Fight Criticism, Not Each Other.

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According to the National Marriage Project, 

The number one trait men look for in a partner is someone who showed a willingness to take them as they are and not change them.

We all crave to be loved and accepted as we are. The National Marriage Project discusses a common reason men are unable to commit is because they don't feel as if they're accepted for who they are. They feel they're always being asked to change. It communicates that love is conditional and only available if they meet certain requirements. 

Gretchen Rubin, the Author of the Happiness Project, writes about her journey in finding happiness and shares the splendid truth, "the only person you can change is yourself." Realizing this truth makes all the time we spend criticizing one another a complete waste. There's not much you can say or do if they don't decide to change for themselves. Encouraging one another to be the best version of yourselves is a great thing. However, encouragement can quickly change into critisim and they are not the same. 

The only person you can change is yourself.
— Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

Whether you're on the giving or the receiving end of criticism, there's always hope. Here are some ways to navigate through criticism in your relationship. 

Less criticism, more love. 
How people treat others is a reflection of how they treat themselves. If someone is always criticizing others, they are equally if not harsher when it comes to themselves. So if you are the one giving the constant criticism, give yourself a bit of grace and take note of your inner dialogue. Do you love and accept yourself for who you are? It's near impossible to love people for who they are until you've learned to do it for yourself. Remember, perfectionism is a lie. 

However, if you feel that you are always on the receiving end of criticism, understand this could be a reflection of the inner battles your partner is going through. Take notice of the things they criticize you for, it could be a reflection of their insecurities and a conversation that needs to happen.  

Complement the good rather than pointing out the bad. 
Researchers say rewards are far more effective than punishment. For instance, being rewarded with $100 for getting straight A's is far more effective than solely being grounded for getting an F. It's much easier to know what to do rather than knowing what not to do. By complementing your partner on something they did well will encourage them to do it more often. It shows that their efforts aren't being wasted and gives them the motivation to seek other ways to improve your relationship. 

Apologize and start small
Being humble and admitting your faults isn't always easy but it's a sign of a healthy relationship. If you have been overly critical, it's okay. Start by apologizing or even asking how you can be a better spouse or partner. Hearing this question shows your partner that you are willing to put in the effort to building a strong relationship with them, making them more likely to do the same. 

What to do if you're being criticized
The deeper issue is most likely beyond you. People treat others how they treat themselves. If a loved one is constantly bashing you for certain things they might be fighting much greater battles internally. Look out for how they talk about themselves. Remember, pride is often a reflection of insecurity. 

Acknowledge, encourage & appreciate
This will feel counterintuitive being the one who is getting criticized. However, if your partner feels appreciated and accepted, they are more inclined to reciprocate. As mentioned above, a reason they might be criticizing you is that they are having troubles accepting themselves. 

Communicate
There are some of us who blow up when arguments happen and some of us who shut down. Either way, calm open communication is critical in any healthy relationship. If your partner has unrealistic expectations of you, have an open dialogue about it. They might be unaware of the pressures you feel from them.  

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