Why Does it Feel Like my Partner is Always Angry or Negative?
Updated: Nov 1
Navigating Criticism and Defense in Relationships
In the intricate dance of a romantic relationship, disagreements and conflicts are inevitable. How couples handle these moments can profoundly impact the health and longevity of their partnership. The Gottmans' research-based approach emphasizes the importance of understanding and managing criticism and defense, two common dynamics that, left unchecked, can erode the foundation of relationships. I regularly see the criticism-defense dynamic play out between couples in my Rossland office. It results in partners feeling: confusion, disconnection, and loneliness,
The Pitfall of Criticism Criticism can be seen as a gateway to conflict in relationships. It involves expressing dissatisfaction or frustration by attacking one's partner's character or personality rather than focusing on the specific issue at hand. The biggest driver of criticism I see in relationships is a meta-emotion mismatch.
Criticism often starts with phrases like "you always" or "you never," which can make the receiving partner feel attacked and defensive.For example, saying "You never listen to me" accuses the partner of a chronic character flaw. This escalates the conflict and can evoke feelings of hurt and defensiveness, creating a cycle of negativity.
The Importance of Defense Mechanisms When confronted with criticism, individuals tend to resort to defense mechanisms as a way to protect themselves from emotional harm. These defenses can manifest in various ways, such as stonewalling, contempt, and defensiveness: which can be divided into counter-critique (the best defense is a good offence!) or innocent victim.
While these defenses are natural responses, they can perpetuate negative patterns and hinder effective communication.
Gottman's Approach to Handling Criticism and Defense
The benefit of addressing criticism and defense in relationships is massive. It reduces friction and ultimately gets both partners needs met more effectively. I work with couples to promote healthier ways of navigating conflicts by fostering understanding, empathy, and open dialogue.
The specific processes we use to do this in sessions are: Softened Start-Up; Expressing Needs, Desires, and Emotions; Active Listening, Use "I" Statements, Take Breaks, and Focus on Solutions. If you'd like more information and guidance on how to implement these interventions please book in online or call the clinic at 250-362-5035
The Rewards of Effective Communication Addressing criticism and defense using Gottman Method can lead to healthier, more resilient romantic relationships. Open communication and mutual understanding lay the foundation for conflict resolution and emotional intimacy. By learning to navigate disagreements constructively, couples can foster a deeper connection and build a strong partnership to overcome life's challenges together.
Changing our communication patterns is hard and it can be much easier to attempt this with the help of a trained therapist . We can work together to avoid unseen hang-ups and pitfalls that can lead to further disconnection.
Criticism and defense are two common pitfalls in relationships, but with the right tools, they can become opportunities for growth and connection. Using The Gottman Method I help couples develop the skills to communicate effectively, understand each other's needs, and ultimately strengthen their bond. Through softened start-ups, active listening, understanding needs and emotions, and focusing on solutions, couples can break free from negative patterns and build a foundation of trust and mutual respect that supports them moving forward.
If you are in the Rossland, Trail, Castlegar, or Frutivale area and feel that this may be helpful for you or your partner please book in online or call the clinic at 250-362-5035.