Over time your partner's annoying habits or unacceptable behaviour can wear away at your relationship. Having a healthy partnership means that you should feel comfortable with speaking up when something your man does bothers you. We speak to psychologist Anelle Naude-Lester about criticising your man without causing the fight of the century.
Why is it important to speak up when you're unhappy about your partner's behaviour?
Not addressing problems in a relationship (hoping it will go away or get better, etc) will ultimately make the problem worse. We do, however, have to consider the importance of the issue: is it really something that could alter the connection in a negative way, or is it something you could live with? If you feel that the issue is too important to ignore, you need to talk about it.
What is the best way to give constructive criticism without upsetting your partner?
- Try to focus on your feelings and experiences, rather than on what he is doing wrong. For example say: "I feel alone and isolated, when…" instead of "You are inconsiderate and selfish!"
- Avoid generalisations, such as "You NEVER listen!", "You're ALWAYS rude!" etc…
- Be specific. Your message will get lost if you confuse the issue with too much information.
- Always differentiate between the person and the person's behaviour. It is not the person who is bad, but his behaviour that is ineffective.
- Always ask yourself: How would talking about this issue, right here and right now, serve the relationship? Would it be helpful in strengthening the connection?
If he gets angry, what should you do?
For some reason we attach such negative labels to anger, when in fact it is just as a legitimate and real emotion as any other (hurt, shame, sadness or guilt). If communicated well, in the absence of violence or abuse, acknowledging anger can be very meaningful and helpful in a relationship. Often what we perceive as anger is not so much anger, but underlying hurt or disappointment. If we run away from, or try to avoid the anger, we might never get to the other emotions.
When your partner reacts with anger, keep in mind that it might be hurt, fear or disappointment you're dealing with. A good question to ask would be: "What is hurting you right now?" rather than: "See! There you go again, I can never talk to you!"
How can you learn to take criticism well?
- First, consider where it's coming from. Does the person know you well enough in that specific context, and do you trust him?
- If the answer is yes, look objectively at the feedback you are receiving. Instead of becoming defensive, assume that 2% of what he says is true…
- Ask yourself what meaning and learning could come from looking at his words in this way?
- Only after you have considered the meaning of the criticism, can you react to it properly.