Using criticisms in relationships as a tool of self-discovery

"Why do they always leave the wet towels on the floor?"


"I wish they'd put things away after they've used them"

The list of complaints that one partner has for another can take many forms, and without awareness of the cause, they can produce cracks in a couple's relationship that can begin to eat away at the foundations. 

Sometimes it feels as though life is one cosmic joke. Why do the 'slobs' always tend to end up with the 'neats'? I see this dynamic so often in couples that I believe there must be some higher power at work here!

Critical thoughts around tidiness and order within the household are common, but there are many ways in which critical thoughts manifest between partners. What I'm about to suggest here is that men having critical thought towards there wives or partners is very detrimental towards the relationship.

Relationships are like a mirror. They reflect to us aspects of ourselves that we often do not see clearly. Those aspects are parts of ourselves that block us from being able to live more in alignment with who we are.

It's not uncommon for a man to have a list of complaints about his wife. Sometimes they may just be thoughts, and sometimes he may give voice to them. Nonetheless, thoughts radiate out, and the wife will feel the barrage of constant criticism, whether verbal or non-verbal. This will be enough to give her the message that she is not good enough in her partner's eyes.

This is a painful feeling for anyone to experience, but especially so for a woman in the relationship who craves the security of knowing that she is the most important person in her partner's world. Criticism from a man towards his wife is like a disease that eats away at a relationship and drains the life force from it.

Sometimes for a man in the relationship, he won't always be aware of being critical. Even simple corrections of behaviour, or giving well-meaning advice on how she can better take care of household chores, for example, will be experienced by a woman over a long period that she is 'not good enough'. For the man, he may convince himself that he was 'just trying to help her'.

Let me explain how this mirror often manifests in couples.

The man will often complain that his wife or partner places unreasonable demands upon him, that she doesn't give him space, and he feels like he is married to a 'nag'. He starts to consider that his wife is the cause of his dissatisfaction and unhappiness and, worse still, that he is with the wrong person.

This is a bit like going to the movies, complaining about the film, and walking up to the screen to try and change things without realising that the movie is being projected behind.

When the man realises that the source of his wife's behaviour potentially has its roots in his criticism and complaints of her, then he has the power to change not only himself but his relationship as well.

A wife needs to know that she is cherished and is the centre of her husband's world. She needs to feel encouragement from him and made to feel special. Taking simple steps in that direction will often soften her heart, and the complaining will start to reduce. When a man starts to experience this softening in his wife, it will empower him and encourage him to take further action to make her feel special.

A wise man once told me "When you walk past a beggar in the street asking for money, at first you give begrudgingly. That's fine - continue to give. Next time, you may feel similar - still, continue to give. The habit of giving with resistance will soon change, and you will begin to feel the pleasure of giving, which in turn will make you give more".

At first, giving encouragement and doing small things to make your partner feel special may not feel natural. Pushing through this inertia and conditioning behaviour will release some of that stuck energy and the flow between partners will start moving again.

Criticism is a painful reflection of where we are stuck within ourselves. Through awareness and taking action, we can begin to shift this and change the dynamic within our relationships.

It is important through this process that you are kind towards yourself. Being critical of yourself for being critical is a sure way to maintain this state. Using it as a signpost to gain a deeper awareness of where you need to grow is what can transform it.

When we are critical, we are, in our heads, judging another person, trying to make them fit an expectation of how we think they should be. By recognising this, we can move into our hearts more and begin to appreciate and accept our partners for who they are.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7
Written by Anthony Richard
Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7

I specialise working with individuals and couples who are looking for transformation and developing self-awareness. I believe that life is a spiritual journey and that therapy is a great tool to support this path of integrating our inner awareness with a balanced outer life.
My training was in Photosynthesis and Buddhist Psychotherapy .

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