How to Handle Criticism from Spouse and Family
5 Strategies for Dealing with Criticism from Family Members
Sometimes your most brutal critics can be the people you love. Your parent, siblings, spouse, children—you know, the people who should be supporting you, right? Instead, you get the most honest, unsweetened criticism about your clothes, your choice of partners, your job. Usually, in front of the rest of the family. So, what can you do when it feels like you’re putting yourself in front of a firing squad over family dinner?
Here are five things you can do to survive family criticism.
Reframe Criticism as Caring
It can help to change your perspective on your family’s criticism. Maybe they don’t think you’re a terrible person or a failure. Perhaps they care enough about you to want the best for you. Sometimes worries or concerns can come out as criticism even if they didn’t mean it that way. Reframe those hurtful words as a sign that your family member really cares about you.
Talk About the Effect of Criticism on You
Not all caring feel warm and fuzzy. Your mom probably has no idea that it hurts when she calls out your life choices or criticizes your own parenting. Sometimes the best thing you can do is calmly tell the other person how their criticism makes you feel. Say you value their advice, but perhaps they could be more positive and helpful in the way they deliver it. Ask for concrete suggestions, and see how you can work together.
Remind Them About Unconditional Love
Families are supposed to love each other no matter what, but sometimes people forget that. They think it doesn’t matter how they talk to their child or their sibling, and the niceties of politeness fall by the wayside. Remind your critic that love is unconditional and that harsh criticism is not loving.
Set Clear Boundaries
Sometimes parents forget their grown-up children are adults, not kids anymore. Adults make their own mistakes and take responsibility for their actions and life decisions. Usually, they don’t need guidance or advice from their parents unless they ask for it.
Maybe your folks need a gentle reminder that you’re independent and grown-up now. Be clear about your boundaries. Whatever your circumstances, your job, house, partner, or debts are your choices, and you will have to deal with the consequences.
Step Away from Negativity
Ultimately, it’s your choice. You don’t have to meekly take your family’s criticism. You can choose to take on their negativity or not. Loving families accept everyone for who they are. If you aren’t getting the respect you deserve, maybe it’s best to limit how much time you spend with your family critics even after implementing the steps above.
4 Tactics for Dealing with Spousal Criticism
It can be difficult dealing with criticism from your nearest and dearest, especially when that critic is your partner. After all, they’re supposed to love you no matter what, right?
Sometimes spousal criticism can be rooted in false expectations of human nature, on either side. Everyone makes mistakes and has bad days. The problem starts when negativity and unrealistic expectations become the pattern for your relationship. Or when you start depending on your spouse’s reasonable opinion for your own feelings of self-worth. That’s just a recipe for unhappiness for both of you.
No matter how much you love one another, there will be some degree of criticism in a relationship. To make the best of it, and maybe even help it make stronger, try these four tactics the next time your spouse offers you constructive criticism.
Don’t Make it Your Problem
See the criticism as an indication of what’s going on with your spouse, not necessarily something you’ve done wrong. Maybe they’ve had a bad day, or they’re worried about something. Negative vibes or outright criticism can be a reaction to other stuff that’s happening for them, and they’re paying it forward. Try to stay detached, especially if they are agitated. Give them some time to cool off, and then broach the subject so you can work it out together.
The worst thing you can do is have a knee-jerk reaction, whether it’s angrily defending yourself or turning the criticism back on them. That’s just creating conflict and won’t get you anywhere close to a resolution. It also ups the emotional ante and paves the way for a full-on argument.
Be Open About Your Feelings
Instead of fighting back, try to stay calm and tell your partner how their criticism makes you feel. Probably they had no intention of hurting your feelings. You can stop the blame cycle by each taking responsibility for your own emotions.
Take Some Time Out
If your partner is angry, it’s clearly not a good time to talk through their issues. Make it clear that you will speak to them when they’ve calmed down. There’s no need to stay in the firing line.
Taking time out also allows you to regulate your own emotions and work out a strategy to deal with your partner’s criticism. There could even be something in what they say, but you need to depersonalize the issue before you discuss it.
A healthy relationship can take some criticism. The important thing is to maintain your separate identities within the relationship and to be able to deal with issues as a team.