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Beware of Criticism; It Can Poison Your Relationship

Stop sign in oceanI am writing morning pages each day, just as Julia Cameron recommends in “The Artist’s Way.” A major theme of hers is what she calls The Critic – that voice in our heads that tells us we’re not worthy, we’re not good enough, our work falls far short of perfection. I’ve seen that voice appear again and again in my morning pages, and with Julia as my guru, I fight back. I’m far better, but the critic is not fully vanquished. I still believe in better and worse, so I struggle to distinguish between my own standards and the other ones in my head. Not every scrawl is a Picasso to be proudly displayed on the refrigerator door.

What helps me tremendously is that Maude is never a critic. She may offer critiques, but never criticism. She is sometimes so complimentary that I find it hard to accept. One trick when receiving a compliment in which you don’t recognize yourself is to simply say “Thank you.” The person is offering you a gift (assuming it’s sincere), so don’t insult them by refusing it. Accepting honest praise may feel so unnatural at first, but stick with it.

Especially in our earlier years together, I scarcely recognized myself in Maude’s descriptions of me, but I was bold enough to accept those better visions of myself and change my self-perception. (This is the kind of reframing which Maude wrote about last week.)

This is what full acceptance looks like, and it is wonderful and empowering. Do you do the same for your partner, trying always to see their actions and reactions in the best possible light, lifting them up instead of pulling them down, letting them dream and explore? Because you should. Make a space where they can be themselves and grow without the critic niggling and poking them, telling them what they are doing wrong, saying how the critic would do it.

The critic is a destroyer. They don’t create anything. They remind me of that old joke: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; and those who can’t teach, lecture on the theory of education. Don’t be that critic. Offer your partner (and everyone else!) the freedom to explore, create and be their own unique self.

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Successful Relationship Reading Corner

BookshelfThis week we said to beware of criticism as it can poison your relationship. We found so many good links that we are including four this week; the fourth is included because it offers some good vs. bad examples of how to communicate.

Criticism Is The Toxic Habit That Can Slowly Ruin Your Relationship "Habitual criticism can corrode the very foundation of a relationship — and that’s not an overstatement. In fact, criticism is so damaging that relationship researcher John Gottman identified it as one of the top predictors of divorce"

Criticism in Marriage Relationships. Stop It Before It Kills Your Marriage. "Everyone hates to be criticized. Yet, for some reason, couples often feel licensed to belittle, berate, badger, and blame each other in ways they’d never do with friends. Criticism in marriage relationships is so common it makes the adage “intimacy breeds contempt” unshakeably rock solid. Why do couples default to critical behavior despite knowing deep down it is harmful and corrosive to their relationship?"

How Criticism can Destroy your Marriage "Dr. Jessica Higgins says, 'Criticism is the act of focusing on your partner’s flaws and passing judgment. Over time, a critical stance can turn into a habit of disapproving, critiquing, correcting, blaming, nitpicking, or trying to fix your significant other.'"

Criticism in Relationships: Examples & Solutions "On the left side, some examples of criticism. On the right side, how a more emotionally intelligent partner would communicate the same issue."


Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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