Motivating Change:
“I can’t stop criticizing my partner.”

“Mother Teresa” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

It takes tremendous will power to change our unwanted habits and behavior. One way to boost your will power is by imagining what your future will be like after five or ten more years of criticizing your partner. Not only will your partner feel demoralized, you will feel terrible about yourself, which means you’ll have an unhappy marriage that might end in divorce.

If you have children, you will want to avoid being a rolemodel of disrespect and misery. Otherwise, your child will likely learn to emulate either your attitude of contemptuous disapproval or your partner’s downtrodden subjugation and acquiescence.

The Deathbed Perspective

Imagining the future puts urgency into your actions on a daily basis. The clear awareness that life is limited brings into focus the significance of each fleeting moment and the importance of avoiding unkind behavior. When you imagine yourself on your deathbed, you realize that time is precious and that the way you live every day greatly impacts the vitality of your life and relationships.

While a critical comment here or there may not change the relationship, the accumulation of recurring criticism will dramatically impact your long-term relationships, your health, and your enjoyment of life. A bitter relationship and a miserable life are often the result of an accrual of belittling interactions and negative communication. It takes will power and discipline on a daily basis to practice the habits that will allow you to achieve a sustainable, loving and meaningful relationship.

Love as Intentional

After the initial infatuation between two people, love is not simply a feeling that will magically maintain itself over the long-term. Ongoing love requires intentional loving energy and respectful action. Keeping the fact that life is fleeting in your conscious awareness can motivate you to avoid being reactive and negative in your interaction with loved ones. By keeping in mind the long-term effect of mindless negative habits, such as belittling your spouse, you will feel motivated to change these insidious habits.

When tempted to criticize, stop yourself and think, “If I continue to treat my partner with contempt and criticism, our relationship will become loveless, stifling, and full of resentment. No one is perfect. I will only criticize when I can do so from a position of love and in a positive life-enhancing manner. I’ll know if I’m doing it right by the response I get from my partner.”

Criticism vs. Dialogue

I am not suggesting that you ignore problems. Constructive problem-solving and compassionate dialogue are different from negative criticism. Constructive dialogue builds upon acceptance and compassion, while negative criticism limits our ability to connect and find creative solutions together.

The deathbed perspective causes us to focus on what is possible in our lives and relationships. If we take a moment to imagine ourselves at the end of our lives, our older self would probably tell us not to squander a minute, but to live each day wholeheartedly and courageously, to move forward in the face of fear, and to remember that it is the small actions and non-actions that make up who we are.

When you stay aware of what is at stake, you can develop better relationships while adding meaning to your life. A great life is not accidental but is built from the many courageous steps we take to become the person we want to be.

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action. Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.

~Mother Teresa

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Reference and Recommended: “The Tools” by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels.

Read “Changing Relationship Dynamics.”

Read “Giving Advice: ‘She never listens to me.’”

Read “Inner Critics attract Critical Partners: ‘Why does my partner criticize me all the time?’”

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