4 Ways to Tear Apart A Relationship- Criticism

Imagine Hope is in the relationship repairing business. Which means we see a lot of people come to us with bad habits that need undone in order for the relationship to last. This week we are going to explain John Gottman's theory called "The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse", which focuses on four behaviors that will sabotage a relationship's chance of being healthy and happy.

#1 Criticism

Expressing yourself in a relationship is key to fulfillment, so airing a complaint or disagreement will need to happen. But this can be a slippery slope into the pit of criticism.

The longer you hold in a complaint the more likely it will come out as a criticism, or even worse an explosion of criticisms that ends with a lot of damage.

So how do you know the differences between a complaint and criticism?

  • A complaint is "a specific statement of anger, displeasure, distress, or other activity". So basically it is when you need to tell someone that something isn't okay with you, and that you need it to be different. With complaints, you attack the action, not the person. The focus is on the negative thing that happened, not the person who did it.
  • A criticism is when someone accuses, attacks, and blames a person and their character when they need something to be different. It can be through a generalization ("You always..." or "You never..."), through keeping a long list of complaints and unleashing them all at once, by judging your partner ("You should..."), and by accusing them or betraying your trust ("You said you were going to get this done...").

A good way to figure out if you are complaining verses criticizing is the word "you" and "I".

  • Complaint: We don't go out as much as I'd like to.
  • Criticism: You never take me anywhere.

I hope you can see the ways criticism can cause things to fall apart in a relationship. Make an effort today to shift your criticism to complaints and see how quickly things change!

Check back tomorrow to hear how contempt can sabotage your relationship!

* Source: "Why Marriages Succeed Or Fail" by John Gottman

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.