things that happen to us are never caused by another person. This awareness stands in stark contrast to our habitual speech, which states that we feel what we feel because of what someone else did.

Instead, we learn, if we apply ourselves deeply to this practice, that our emotions are only caused by the meaning we assign to what someone did , and that meaning is generated from how we think (our belief system), NOT by the other person’s actions.

As long as we keep the big bony finger of blame pointed in the other direction, we remain unaware of the fact that it is what we are telling ourselves about the other’s behavior that is stimulating our painful reactions (just like you did when you first met). When we are able to take full responsibility for our pain, to see it as our own, as arising from what we tell ourselves and not from someone else's actions, the other person often has much more space to hear us out.


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