We all have things we could probably work on, but when you’re living with a significant other or have a boyfriend/girlfriend you spend lots of quality time with, sometimes the negatives (as well as the positives) start to become magnified. No one, at least I certainly don’t, enjoys criticizing someone, especially someone they really love. So this begs the question, how do you criticize your partner while still being mindful of their feelings? Although I haven’t fully mastered this relationship hot potato myself, here are five tips that definitely make it easier.
Start the conversation on a positive note
Starting the conversation can be the hardest part, so keep it as positive and lighthearted as possible. There’s no need to drop the “we need to talk” line and send your partner’s brain into a downward spiral. Weaving your thoughts and concerns into the conversation just like anything else has worked well for me. That way it doesn’t feel like this big scary moment for you or your SO.
Focus on what you need instead of what they’re doing wrong
Think about how you would feel if someone came to you and started listing off all of your bad habits and challenges one after another. It would be pretty harsh, to say the least. To avoid making your partner feel like your conversation is one big bomb going off after another, focus more on communicating what you need from them to improve your relationship. This will help them feel like you actually care and you’re not just sitting there telling them everything that’s wrong with them.
Give some thought to how you might respond to their reaction
Hopefully you’re able to communicate clearly and keep the conversation positive, but if not, it’s important to know how to respond to your partner if they get angry or sad. With emotions running high, it’s way too easy to get caught up in the moment and say something you don’t mean. To avoid this, put some thought into what you’ll say for multiple scenarios. This way you’ll be prepared no matter what.
Be willing to compromise
Whatever the issue may be, chances are your partner isn’t going to change right then and there, and it’s important that isn’t your expectation going in. Once you share your concerns, keep the conversation moving forward by suggesting a compromise. Set a date to reevaluate the situation so you can keep the conversation open moving forward. Maybe a compromise is all you actually need instead of a complete 180. Compromising can also help to avoid your partner resenting you or even hiding things from you for fear of further criticism.
Don’t over criticize
Of course we should all feel comfortable voicing concerns in our relationships (romantic or otherwise), but over-criticizing and not knowing where to draw the line is only going to have lasting, negative effects. If you find yourself (or your partner) constantly criticizing, it’s time to rethink a few things.
The main thing here is to just be thoughtful and follow the age old golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated.
Have you ever felt the need to criticize your partner but didn’t know how to do it?
Photography by Kendall McLeod