This is an article I found in a Psychology Today magazine on Criticism, written by Jay Dixit.
All relationship irritants can lead partners to criticize each other. But criticism is a dangerous irritant in itself. “If you want to kill a relationship outright, have an affair,” says Buri. “But if you want to bludgeon it to death slowly, use criticism.” Criticism makes people feel attacked and unloved, and can be so damaging to a partner’s sense of self that it borders on abuse. Yet most people respond to even petty annoyances with criticism.
In reacting to annoyances, says John Gottman, men are more likely to shut down and refuse to engage. But women voice their complaints in criticism. They are apt to tell a partner exactly what is wrong with him and how he needs to change. But such an approach seldom brings about the desired goal; men feel attacked, defensive, unable to listen with an open mind. Conversations that begin with criticism are likely to end in anger (link is external).
Criticism can sometimes be indirect, manifesting as sarcasm. Madanes prescribes a pattern-interrupt: Wherever the couple is, as soon as she makes a sarcastic comment, he’s to lie flat on his back and say, “Kick me! Kick me! It would hurt less.” “It’s very effective,” Madanes reports.
Relentless nagging—about money, about irritating habits, about anything—is another form of criticism that especially bothers men. Madanes similarly prescribes a pattern-interrupt. The goal isn’t to shut down communication about real issues but to use playfulness to nudge destructive communication toward a more constructive mode.
Couples assume that since good communication is the linchpin of a relationship, all communication is good and more is better. That’s a fallacy, insists Madanes. “With most couples, the problem isn’t insufficient communication but too much communication.” Many couples get caught in vicious cycles of complaining and criticizing each other, hammering the same issues over and over.
Not only is criticism flat-out destructive to a relationship, it often doesn’t budge an issue. Most behaviors never change—because most relationship problems are unresolvable. Gottman calculates that 69 percent of all marital problems are immutable, arising from basic personality (link is external) differences between partners.
In other words, what you can change is your perspective.
by Jay Dixit