Nobody enjoys criticism. Whenever we’re criticized, the natural response we all have is to become defensive. Unfortunately, defensiveness is exactly the thing that kills our intimacy and connection to one another.
For your intimate relationship, the effects are even worse. The lack of connection will lead to emotional distance and mental separation between you & your partner. It takes a lot of energy to build it back.
If you get defensive and react negatively to criticism (whether the person who criticized you was right or wrong is another topic altogether), you build a wall that is hard to break down.
If you don’t employ the tools & resources needed to work through such defenses, they’ll keep piling up and eventually create a very toxic environment for you and your partner.
As long as we’re alive and relate with people, there must be conflict – it’s inevitable. Your responsibility is training yourself to the level of maturity needed to handle such conflicts with poise and grace.
As we’ve often written, you can only control your own actions – you cannot determine your partner’s response or control their reactions. Therefore, don’t let someone else’s bad behavior determine how you act and make you do things that are beneath you.
Yes, your partner may be out of line in their comments & treatment of you. They may even use blanket statements to attack you rather than offering a constructive feedback on the specific issue at hand. When this happens, take a moment to analyze the situation before responding.
If you observe that you feel hurt and your emotions are highly charged because of the criticism from your partner, then that is NOT the right time to respond. If you reply them immediately while the hurt is still very fresh, you’re very likely to start an argument which will turn into a yelling contest – both of you trying to see whose voice is louder than the other person’s own.
Instead, calm down, take a deep breath, and say something like “My feelings are hurt, and I’m unable to deal with this conversation right now. Give me some time to cool off and we’ll talk about it again.” Of course I don’t mean that you must use these exact words – just giving you an idea of what to say in order to defer the discussion to a later time.
And that’s where YOUR responsibility comes in. You’re the one that asked for time to cool off; and so, you’re the one to resume the conversation when you feel better. There are no hard and fast rules as to how long you need to wait before revisiting the topic. It could be a few minutes or a few hours. But the only rule is this: You must have the conversation on that same day – never carry any hurt until the next day.
Yes, this is sometimes very hard to do. Many of us have the tendency to withdraw and avoid. Some will even leave the house and go spend a couple of days with a friend. Then, by the time you come back home, both you and your partner think that you’ve moved on from the hurt – and you simply have “makeup sex” to rekindle the relationship.
Unfortunately, this is an illusion. As long as the issue was not properly discussed and dealt with, the makeup sex was you simply sweeping it under the table (or should we say, under the bed sheets, lol). Over time, if you keep doing this, the problems will accumulate to the point that you can no longer hide them – they’ll all explode right into your face.
It’s very important that you tackle conflicts as they happen. As earlier stated, the only rule is to ensure that you deal with them on the same day. This is crucial because the longer you stay without dealing with a problem, the more difficult it becomes for you to revisit the topic.
Naturally, time heals us because it creates a distance between us and the past hurtful event. So, the more time that passes, the more distance you have from the hurt; and therefore, the more difficult it is to talk about it again.
By handling every problem on the same day, you give both yourself and your partner the gift of a good night’s sleep; and this improves your intimacy.
Remember, the key here is not about who is right or wrong. The most important thing is both of you putting in the work required to make your relationship a happy one. Even if/when your partner is wrong, don’t use that as an excuse to throw tantrums, say bad words, and react negatively – just because you’re right.
If you do this, you force him to raise his own defense system; both of you will focus on breaking down each other’s defenses and you’ll completely forget the main thing that even started the fight in the first place. At the end of the day, the big issue remains unresolved.
Make no mistake about it – Relationships are hard to build.
It’s even more difficult when it seems that you take one step forward and two backward. But, you can’t run away from it. Even if you break up or get a divorce from your partner tomorrow, you’ll still have to relate with other people.
So, if you don’t improve yourself by learning how to handle conflicts as an individual, you’ll continue to experience unfulfilling relationships in the future – which is not what you want for yourself.
Therefore, invest in yourself today by learning how to deal with criticism and handle conflicts. Tomorrow, you’ll be glad you did.