My Account
0

Self-Care vs. Criticism

Part of taking care of yourself and your partner is learning how to avoid the use of criticism.
Ellie Lisitsa

Share this post:

Learning to manage conflict is critical to effective self-care. If conflict in your relationship is a constant source of stress, Dr. Gottman’s Four Horsemen and their Antidotes may help you understand the roots of your issues. The first horseman and its antidote pair: Criticism and Softened Start-up.

People become critical when they are totally overwhelmed. When they are frustrated by a problem, they want solved now. The last straw was a number of straws ago, and they’ve just about had it. As tempers flare, tension rises, and self-awareness goes out the window.

In this frenzied state, they are unlikely to use a particularly Softened Start-up. They are likely to begin conversations on a sour note and, as Dr. Gottman explains, conversations invariably end on the same note that they begin. In fact, they do so 94% of the time.

In “The Relationship Cure”, he describes this idea in the context of harsh start-up:

You want to connect with somebody, so you make a bid for that connection. But because your bid begins in such a negative, blaming, or critical way, you get just the opposite of what you’re after: You drive the person away.

You lose the chance to connect. Or you find yourself suddenly and alarmingly connected (in a fight). The problem you wanted to discuss is eclipsed by a new one (or two, or three).

Identifying and addressing issues with your partner is a great idea, but the following distinction is important to keep in mind. According to Dr. Gottman:

complaint focuses on a specific problem, addressing the other person’s behavior, not his or her perceived character flaws.

Criticism, on the other hand, is more judgmental and global. It frequently includes such phrases as “you always” or “you never” … often with negative labels or name-calling … frequently [assigning] blame.

Distinguishing between the two is pretty important. Criticism is a great way to initiate or escalate conflict. There is a difference between expressing feelings/drawing boundaries and attacking.

As usual, all of this makes sense on paper, but can be tricky in practice. To avoid saying things you don’t mean and hurting each other in the heat of the moment, it’s a good idea to go in with a game plan.

First, internalize something important. The idea of “Honesty is the best policy” can lead to mutual distress. Self-care involves behaving in a way that aligns with your values. Most people feel good about themselves when they treat others with kindness. Criticism is unkind. When they are critical, they are often cruel and end up hurting not only the other, but also themselves.

Second, criticism often erupts when suppression of negative emotions takes the place of communication. In a healthy relationship, partners are able to talk effectively about problems by identifying their feelings, recognizing what they need and want, and then approaching each other in a respectful and loving way.

Their self-awareness determines their ability to assert themselves with compassion and to eliminate problems through mutual understanding and teamwork. Each partner must check in with themselves, making sure that they are getting their needs met, rather than waiting for the dam to break.

In doing so, they build greater trust, a stronger bond, and reduce stress.

How do the “Masters” of relationships get there? You’ll find some answers in this blog post.

Share this post:

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Recommended products

Original price was: $250.00.Current price is: $199.00.

Transform Your Relationship

The Gottman Relationship Adviser is a complete approach to relationship wellness. Measure your relationship health with the research-based Gottman Assessment, analyze five key areas of your partnership to identify your strengths and weaknesses, then start a tailored, step-by-step digital program proven to heal and strengthen your connection—all on your schedule and from anywhere.

The Adviser uses the legendary scientific Gottman Method to help you understand what’s really going on in your relationship—and gives you exactly what you need to improve it.

Original price was: $119.00.Current price is: $79.00.

Research-based Foundations for a Lifetime of Love.  The Gottman Relationship Coach is an inspiring and educational multimedia experience designed to enhance the well-being of relationships. Participants will be guided through research-based tools and communication skills that can transform relationships—all based on the popular Gottman Method. The first program, “How to Make Your Relationship Work”, is now available and includes:

  • The Gottman Method and How to Make Your Relationship Work
  • How do we predict the future of a relationship?
  • How to build a Sound Relationship House
  • What to do when the destructive Four Horsemen enter your relationship

“Buy Now” will take you to GOTTMAN CONNECT to purchase and view this product.

$599.00

Created by “the Einstein of Love” (Psychology Today), this two-day workshop is grounded on what actually works in relationships that are happy and stable. See for yourself why millions of couples worldwide have benefited from the Gottman Method.

Quote from participant in most recent Live Virtual Workshop:

The Art and Science of Love workshop- where do I begin? It was an absolute stellar workshop. We were looking forward to this for weeks, and it exceeded our expectations! It was well-structured, and well-organized, and provided a wealth of information with real-time demonstrations of how to work through specific scenarios. The outstanding support that was provided throughout the exercises with therapists on standby- WOW! Priceless!

Includes the Art & Science of Love box set.  Please allow time for shipping.  Please Note: This is a live online event. To attend, you will need a reliable internet connection. Our staff will reach out to you with your personal registration and access information.

Related posts

Distressed woman experiencing emotional conflict as her husband yells, highlighting relationship tension and communication issues.

Why Is My Husband Yelling at Me?

The Gottman Institute

Read More

How to Be Kind When You’re Upset With Your Partner

Sanaa Hyder

Kindness is not just important in the heat of an argument. ...

Read More

What to Do During a Rough Patch

Are Rough Patches in Relationships Normal?

Dana McNeil

What you can do when your relationship is on the rocks ...

Read More

Authenticity in Relationships

Anna Aslanian

To create a close, intimate connection we need to be authentic in our relationship. However, this is easier said than done. ...

Read More

Couple not talking where one person is stonewalling.

What Is the Difference Between Stonewalling and Gaslighting?

Laura Silverstein

Read More

Couple using the power of touch to strengthen their relationship

Touch More, Touch Often 

Cheryl Fraser

How to strengthen fondness and admiration - without saying a thing ...

Read More

Subscribe to Gottman Love Notes

Sign up and start your relationship transformation. Subscribe and get the latest on relationships, therapy, and much more from the experts. Includes a free download and access to special pricing on Gottman products every month