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Resentment & Criticism in a Relationship

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Negative criticism and the resentment that follows can ruin a relationship, according to psychologist Seven Stosny, Ph.D., in a “Psychology Today” article entitled “How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Relationship.” No one likes to receive negative criticism that entails belittling and judgement. The resentment that builds from criticism damages the relationship, writes Stosny in the article “Overcoming Chronic Resentment and the Abuse It Causes.” If criticism is not stopped, the relationship will die.

It's the Truth!

A critical person might claim that he is not critical -- only telling the truth, writes Stosny. A critical person concentrates on what is wrong, devalues the partner by attacking personality, attempts to control through coercion and assigns blame. Criticism breeds resentment and shut-down in the criticized partner. If you want to convey the truth, present the information in a manner that tells your partner what you need or want in terms of behavior, rather than attacking personality or demeaning.

I'm Trying to Help!

You can convey helpful information through criticism, but it must be conveyed without anger, writes Stosny. Focus on the behaviors that need to change and ways to improve the situation. Helpful criticism allows your partner to make a decision and act in accordance with personal beliefs about what is right; it additionally inspires cooperation rather than defensiveness. Cooperation reduces resentment as partners work together.

Elephant Under the Rug

Avoiding the problem doesn’t improve your situation, according to Barbi Pecenco Kolski in a GoodTherapy.org article entitled “Marriage: The Impact of Resentment on Relationships.” Even without critical words, resentment can build if you can feel neglected and decide that your partner is taking advantage of you. Kolski suggests that you bring up the situation in a calm and factual way so you can work through it as a team. Explain to your partner what you are feeling and what events cause you to feel that way.

Change or Die

Take steps to change your relationship in positive ways by expressing appreciation for your partner, focusing on the things you find pleasing and watching how you address frustration and disappointment, suggests Dr. Bob Navarra on his Gottman Therapist website. If you don’t stop the cycle that breeds resentment, the relationship will die an agonizing and painful death. A couples therapist can help you change your communication patterns and develop strategies that help end criticism and resentment if you and your partner cannot find ways to do this on your own.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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