7 Things It’s Never OK For Your Partner To Criticize You For, According To Experts
There are a lot of different facets of being someone's partner: you're their support system, their teammate, their lover, their biggest advocate — but at times, you have to play the role of concerned critic, too. Everyone messes up occasionally, and hypothetically, your partner is someone who's well-equipped to carefully point out your shortcomings, then help you learn and grow. That being said, if you feel like you're being criticized by your partner in a non-constructive way, that's not a healthy dynamic.
"There is a difference between pointing out the impact of a specific behavior and attacking you as a person," Jordan Pickell, a therapist who supports individuals and couples to navigate relationships and find healing after abuse, tells Bustle. "Your partner may have reasonable complaints about things you do, but [if] the criticism is constant, you are slowly worn down into feeling bad about yourself, like you can’t do anything right."
For a relationship to function long-term, both partners need to learn how to give constructive criticism instead of simply attacking each other's personalities or behaviors. That being said, there are some things your partner should never criticize you for: here are seven things that should be considered off-limits targets of criticism in a relationship, according to experts.
1. Your Sexual Desires
It's pretty unlikely that your sexual desires and fantasies will line up with your partner's 100 percent — and that's totally OK! What isn't OK, however, is having your partner criticize or shame you for what you like in bed.
"How we express ourselves sexually and what our desires and longings and turn-ons are, are as important to overall personal fulfillment as our relationships, friendships and professional choices." Cyndi Darnell, sex and relationship therapist, tells Bustle, "...The golden rule here is 'don't yuck someone else's yum' by turning up your nose or being horrified if you partner shares with you that their interest may be different than yours. You may need help working out the differences if they become problematic in the relationship, but under no circumstances is it OK to shame or ridicule a partner because their erotic expression sits outside the mainstream."
2. Your Feelings
Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have feelings, and they're not always easy to digest or untangle. But even if your partner doesn't fully understand your feelings at any given time doesn't give them the right to invalidate or criticize them.
"Someone should never be criticized for feeling the way that they do," Julie Williamson, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in helping singles establish healthy dating relationships, tells Bustle. "Even if someone's feelings seem irrational to you, they are experiencing them, and need validation and support in trying to understand them. Criticizing them for feeling emotions that don't make sense to us will not at all help the situation, and will most likely harm the relationship in terms of decreasing trust and emotional closeness."
3. Your Aspirations
Our dreams and aspirations — professional and otherwise — are a huge part of what makes us who we are, and if your partner openly criticizes your goals and dreams, that's a major red flag.
"Unless their aspirations are dangerous, there is no reason to criticize your partner’s aspirations for being a bad idea or unrealistic," Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "If your partner’s aspirations really aren’t realistic, they will eventually realize it themselves."
4. Things You Have No Control Over
Part of being someone's life partner means loving and accepting them for all of who they are — which means that if your partner is critical of aspects of your personality that you can't change, they don't fully accept you for you.
"Criticizing things that your partner has no control over can be incredibly hurtful," Backe says. "If you chose to be in the relationship, it is your job to accept your partner for who they are."
5. What You Wear
For most people, the clothes we wear are an extension and expression of who we are, so even if your partner doesn't love all your fashion choices (and vice versa), it's important for them to respect your autonomy over your own appearance.
And if something thinks an outfit is really bad, there's a better way to handle it than by being outright critical: "If your partner is planning to wear an outfit that is unsuitable for an occasion, or it does not flatter their body type, try to refrain from telling them the outfit doesn’t look good on them," Davida Rappaport, speaker, spiritual counselor & dating expert, tells Bustle. "Instead, why not suggest they wear an outfit that you like better on them or is more appropriate for the occasion. By suggesting a replacement that makes them look better, you are avoiding telling them that you don’t like their taste in clothes or that you might be embarrassed to see them wearing it in public, etc."
6. Having A Different Opinion
A little friendly debate can be good for a relationship, but only if it's done in a healthy way — with respect and consideration on both sides. You should never feel like your partner is criticizing or demeaning you for your opinion.
"If you have a partner who... doesn’t respect your opinion, listen to what you have to say, and/or consider your point of view when you hold a conversation, over time, you may begin to feel inadequate, frustrated and your confidence and self-esteem will start to drop," Rappaport says.
7. How Sensitive You Are
Everyone's at least a little sensitive, but some are moreso than others — and that's nothing to be ashamed of. However, if your partner mocks or criticizes you for being "too sensitive" or showing too much emotion, that's, at best, unfair and, at worst, abusive behavior.
"Avoid criticizing your partner about how sensitive they are," Michelle Joy, MFT, relationship expert at MarriagePrep101.com, tells Bustle. "They are sensitive in general or to certain things for a reason, and if you just criticize them for it, you are sending them a message that your love has conditions. You also are also sending a message to your partner that how they feel is not acceptable to you, which divides partners instead of connects them."
The bottom line? No one is perfect, but being a healthy, mature adult means being able to soak up feedback from your loves ones when you're out of line or you mess up. Being a healthy, mature partner means knowing how to deliver that feedback in a constructive way — as well as knowing which topics are off the table where criticism is concerned.