You’re fighting again.
This time it’s because they forgot to buy milk on the way home. 2 days ago they forgot to refill the gas bottle and you couldn’t use your heater on a freezing Winter night. Last week they used your car because theirs was in for repairs and they emptied the tank so you were late for work the next day, having to fill up on the way. The week before that they didn’t get you take-aways when they ordered because they assumed you’d be working late as usual.
The milk is the last straw. You’re hurt and angry. Their perceived lack of attention or care or respect for you has pushed you to boiling point. And that’s when you blurt it out:
“I can’t stand it anymore, you are so insensitive! You’re selfish and unreliable and expect me to do everything around here! Bloody lazy and entitled ass! You never help, you just want to get drunk with your friends all the time and don’t care about me! I hate you!”
Criticism. It’s the blunt, rusty implement in the bag of communication tools. It’s the last piece you drag out when you have used all the others to try and talk, share, negotiate and beg. It happens when you feel unheard and unappreciated. It’s the hurt reaction because your needs, wishes, desires and wants are unmet and ignored. It comes after you’ve repeated yourself for the fifteenth time and they still don’t listen so you feel that you’re left with no choice but to attack.
You’re angry because you do everything for them and they do nothing for you so your rage comes out as a verbal attack. Your disappointment at the continual let down gets expressed in petty, sneering, punitive comments. Your disdain for their utter lack of regard gets enforced with undermining statements and snorts of contempt.
Criticism. The last bastion of truth, delivered with a debilitating blow.
It hurts because of the total lack of appreciation for all those things that you are saying and doing every day to make your life or relationship better. It hurts because you have given all of your energy to them in the only way you know how and they just don’t value what it costs you. It hurts because instead of acknowledging you for the 50 things you’re getting right, all they can focus on is criticising the one thing you getting wrong. It hurts because all you can hear is all the criticism from every past relationship of your life coming out of their mouth.
Most of the time, though, it hurts because you know that what they’re saying is the truth and you feel ashamed of your behaviour. Your shame at yourself makes you defensive and reactive but no matter how much you try to justify it, you know that they are right. If you’re honest with yourself, you haven’t been listening or appreciating or helping because you’ve been too focused on your own stuff. Criticism is the mirror you don’t want to look at but it’s the wake up call you need. If you listen, really listen, you’ll see that hiding underneath the criticism is the raw honesty of what is not being said or felt and you have an opportunity to learn.
“You are so insensitive” - I wish you could see the state I’m in.
“You’re selfish and unreliable” - I don’t feel appreciated or important to you.
“You expect me to do everything around here” - I’m drowning here, I need support.
“Bloody lazy and entitled ass” - I’d love to collapse on the couch with you and not do the dishes.
“You never help” - I feel like I’m in this alone.
“You just want to be out with your friends all the time” - I wish you’d spend more time with me.
“I hate you” - I hate the distance & disconnect between us.
Criticism. The big, red flashing light of warning, asking you to wake up! When you hear it, stop, focus, listen, understand, learn and make a change. What is your partner really trying to tell you? Why are you not being honest with them? When did you go unconscious? When did you stop communicating effectively and become enemies? Why?
Raise the frequency of your relationship by asking for what you want instead of lowering the energy by complaining about what you’re not getting.
You can shift things today:
Become a support for your partner instead of loading them with your unrealistic expectations. Maybe what you’re giving isn’t what they’re wanting.
Ask if they ‘can’ instead of demanding that they ‘must’.
Say ‘thank you’ when they show up instead of rolling your eyes when they can’t.
Talk about your needs and learn about theirs and fulfil those for each other.
Share duties, chores and logistics so it’s not always one person’s job.
Find your compassion and empathy for the stress your partner is under.
Make the time to acknowledge each other for everything that is working and rectify behaviours around anything that isn’t.
Be a team-mate instead of a competitor.
Start sentences with “I" instead of “You”.
Step towards each other with patience and honesty and clear communication instead of away from each other with criticism and blame and watch how fast things begin to change.