“We don’t have a great marriage and we are always argumentative, but we have a lot of love in the marriage. We’re constantly blaming each other for the shortcomings in our lives including our parenting aspects. We insult each other and ridicule each other a lot, ending up in physical abuse that actually frightens our two children. At home we have equality in fights but she uses the residue of the fights to insult me in public. When she knows she hasn’t won an argument or she hasn’t made her point clear, then she uses the public platform to drive home the point to me.”
“I get several such surprises from Swati in public, which leaves me emotionally drained. Fights at home are acceptable, as I know all couples fight, but the public attack lacks respect. I maintain decorum and remain silent, while she encroaches om my dignity,” began Girish with his marital issues.
Airing dirty laundry in public
Right from school days, we are caught off guard as someone divulges private details about us in social situations. We feel very awkward about such confessions that are not to our liking. Those days we used to get angry and cut ourselves off from such friends. If this happened in adult life, then we might laugh or change topics. But when it’s the spouse who is airing dirty laundry in public, then it becomes tough, as you can’t cut yourself off from that person.
“Initially she used to lash out at me only for something that happened right there, then I noticed that leftover arguments from home became her weapon, as if taking revenge on me in public. It’s earth shaking and humiliating when Swati puts me down deliberately in front of friends and relatives. Since I do not retaliate, I end up being the joke and she can be really high on sarcasm. She makes uncalled-for remarks on my parenting and makes me feel a bad parent even in front of my children. My blood boils at her audacity of making me a joker in front of her family and claiming to be the efficient and perfect wife. She has her faults and shortcomings too that I keep away from the public, as I do not want her to come off as a bad lady,” continued Girish.
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Retaliation will not help
Every partnership is a marriage of challenges. Irrespective of culture, region, caste, socio-demographics or income, this behaviour of a spouse putting the other down in public is a common feature in many marriages. Living with a spouse who constantly criticises is a daunting task.
One has to have the emotional capacity to understand and handle such a person well. Tit for tat never helps rebuild a relationship, so do not retaliate, though your anger is justified and valid.
Tit for tat never helps rebuild a relationship, so do not retaliate, though your anger is justified and valid.
Two people fighting in public is not the solution for such an approach.
“Her criticising words sting and prick me as she degrades me publicly. I am frustrated by remaining silent and on the verge of an outburst now. I have colleagues at work and we pick on each other, but I never feel shattered, as they are always directed at my actions and behaviours and not at me personally. But this is from my wife who I love and have an emotional bond with. She points a finger at me as a bad person and not at my actions which might be bad. I welcome positive criticisms that are constructive, as I am in a leadership position in my office and I understand the need and benefit of such feedback. But this is working negatively on my self-esteem and self-respect due to her blame game,” Girish lamented.
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Point out the actions, not the person
Girish has made a very valid point here that when the criticism is on the behaviour or action, then the person is willing to listen and amend, but when the criticism is on one’s personality then it becomes a personal attack and deliberate insult. “She can criticise me in the privacy of our home without sounding preachy and dominating. She isn’t devoid of faults and should also be open to criticism from me, because quite often she makes those same mistakes she is criticising me for. I know her intentions are good, but her tone and vocabulary are above my comprehension.”
“I have tried talking to her, but she doesn’t think she is doing me a wrong. She takes it as venting her feelings to friends and relatives. She thinks it’s absolutely normal to openly criticise partners and she often cites examples of other couples who do it. Comparison is something else that I dislike,” said Girish.
Criticism starts from within
First, understand that the criticism is not about you all the time. The fact is that a person who finds fault with others often is usually unhappy with themselves and their lives. Some people are always critical in nature and do not understand that they are hurting the feelings of the other person. Maybe Swati has imbibed this from her parents who have always been critical parents and now she is modelling herself on that.
All said and done, there is no excuse for frequent bad behaviour and your spouse must treat you with respect. Part of taking care of yourself is not letting anyone ruin your self-esteem; therefore, set boundaries for the criticism with respect.
Part of taking care of yourself is not letting anyone ruin your self-esteem; therefore, set boundaries for the criticism with respect.
Respond politely and kill them with kindness. Remember that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. It’s a good lesson to keep in mind the next time your partner drives you crazy.
Remove yourself from the situation and see the matter as an action. Move away and take a deep breath to manage your built-up stress. Remember that criticism by your spouse is only one person’s point of you and it doesn’t decide your personality.