Is nothing ever good enough for your husband? These five tips for coping with a critical husband begin with reassurance that if you’re a criticized wife living with an impossible-to-please man, you are not alone.
“If you’re among those criticized, you’re in good company,” writes Dianna Booher in Communicate With Confidence. “Heads of state receive criticism, even though a majority of voters consider them worthy of high office. Religious leaders receive criticism, even if they’re living on bread on water to feed the poor. Celebrity athletes get booed when they don’t live up to their previous feats and track records. Movie stars are forgotten if their latest performance flops at the box office.”
But, did you notice that those examples are of public criticism? Living with a critical man – especially if he’s mean or abusive husband – is a whole different story. Many of us criticize celebrities, athletes, politicians, and anyone in the public eye. Being criticized by your own husband, who is supposed to love, respect and honor you, is more painful and destructive.
If you’re a husband who is coping with a critical wife, you too can apply these tips to your own marriage.
I’ve been getting comments from husbands who say, “Why is it always the husband who’s critical? Wives criticize their husbands, too!” That’s true, and I completely agree. In this article, I never say that wives aren’t critical or husbands are the only ones who criticize in marriage. I wrote this article for wives who want to learn how to cope with critical husbands simply because my “She Blossoms” readers are women. I write for wives and girlfriends who want to have better relationships with their husbands and boyfriends.
The worst type of criticism comes from someone you love – and who is supposed to love you unconditionally. I don’t mind being criticized by my boss, readers, or even my neighbors…but when my husband criticizes me, it really hurts. My first tip on coping with critical husbands is to learn how to cope critical, controlling people. I share books and resources at the end of this article.
These suggestions for coping with husbands who criticize and demean their wives might help you cope. I also offered tips for taking the sting out of negative feedback…
5 Ways to Cope With a Critical Husband
When you’re reading these tips, remember that your husband may not intentionally criticize you, but you hear criticism in everything he says. Sometimes that happens with me and my husband: I’ll say something I think is innocent about, say, what parking space to park the car in. Sometimes he hears it as a personal criticism, and suddenly we’re having a big fight.
If you find yourself being critical, read How to Stop Criticizing Your Husband.
Are you super-sensitive to your husband’s criticism? Are you hearing criticisms that don’t exist? I’m not defending your husband or saying this is what’s happening in your marriage – I’m just encouraging you to try to look at your relationship objectively.
1. Determine whether criticism is intended to be constructive or destructive
“You can often tell whether a person intends to destroy you with a comment or intends to just bring about some change,” writes Booher in Communicate With Confidence. “Pay attention to the person’s word choice, emotion, and body language.”
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Does your husband call you names (eg, “you’re lazy”) or comment on your behaviour (eg, “when you lie around all day and don’t help around the house, I feel frustrated”)? Does he have specific changes she’d like you to make, or does he just generally criticize everything you do? Is the subject of the criticism something you can change? Is your husband criticizing you in an attempt to control you, or to make you feel guilty?
It can be difficult to take a step back and determine if your husband’s criticisms are legit or not, but it’s an important distinction to make. If you’re in an unhealthy marriage, you may need to go beyond coping with criticism to finding the strength to leave a bad marriage. The best way to cope with a critical husband may be to leave him.
2. Don’t set yourself up to be criticized
Booher says there are several surefire ways to set yourself up to be criticized: be unprepared, be poorly organized, put other people down, fail to do what you promise, ignore the rights of others, always demand your own way, being confrontational in tone or mannerisms, do sloppy work, disregard what is going on around you, and disregard the social norms of your environment.
It may seem like those ways to invite criticism are work-related, but they apply to your marriage and household life, too! For instance, if you’re disorganized and unprepared for a family gathering or important event, then you’re setting yourself up to be criticized by your spouse. If you continually do things you know will upset or frustrate your husband, then you’re inviting criticism.
3. Avoid the urge to counterattack with a criticism of your own
If your husband criticizes your friends, don’t counter with a criticism of his friends. If your husband attacks the way you clean the house, don’t counterattack with a rundown of how poorly he washes and waxes the car.
“Counterattack comes naturally,” writes Booher. “When the criticizer offers comments, you return the heat.”
Instead of falling into the default attack mode, focus on the issue. Why is your husband criticizing you on this particular subject, in this particular way? If he’s mean and abusive, then it’s time to start thinking about your future.
If you feel trapped in an abusive marriage, read How to Leave Your Husband When You Have No Money.
4. Take a deep breath before responding to your husband’s criticism
If your husband is criticizing you at a family gathering or where others are present, then it may be better to let the remark pass rather than make a scene. You don’t want to prolong the agony – yours or others’!
Later, when you’re alone, you might say something like, “When you criticized my work in front of your parents, I felt embarrassed and hurt. Next time, could you bring it up with me alone so we can talk about it?”
5. Ask your husband how he would handle the situation
In marriage, it’s important not to just accept that different people do things differently, but to embrace it. For example, if my husband criticizes how I clean the bathrooms, I might ask how he would do it. If he criticizes my habit of working on my blogs every second I get, I might ask how he would spend his free time.
Sometimes it helps to hear your husband’s perspective and accept that he would do it differently. You don’t have to change how you do things, but if you give your husband the chance to describe the “best” way, he may back off a little. And perhaps in trying to explain why her way is “better”, she may realize that it really doesn’t matter how it’s done. For example, as long as the dishes get done, does it matter how they’re rinsed and stacked in the dishwasher?
There are many factors that underlie criticism in marriage; this is a very brief, broad overview of how to cope with a critical partner. To get more in-depth information, read Booher’s book Communicate With Confidence.
What to Do Next
Learn how to cope with verbally abusive marriages. Read The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond by Patricia Evans. Learn why verbal abuse is more widespread in marriage than ever, and how you can deal with an overly critical husband. You’ll get more of the answers you need to recognize abuse when it happens, respond to abusers safely and appropriately, and most important, lead a happier, healthier life..
Consider taking a marriage course. My husband and I are taking a marriage course, and it’s changing how we communicate. If your husband is willing to work on your relationship, I encourage you to seek outside help together..
Learn how to deal with impossible-to-please people – not just critical husbands. Read Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You by Patricia Evans. A single article will never teach you all you need to know about how to cope with a critical husband. It’s important to learn how to be assertive and stand up for yourself – especially if your husband is controlling or abusive.
Share your experience – if you have any thoughts on coping with a critical husband, please comment below. I won’t tell you what to do; it’s your turn to talk. Express yourself without fear of criticism!
May you go beyond learning how to cope with a critical husband. May you find ways to weave God’s peace and joy into your marriage.
With His love,