Is It Ever A Good Idea To Criticize Your Partner In A Relationship?

When you start dating someone, you get to learn more about all the amazing qualities that set them apart — along with their not-so-nice characteristics, too. Let's face it: No one is perfect, and even your beloved other half has some shortcomings. According to marriage therapists, the most common complaints women have about their partners range from their habit of giving unsolicited advice to their emotional unavailability (via Fatherly).


It might seem like the only way to effectively ask your partner to change for the better is by criticizing them for their behavior. However, relationship therapist Dr. Gary Brown tells Elite Daily, "Constant criticism can be a possible red flag that your relationship has become toxic."

How, then, can you open up about your frustrations without damaging the bond you share with your partner? Is criticism ever okay in a relationship, or is there another way to communicate with your partner more effectively?

Here's why you shouldn't criticize your partner

When your significant other acts in a way that hurts you or the relationship, you might want to call them out. But the way you express yourself matters. Couple's therapist and host of the podcast "Marriage Therapy Radio" Zach Brittle defined criticism to HuffPost, saying, "Criticism is when a complaint is expressed as a character flaw." Criticism pinpoints what you believe is wrong with who your partner fundamentally is as a person. 


Over time, criticism can destroy trust and intimacy. It can also trigger other relationship problems, such as communication issues and unhealthy power dynamics. Regularly criticizing your partner can even indicate that your relationship is heading for a breakup, according to research by The Gottman Institute. As such, this kind of communication has the potential to be really damaging and should be avoided.

And if you're looking to create positive change in your relationship, criticism is rarely effective, per Psychology Today. People who are criticized often respond with resistance rather than cooperation, driving a deeper wedge between partners.

What to do instead of being critical

Not criticizing your partner doesn't mean you have to hide your feelings. Instead of bottling up your frustrations, communicate them as a complaint without hurling any blame at your partner. Unlike criticisms, complaints focus on a particular problem, not someone's character (via The Gottman Institute). Complaints aren't generalizations, and they don't include words like "always" or "never" (like, "You never do what you say you'll do!"). 


To make a successful complaint, Michael Hamsel, M.A., LMHC, suggests being gentle but direct, clearly stating what the problem is and what you need. In other words, don't start the conversation by raising your voice. Be open to solutions to the complaint and never use threats to manipulate the conversation. Above all, stress that your partner isn't the problem; the specific issue is what needs to be addressed. 

If you're unsure if your feedback is too critical, psychologist Dr. Steven Stosny shared an exercise with HuffPost. First, write down your criticisms about your partner and record yourself reading them aloud. Listen to the recording and try to judge how you would feel if someone spoke to you like that. If it seems too harsh during this test, it probably is.