by Susan Quilliam, UK’s Number 1 Relationship Counsellor and best-selling author of Stop Arguing, Start Talking: The 10 Point Plan for Couples in Conflict
Be honest. Whether or not you’ve admitted it yet to anyone but yourself, you do feel critical of your partner.
You may not feel bad about everything he or she does, just over one or two big issues that seem to catch a raw nerve. Or over several irritations, that trip you up whenever things seem to be going well. Or, over a host of tiny pinpricks, but ones that increasingly take the shine off being together. Whatever [it is], the differences between you are now chafing, and criticism is now part of your relationship.
If you want to stop arguing, you have to stop criticising. However much you realize what you’re doing in an argument and why, and however much you make your feelings work for you, you can’t move forward if your partner is still someone whose behavior confuses and so irritates you, whose approach to life rubs you up the wrong way; in short, someone who seems almost like an aggravating alien.
There was a point earlier in your relationship when your partner wasn’t alien, when you sympathized and empathized. In short, there was a point where you understood. What you have to do now is to ‘re-understand.’ You have to rediscover your partner’s identity, feelings, thoughts, and motivations all over again. If you can do that, you’ll stop criticising. And if you can do that, you’ll be well on the way to stopping the arguments.