Criticism in relationships is incredibly common. Wonder why? All of us in a relationship like things the way we like them. Including how our partners act. We like them not to embarrass us and we like them to talk to us pleasantly. As humans we prefer things that please us. This is entirely normal.
But as someone who is sensitive to criticism, I know how terrible it feels when someone points out what you do not do well. It hurts some of us to our core. We can’t help it, that’s just the way some of us are wired.
I was talking to a potential client for couples counseling when she asked me if I would be giving her a prescription to follow in order to get better.
I was stunned for a moment and I think in all my years of counseling I have never been asked this. But I do know there is absolutely no way to understand a couple without meeting them, and I don’t have any idea what would be helpful for them, because there is no one size fits all plan for couples.
I read an expression recently. It said, “We fall in love with our heart, we fall out of love with our head.” When I think about this I know it makes a lot of sense.
I have this friend who is sad that her marriage is ending. She still loves her mate, and she is feeling what her love is creating from her heart. She thinks about the good things that they shared, before things got bad and drove them to divorce.
Many of us get mad when our feelings get hurt. This is a very common human feature. A lot of us are wired to express our pain by getting upset, and that’s what we do.
But when we are in a relationship, the anger and the upset can be a problem for our mate. They might take it personally or they might try and fix us, but whatever they try to do to help us usually doesn’t work.
Many of us seek love from another person. That kind of explains why we couple. We look for the right kind of mate so we can feel good about ourselves. This is very human. But the more I learn about myself and other people, the more I understand that when we are fully ourselves, and only ourselves, that is when we can feel love.
Let me explain. When we find our partners we feel complete in some way, as if we have been missing something and after finding them we now feel whole. But if we always need to feel this feeling with our person, when we don’t feel it, we might start to feel less than—like we lost something important.
Most of us if we are in a relationship often feel that our partner does things that hurt us. I know I have been in this position too many times to count. But I know in my heart of hearts that my partner loves me. I mean he really loves me.
And I bet that in your tender moments, if you look at your partner, you will tell yourself the same thing: “My partner loves me too.”
But when we get our feelings hurt, we forget that we are loved and instead feel unwanted. When we get upset, we put a protective layer around our heart and maybe lash out or pull our feelings inside ourselves and feel terrible. We try to defend ourselves when we get hurt. It’s only natural.
How do we learn to be in a relationship? This is a question people have been grappling with for centuries. Some people come to earth just knowing what is the right way to treat another human. Some of us are taught, and then there are others who just struggle.
I used to struggle in my relationship with my husband-to-be. In the early days (20 years ago, before I was a therapist) I was pretty unhappy. And he was unhappy too. We didn’t know what to do to get better, so we went to a counselor.