14 Mar Sick Of Being Criticised By Your Partner?

Imagine a day when from the moment you woke up, someone followed you around telling you that everything you’re doing is wrong.

Even when you make an effort to do something right, it goes unnoticed. And if you make one small mistake, you’re criticised for being hopeless and blamed for never trying hard enough.

iStock-841422078For some partners, imagining this comes pretty easily.

That little someone happens to be the partner they chose for life.

If this is you, your relationship is probably feeling pretty miserable.

You’re sick of being treated like you’re not good enough.

You’re also sick of feeling like the dumping ground for anything in your partners life that isn’t going right.

The way I see it, from here you’ve got three options:

1. You can bunker down and try not to make a big deal about it

If you’re like most of my clients who choose this passive option, you don’t like having a partner who nags, but you prefer to avoid the inevitable conflict that would happen if you fight back.

You’ve decided that it’s easier to keep the peace, so you let these comments land without responding.

The problem with this is that over time, your relationship will pay the price. Being passive in response to a nagging partner requires shoving your true emotions deep down inside. It takes a certain emotional shutdown, and when one or both partners deal with relationship problems with emotional shutdown, their relationship can’t survive.

2. You can fight back

Maybe you’ve tried the passive approach but ended up loosing your cool. After all, there’s only so long anyone, including you, can shove these feelings inside without exploding.

If you’re like most of my clients who choose this option, you don’t like having a partner who nags, and you’re feeling self-entitled enough to make this clear. You tell your nagging partner to shut up or f*k off… give him or her a piece of your mind.

Fair enough. But if this is you, you’ve probably finding that conflict has become a frequent part of your relationship culture. Plus it’s unlikely to stop the nagging.

My guess is that neither option 1 or 2 will be leading either of you to a healthier, happier relationship. It’s time to do something different.

3. You can stay calm and be assertive

No-one deserves to be nagged at, and you’re right to want it to stop. Nagging is toxic to relationships, and you SHOULD try to change this, because it’s this sort of stuff that over time, drives once loved-up couples apart.

Understand though, that how you go about doing this really matters.

That’s why staying calm and being assertive is the only really healthy way to go. It’s the only option that stands a chance of turning this problem around.

Being assertive starts with being responsible for yourself. So you’re going to need to think about what role you’re playing here. Is there truth in what your partner keeps nagging you about? If so, it’s your job to be accountable for it.

Now you’ll need to go about setting some healthy boundaries (nagging can’t happen when partners have healthy boundaries), by teaching your partner, firmly and with love, how you’d like to be treated, and what sort of relationship you’d like to create.

You’ll need to speak assertively, which means being simultaneously calm, firm, respectful, and very clear. It might sound something like this:

“Hey partner, when you speak to me like that I really don’t like it. It leaves me thinking that for you, nothing I do is right. I’ve tried shutting my mouth and keeping the peace, but I notice it just shuts me down. I’ve also tried pushing back, but then we just end up fighting. I’ve realised that neither works to make me feel closer to you, or happier in our relationship. What I really want is a relationship where we are able to tell each other when we feel we’ve been let down – but I do want this to be fair, and I want it to be kind. From what I’m seeing, we aren’t doing this well, and I’d like to work with you to change this”

Sounds like hard work? Compared to shutting up and keeping the peace, or fighting back, being assertive totally is. But a little work now is a lot better than being nagged at for the next few decades. Or letting things get so dysfunctional and disconnected that your relationship falls apart.

Imagine a day when from the moment you got up, someone followed you around telling you when something you’re doing is right. Noticing when you make an effort. And swiftly forgiving and forgetting your mistakes, because there’s so much else happening between you that’s right.

For some partners, imagining this comes pretty easily, because it’s already happening. If you want to be one of them, start experimenting with assertive responses to your nagging partner, and see what happens next.

Pamela Pannifex is a psychotherapist, marriage therapist, naturopath and founder of Sunshine Holistic Counselling on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. For the past 25 years she has been helping people create personal wellbeing and relationships that thrive. Contact Pamela here.