10 signs you’re being overly critical of your partner (and it’s pushing them away)

Trust in any relationship is delicate.

In romantic and committed ones, even much more so because the feelings involved tend to make us weak in the knees.

Even if you consider yourself to be the most logical or mature person ever, no one is safe from being tested by the unpredictable nature of chemistry.

Criticism and control go hand in hand.

The desire to keep the relationship can override your ability to radically accept your partner if you aren’t aware of these patterns.

To help you be more mindful for the future or reflect on the present, here are 10 signs you’re being overly critical of your partner and it’s pushing them away.

1) You aren’t happy in your life

To start, we need to address the root cause of why you may be being critical of your partner.

Because there’s a difference between your guard being up because you’re in an unhappy relationship, or because you’re in an unhappy life.

When you’re not content with your own circumstances, it’s easy to project that unhappiness onto your relationship. 

So take the time to really reflect where the dissatisfaction is stemming from. 

Are you burnt out? Are you expecting someone to fill a void that you can’t identify?

With so many relationship advice columns asking us to “put ourselves first,” it’s crucial you create a distinction and practice discernment.

Specifically between your external frustrations versus genuine concerns within the relationship.

2) You bottle up your emotions

Discernment begins with you healthily expressing your emotions to yourself before others.

Because bottling them up can cause you to be a ticking time bomb and find an outlet in the people around you.

In this case, your partner because a lot of the time, they’re expected to love you unconditionally.

Think of your bottled up emotions gaining a mind of their own if you don’t give them the time of day. Like plants that need watering.

When you express how you feel in a constructive manner, it won’t make another person responsible for your emotional regulation.

It takes practice, but one that will be worth it – for the relationship, but also for your mental health.

3) You are constantly nitpicking them

Unexpressed emotions can morph into dissatisfaction and habits that micromanage your partner.

Leading you to nitpick at them without realizing the irrational nature of it.

Whether it’s the way they fold laundry, or how they express themselves, it will slowly push your partner away because they will feel afraid to be themselves around you.

And in the long-term, begin to erode the connection because when an atmosphere of tension and resentment builds, they will feel devalued.

Not to mention, it sends a clear message that they can’t be trusted to make their own choices.

Constantly overseeing every aspect of their life can be suffocating, causing them to retreat emotionally.

4) You make broad generalizations in your criticisms

Statements like, “you always” or “you never” can be damaging to another person’s self-esteem.

They escalate criticisms into generalizations about someone’s character, and oversimplify complex issues that require mature, nuanced discussions.

Even if you were to bring up something that is genuinely hurting you, there is a way to go about it tactfully.

Precision in your criticisms is key.

And addressing specific instances allows for an open dialogue where your partner can meet you halfway without abandoning themselves.

Making these kinds of statements too often can also harm your perception of yourself because it establishes a pattern of perfectionism.

warning signs your relationship is on shakier ground than you think 10 signs you’re being overly critical of your partner (and it’s pushing them away)

5) You compare them to an ideal

Constantly comparing your partner to an ideal is a sure way to manifest unrealistic expectations.

Just as perfectionism becomes a habit that acts like a virus on your mind, this can slowly loosen your grip on reality.

Appreciating your partner for who they are, flaws and all, is a necessary part of any commitment.  And what a person deems as “flaws” says a lot about them.

Especially when it comes to romantic relationships, you have to remember that your partner loves you and wants to make you happy.

When you take advantage of that, it can become emotionally abusive as you use every “mistake” in an effort to control them.

As this sort of mistreatment becomes normalized in the relationship, it’s not uncommon for people to openly criticize their partners to other people.

6) You publicly express your dissatisfaction

I remember so many instances when my friends would make fun of their partners. 

Or complain about them to me before they would express these feelings to them. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it creates a hostile environment for everyone involved.

And it can stop a group of people from forming healthy bonds with each other. May as well say goodbye to double dates and group parties that are genuinely fun.

Always worrying if people are talking about you behind your back, and not being able to trust the person who is supposed to love you can also be traumatic.

Humiliation and shame are the quickest way to ruin the trust of any relationship. It’s not always guaranteed that it can be re-built unless one person gives up their dignity.

I understand sometimes you just need a different opinion before you bring it up with your partner, but it’s not healthy to make this a habit.

7) You are overly sarcastic

Excessively, sarcasm can be a veiled form of criticism.

While humor has its place in romance and there is no set quantity on what is an acceptable amount of sarcasm, a lack of clear communication can create resentment.

And it’s hard to validate your own pain when it’s caused by a joke. Especially if you respond with something like “I was just kidding” when confronted.

So with everything in this article considered, it’s important that you be mindful of how your words may be perceived by the other person.

As well as ensure that your humor isn’t masking any feelings that could be expressed in a straightforward way.

8) You always look for someone to blame in conflict

When a person is incapable of expressing themselves clearly and with empathy, it’s because they’re looking for someone to blame.

Someone to magically make their problems disappear – in their life and in the relationship. To read their mind.

It’s nearly impossible to keep a healthy power dynamic when there are these kinds of expectations.

Using “I feel” statements instead of accusing your partner can be effective in training your mind to look for solutions instead of more problems.

Or if you feel that that’s ineffective, putting yourself in your partner’s shoes before you act on impulse is another way to practice collaborative skills.

9) You don’t consider your partner’s perspectives

This is a foolproof way to have the same fights with your partner over and over again.

To offer respect and empathy, is to enter every conflict with an open mind. 

Of course, it can become toxic if there is no accountability from either side.

Balance is key, and I find stepping back and identifying the root cause of repeating arguments to be crucial. Even if it means you take a break from one another.

Being considerate also means you acknowledge that they can’t read your mind. They can empathize, and sure, some couples have a psychic level of intuition. 

But communicating needs anyway shows that you care and are willing to meet them half-way. 

For the off-chance that the moon disappears and you are no longer able to read each other’s minds – or something like that.

10) You lack positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a way for you to show your partner that you believe in them. 

A sign of loyalty through life’s ups and downs.

Even if they have a healthy self-esteem, a lack of validation from you can cause them to question themselves and lose sight of their positive qualities.

What usually ends up happening here is that your relationship can get stuck in limbo where it’s clearly over but neither partner has the confidence to leave.

It’s hard to navigate into clearer waters from that point, requiring both individuals to tend to themselves before each other again.

Final thoughts

If your partner starts distancing themselves from you, it’s usually because these criticisms have built up over time.

So even though it seems the arguments and problems came out of nowhere, that’s very rarely the case.

The distance created is a silent plea for understanding and change. 

As well as that they find it hard to communicate these feelings with you because of the way you’ve been treating them.

It also means there’s opportunity for you to grow and get to the bottom of why you express yourself a certain way – consciously or unconsciously.

It’s never too late to reassess and reshape the way you communicate and to move forward, you must see this as a blessing.

By embarking on a journey to become more vulnerable and empathetic, you make room for second chances.

For the relationship, but also for yourself to experience reality with healthier attachments and expectations.

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Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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