How do you respond to your partner’s criticisms and complaints? Do you become defensive and aren’t able to tolerate hearing it? Does it get in the way of solving problems?
Learning to listen to what your partner says is important. However, people who have difficulty accepting criticism often begin to prepare their defense rather than evaluate their responsibility. This can make the conversation change from discussing your partner’s concerns that you don’t help out around the house to discussing who works the hardest at their job.
Acknowledging your role in your partner’s distress can help validate your partner’s feelings. For example, if your spouse says, “you don’t ever watch the budget.” If you respond by saying, “well, you don’t ever seem to care about the budget when you’re shopping with your sister,” suddenly the argument isn’t productive.
Instead, acknowledge your partner’s distress. Say something such as, “I’m sorry to hear you are feeling upset about finances.” Then invite your partner to participate in problem-solving with you. Ask questions such as, “what would you like to see happen?” Be willing to listen, even when you don’t agree.
Accepting feedback and criticism doesn’t mean you have to tolerate abuse. If your partner starts to do things such as call you names or attack you personally, address this. If he says, “you always act like a jerk,” speak up. Respond by saying something such as, “It’s not fair to call me names. I don’t like to be treated that way.” Set limits as well by saying something such as, “I’m willing to talk to you about this but only if you stop calling me names.”
Pride often gets in the way of being able to truly evaluate your role and to accept feedback from your partner. Sometimes people become too distressed to hear what their partner is saying. Mental health issues, anger management problems, or events from the past can also make it difficult for people to accept criticism.
If you struggle to accept feedback from your spouse, look at how this might be impacting your relationship. Does your partner feel comfortable sharing feelings with you? Do you actively seek to make positive changes to improve the relationship? If not, consider what steps you can take to be able to better meet your partner’s needs.