Criticalness Clearing


Have you ever been critical of your partner? Hehehe, of course you have. We’ve all been there. We’ll be there again. You might be critical of someone right now in this very moment.

What is being critical? Here are some examples from different dictionaries: “Expressing disapproval and judgement”, “Faultfinding", “Judging severely and finding fault”, “Characterized by criticism regarded as emphasizing faults and shortcomings.”

You always gonna have a list of things that your partner does or doesn’t do that you don’t like. Human beings. We are going to be upset with each other and we have to find a way to communicate this.

A complaint would sound like “I am tired of having to do the dishes by myself.”

A request “Would you please do the dishes.”

A demand “You better do the dishes or else.”

Criticism - “Why don’t you ever help me? What’s wrong with you? You are so lazy.”


Criticism is going to point not so much at what makes me unhappy or what I need, it’s gonna be about what’s wrong with you, your character, your abilities, what you are doing wrong. You are not measuring up, I'd do it better. That’s criticism.


Complaint” I’m really uncomfortable."

Criticism “What’s wrong with this stupid chair?”

Criticism is a jab. It’s intentional. Underneath that might be a sincere desire to be heard, an attempt to get your needs met, or maybe even a misguided belief that it will help to motivate your partner to change. But it doesn't. It never works.

Complaint - if expressed in a healthy way will be something about you, and something that we can’t really argue about. “I am tired, I need help and you are not helping right now”. That’s all true. The other person might or might not want to help but they can’t really argue with that.


“You never help me” - usually arguable. Surely there was at least that one time …….

“You are such a jerk” - is about character, not the behaviour. It’s an insult more than an ask for help.

A most natural reaction to criticism is to defend and protect oneself - if we hear criticism, we hear an attack. Because it is.

Something I am guilty of, and working on changing, is a question “Why”. "Why did you leave this mess here? Why did you drive this way? Why can’t you turn off the lights when you leave the room?" I’m ashamed to admit it, but I do it. A lot. What kind of answer am I looking for? See, that’s what underneath the criticism - I would’ve done better. You messed up.

I have a solution for that.

This is a brilliant tool that will help to “cure” - no, not your partner, but your criticalness of him or her.

I often use it in my Couples Workshops.

It goes like this. Find a partner who is NOT your spouse. You CANNOT do this with your significant other. You'll see why. You can do it alone, or with a friend.

Once you find a partner, decided who goes first and start with this question:

“Tell me something your partner does that you've been critical of”.

  • I’m critical of how lazy she is

  • I hate it how he leaves empty food packages in the pantry and in the freezer

  • He never helps me in the garden

  • She spends so much money on stupid clothes

  • etc., etc.

You get the idea. Now you also know why you don’t do it with your partner. Guess what the response will be? With a stranger - it’s ok, they understand, they’ve been there.


Then comes the next question, and it comes as a surprise.

"Tell me something you do that’s similar to that".

Not necessarily the same, not in the same area, but similar.

  • Well, I can be lazy too sometimes, especially after long day at work

  • Sometimes I leave a full garbage bag hoping he’ll throw it out

  • I don’t really help him when he fixes the car

  • I maybe spend too much on books

Then we go through the same 2 questions again, and again, and again. Taking turns asking and answering. People usually laugh at first, because often they recognize they do exactly the same.


- He is always coming to the bedroom to get his stuff when I'm trying to sleep.

- I too come to the bedroom because I forget things when I drive kids to school and he can still sleep in.


But we see things so differently.


When someone else it late - don't you know that I'm waiting? It's disrespectful! You don't care at all! What's wrong with you? Why are you doing this TO ME?

But if it was me who was late - I am not bad, I didn't have any bad intensions. I didn't do it "to you", I didn't mean any disrespect and I certainly care. - I was just late. I am a good person, who was late.


Criticism - we judge others because of the meaning we assign to their actions. Often we wouldn't judge ourselves in the same way.


Sometimes it’s more challenging that that.


“Tell me something your partner does you’ve been critical of”

  • He leaves kitchen such a mess every time he cooks

“Tell me something you’ve done that’s similar to that”


Say this person leaves the kitchen spotless, they always pick up after themselves and they clean their car every Thursday. However, is it possible that their finances are a mess; 5 years worth of undone taxes or receipts in a shoe box. Is there any other area in life that’s they don’t want to clean up? Some past relationships? Maybe mess at work that they left for others to clean? Or maybe it’s something in the past, maybe they’ve been a messy teen?


If you get completely stuck and nothing comes up, these 2 questions might be helpful:

Name something you’ve done in this relationship you think you shouldn’t have done.

Name something you failed to do in this relationship you think you should have done.


This is not about self blame or guilt or shame. It's about taking responsibility. Seeing both sides. Naming it. It's freeing.


So what do you think? Would you be willing to give it a try?


The instructions are:


Tell me something your partner does you’ve been critical of

Tell me something you’ve done that’s similar to that


If you are doing this practice by yourself, grab a piece of paper, put a vertical line in the middle and start writing it down. 2 columns. Things I'm critical of and things I do that's similar. Fill in the whole page, then tear it up and throw it out. :) You do not have to share it with a partner. You can of course and you might get a good laugh out of it - if you are willing to take responsibility for your criticalness and your own stuff.

It's outside the scope of this post to talk about things that you are truly critical off and and need to talk to your partner about it. I'll just leave you with this quote:

"So many fights can be avoided by courageously asking for what we need instead of being critical when we haven't gotten it." Dr. Alexandra H. Solomon