In this counseling answer:
• The key is to practice changing criticisms into subjective complaints. Use gentle “I statement” that relay your complaint without making your partner feel attacked and in turn defensive.
• Notice generalizations like “always” and “never” aren’t used, and the expression is subjective which is less likely to feel like an attack.
As-Salaam ‘Alaikum sister,
Alhamdulillah, your husband is a good man, and this is something you can work with to make things better. It sounds to me that your main concern is his short temper and his pattern of shouting and criticisms. This, in turn, makes you feel hurt, disrespected, and perhaps underappreciated.
Criticisms generally attack someone and are often in the form of “you statements.” For example, “you never listen when I ask you to do something”, or “you are so stupid”, or “you are lazier than a (blank).” Ultimately, any criticism is something that attacks and hurts us.
The Dangerous Pattern of Criticism
When you criticize your partner, you are basically implying that there is something wrong with them. You have taken a problem between you and put it inside your partner’s body. Using the words: “You always” or “you never” are common ways to criticize. Your partner is most likely to feel under attack and to respond defensively. This is a dangerous pattern to get into because neither partner feel heard and both may begin to feel bad about themselves in the presence of the other. The antidote to criticism is to make a direct complaint that is not a global attack on your partner’s personality.
As partners in a marriage, we will have complaints, no doubt. However, attacking someone will not help us grow as a couple. The key is to practice changing criticisms into subjective complaints. Use gentle “I statement” that relay your complaint without making your partner feel attacked and in turn defensive.
The “I Statement” Practice
You and your husband should become familiar with this alternative and start practicing it together when we are bothered by something. If one of you notices a criticism:
- Stop, breathe, and praise the Allah or seek refuge in Him from Satan.
- If you are criticizing, try again “Sorry honey; that came out bad, let me try again.”
- If you are being criticized: “I feel attacked and defensive; can you try that again?”
- Use the algorithms as a guide below to change criticisms into gentle complaints:
“I feel (emotion) when you do or say (example)”
“I felt (emotion) when you did (example)”
“I feel (emotion) because of (action or behavior)
Check out this counseling video:
Let’s say your husband said to you “you never listen to me when I tell you to clean.” This is criticism because it is a “you statement” that attacks you by using the word never which implies character flaw. When you hear something like this, you can ask him to “try again because you feel attacked.” Remember, the bottom line is to have empathy for each other and understand. Taking that same criticism and making it a gentle complaint using an “I statement” would sound more like this: “I feel (uncared for) when you are (unable to clean the house as often as I would like.)”
Notice generalizations like “always” and “never” aren’t used, and the expression is subjective which is less likely to feel like an attack.
When any negative patterns exist in a marriage, we must break it by:
(1) voicing our needs in a gentle way: “shouting and criticizing is unacceptable for such small things, please try again.”
(2) be consistent in reminding and stopping our partner when they do it.
(3) replace bad patterns (criticisms) with new actions (gentle complaints).
(3) expect relapses as changes take time; we do not change overnight. Don’t give up if criticisms keep coming; simply keep stopping and replacing.
(4) practice and discipline will lead to transformation.
For further readings and guidance on destructive patterns in marriages, please search ‘Gottman and the 4 Horsemen’ for more details.
In sha’ Allah, this will help you and your husband find more peace regarding the bad habit of criticism.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.