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Are You a Critic?


When an acquaintance at a dinner party tells you about feeling burnt out and unmotivated at work, you might nod sympathetically and suggest he take a vacation. However, if your spouse were to relay the same information to you, your reaction might be different. You might suggest your partner work through the feeling, brush it off as something will pass, or tell them they are lucky to have a job in this economy. Even though you may think that you are coming from a place of love and concern, being critical can become a large contributor to an unhappy marriage.

Answer “yes” or “no” to the questions below to see if you are critical of your spouse.

  1. I think it is important to determine who is at fault in an argument.
  2. I see it as my job to present all of my complaints.
  3. I try to see patterns and analyze my partner’s personality as part of my complaint.
  4. I don’t complain until I feel very hurt.
  5. I try to make general points instead of being specific about one situation or action.
  6. I analyze my partner’s personality in addition to discussing specific actions that bother me.
  7. I let things build up for a long time before I complain.
  8. I don’t censor my complaints at all.
  9. When I complain, my emotions are intense and powerful.
  10. I complain in part to get things off my chest.
  11. I do not state my complaints in a neutral manner.
  12. I don’t try to be very rational when I state what I think is wrong.
  13. When I complain, I feel explosive inside.
  14. When I complain, I bring up my partner’s faults.
  15. There is no stopping me once I get started.
  16. I resent having to bring up the issues in the first place.
  17. I regret my tactless choice of words when I complain.
  18. Whenever I bring up a problem, it is my goal to get my partner to see how I’m right.
  19. It is my goal to get my partner to accept some of the blame for the problem.
  20. When I complain, I use phrases like “you always” and “you never.”
If you checked “yes” on more than seven items, you are most likely a good candidate for being a critic. The difference between complaining and criticizing is how personal criticizing can be. If you are unhappy about a particular situation within your marriage, be sure to emphasize your dissatisfaction with the condition, not your spouse. Work together to come to a solution. Avoid blaming and becoming emotionally charged in a negative way. By working together to resolve the complaint, you and your partner can practice becoming more collaborative and strive to make each other happier each day.

(Source: Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman, Ph.D)

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