Do You Find Fault With Your Partner Nicely (or are you a bit mean)?
You can’t help taking a jab at your partner.
Well, you say huffily, they deserved it. Not emptying the dishwasher, forgetting to put the rubbish out; leaving crumbs (and other crap) all over the bench, spending money on things they didn’t need…that’s Not Good.
Wait. Even if you have a fair point, consider your delivery. Was it fair, well-timed and reasonable — or do you rise up too quickly, too harshly or too often? (Note: delivering king hits in a quiet, soothing voice does not mean you are reasonable; it may mean you’re passive aggressive.)
Conflict between couples is normal; while it’s possible those who never argue may have a superior relationship to the rest of us, they also may have their heads neck-deep in the sand.
Obviously the fallout from intense conflict can be damaging, but we also need to keep an eye on the Littler Things. Because nagging, bickering, fault-finding and miscommunication can steadily erode the best of relationships.
People who are constantly under the hammer at home can become secretive, insecure, low in mood, lack confidence, angry, and anxious. AND, over time (even if they do what you say) they won’t like you.
So here’s how to deliver the Nasty Stuff Nicely (because that’s way cooler than being mean).
How to Find Fault Nicely: 6 tips
1. Check yourself first.
The way we treat our partners is a reflection of who we are and where we’re at. It can be hard to acknowledge that — but it’s important to do so. Your partner should understand your work stress, high standards, anxieties, quirks and whatever else is going on for you — but they shouldn’t have to wear it, especially not on a daily basis.
So before you lash out, or find fault, check in with yourself. If you attack or nag or pick because you’re tired and stressed, apologise, then go take some time out. (Note: this is Just Who I Am is a very poor excuse for bad behaviour.)
2. Don’t drip feed criticisms.
Do not trickle criticisms through the day (and night). If you have a problem with your partner, set a time to sit down and discuss it. Not a whole evening, either. Often we pick at our partner because we’re feeling irritable, worried or distressed. But that’s not a good time to resolve conflict — it will more likely end in anger and/or tears. So wait until you’re in a good, or at least calmer, space.
3. Stay in the present (or else).
When something annoys or “tips” you, it’s tempting to drag up all the things that have annoyed you EVER. Big mistake. Keep your criticisms current and specific or you’re venturing down a dangerous road. Can you please load the dishwasher after dinner? works better than Get your lazy ass off the couch for once.
4. Praise more than condemn.
Check the balance between how much you praise and how much you find fault. It should weigh heavily in favour of appreciation. Sometimes our frustrations can cause us to resent offering praise, even when it’s due. So if you are a Scrooge with praise, then you need to tip the balance. Beginning now.
5. Say thank you.
Every time. I worked with a young woman who was wary of this. “That’s dumb, she said. Won’t I look pathetic if I over-thank?” Never. It’s not possible to be pathetic by thanking someone a lot. People love to be thanked (because it equals feeling appreciated) — as long as it’s genuine and sarcasm-free.
6. Your partner is a person.
Just saying. A person deserves to be treated like a person. If you can manage your emotions and behaviour out in the world you can also do it at home. So treat your partner as you would a close friend, that’s the least they deserve. (Warning: if you yell and rant at your friends then your partner might be in trouble.)
Remember, no-one is perfect and it’s possible your partner may have a High Annoyance Factor. But how (and how much) you find fault often reflects your own character and the space you are in. So take aim if you must, but check in on yourself first.
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