How do you deal with a critical husband who is often negative and controlling? These five tips for women coping with criticism in their marriages will help you see that it’s not you — it’s him. If you’re living with an impossible-to-please man, you do not have to let his negativity change who you are and how you see yourself.
“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.”
It hurts to get criticized publicly; living with a critical husband who treats you badly is a whole different level of pain. After all, your husband is supposed to love, honor, and cherish you! You married this man thinking he would love and support you…and all he does is pick on everything you do. He complains. He cuts you down. He destroys the joy and peace in your home. Maybe you even regret marrying your husband because of how bad his criticism is.
Every day hundreds of women search the internet for tips on how to deal with a critical husband. I also get comments from husbands who are married to critical wives. They ask, “Why is it always the husband who’s critical? Wives criticize their husbands, too!” That’s true. In this article, I never say that wives aren’t critical or husbands are the only ones who criticize. But since my She Blossoms blogs are for women, I write for wives and girlfriends in difficult relationships.
Whether you’re dealing with a critical husband or a negative boyfriend, these tips will help you see you’re not alone. Also, read through the comments section below – that may be more helpful than my tips on how to deal with criticism in marriage. 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 how to cope with a critical husband is to learn more about men who are controlling and manipulative. At the end of this article you’ll find a few books and resources.
5 Ways to Respond to 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.
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. Ask yourself if his 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.”
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 he’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 assess your husband’s criticisms objectively, but it can make a big difference in how you deal with him. If you’re in an abusive marriage, you need to accept that you can’t change your husband. He’s not “just” critical, he’s unhealthy. You might need to change your mindset from dealing with criticism to learning how to live with a husband you wish you never married.
2. Refuse to let your husband’s criticism change how you see yourself
In her book, 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.
Regardless of the reasons your husband criticizes you, it’s crucial that you don’t take his assessments as valid indications of your self-worth. In other words, don’t “internalize” your husband’s criticisms. If you let his words and opinions change how you see yourself, then you’ll start to believe what he says. And you know your husband’s words are critical, demeaning and untrue – otherwise you wouldn’t be here!
3. Avoid the urge to counterattack with criticisms of your own
If your husband makes critical remarks about your appearance, words, friends or family don’t counterattack by criticizing him. Don’t fall into the trap of meeting him at a low level of ugliness or even hatred. There are other, healthier ways to deal with a critical husband – such as learning how to love yourself when you don’t feel good enough.
Counterattack comes naturally when we’re criticized, especially when we’re personally wounded by someone we love. But instead of defensively attacking your husband, find ways to get spiritually, emotionally, physically and socially healthy. Learn how to deal with your husband’s criticisms by getting healthier, stronger, and more resilient.
If you find yourself being critical, read How to Stop Criticizing Your Husband.
4. Take a deep breath before responding to your husband’s criticism
If your husband is criticizing you at a family gathering or in public where others can see and hear, consider letting his remarks pass. Confronting him is healthy and important – but it has to be in the right place at the right time. If your husband criticized you in front of friends or family you trust, consider asking them what they thought of your husband’s remarks. Is it possible that your husband is less critical than you think, or that you’re overly sensitive? I know I am! I often take offense and think my husband is criticizing me when he’s actually just making an offhand remark.
If you believe your husband criticized you in public, deal with it later. When you’re alone, you might say something like, “When you criticized me 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 what he would do differently
This isn’t a good tip on how to deal with a critical husband in an unhealthy or abusive marriage. But if you and he are newly married, it’s possible that you’re still learning how each other lives and operates. I wrote The Best Advice I Ever Got: Start as You Mean to Go to encourage women to begin their relationships the way they intend on living them. For example, if you put up with criticism at the beginning of your marriage, it’ll be difficult to change your husband’s behavior later.
Sometimes I deal with criticism by asking my husband how he would do it differently. Often I invite him to do the thing himself – especially if he wants the thing done in a specific way! I might also tell him that I’m well aware that he wouldn’t do it the way I do, and that I’m okay with that.
As you can see, there are no quick fixes or one-size-fits-all tips on how to deal with a critical husband! Part of learning how to be married is figuring out the best way to communicate and live well with your life partner. If he’s unreasonably demanding, unhealthily critical, demanding or even abusive, you need to take steps to protect yourself. Take good care of yourself and your family, for you are a beloved child of God. You were created lovingly and deliberately, and you do not deserve to live with a husband who criticizes you.
If you’re in an abusive marriage, read How to Leave Your Husband When You Have No Money.
Dealing With a Critical Husband
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, controlling 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.
For more tips on dealing with a critical husband, read When You’re Stuck in an Unhappy Marriage.