Become a Fan
Couples communication is the foundation of a relationship and the basis of emotional support and intimacy between partners. Criticism, even so-called constructive criticism, can destroy this foundation and isolate partners. Beware of using constructive criticism in your relationship. Instead, use these tips to learn how to approach a situation without being critical.
"You have more butt than you need, but you have a nice shape." That's the closest my hubby Dale has come to criticizing me and to be honest, his comment was merely a verbal observation of fact. I now have more butt than when the comment was made, but he's never said another word about it. Bless him.
Coupling up bestows permission to say things (e.g., about your sweetie's butt) that might not otherwise be appropriate. However, there's a very thin line, over which you ought not to step, between criticism and comments such as that made by Dale. Criticism trashes emotional intimacy. Here's why: To be justified in criticizing another person, the following must be true :
1. You are right and the other person is wrong,
2. You are superior in position or knowledge, and
3. You have the right to voice criticism and demand certain behavior.
Your sweetheart's boss, drill sergeant, mother, coach, personal trainer, or professor may meet that criteria but, as your partner's equal, you do not. What you are (or should be) is the one person on the planet who your partner can always, absolutely, no questions asked, no doubt about it, count on for support. If you want emotional intimacy (and who doesn't) then never, ever cause your partner to question that support.
You already know that shouting, "You're lazy!" is more likely to result in the cold shoulder than help around the house. "No, honey, you're wrong," won't endear you to your partner. "You could lose a few pounds," is likely to get you cut off from you-know-what for several weeks! I don't need to remind you that overt criticism plays havoc with intimacy. What we all need to remember is that it's those situations where we're tempted to give "constructive criticism" that are tricky. Here's an example:
Your sweetheart is down in the dumps because, in his annual review, the boss said he's too independent. It may be accurate to say, "Playing well with others is not your strong point. You need to work on that." And your intention may be loving and the criticism may arguably be constructive, but would it be helpful? Probably not. There's a good chance your partner will interpret your comment as siding with the boss, who at that moment is public enemy #1. What does that make you?
In this example, supporting your sweetheart doesn't mean going on a rant about how clueless the boss is. It means saying and doing those things that will help your sweetheart come to his own conclusion about how to best handle it. Until asked for your advice and your help, keep it to yourself. When asked, be careful to give suggestions that are helpful and supportive WITHOUT expressing a single critical word. It's not up to you to point out your sweetheart's flaws or to tell him or her how to fix those flaws. If you need to fix something, work on yourself.
To be emotionally intimate, you must be connected. Criticism severs that connection and has no place in an intimate relationship. Noel Coward said it best, "I love criticism just so long as it's unqualified praise."