Carolyn Hax: Return to 'Crazyville' -- More on critical behavior
Adapted from a recent online discussion:
About yesterday's column on criticizing a mate: I've been to "Crazyville," and it stinks. My mom was (and still is) very critical of my dad, and growing up with it couldn't have helped me. Even though I can see it, it's still hard to shake, but I've talked with my husband about it. He knows I'm aware of it, and trying to do something about it, and that helps with his patience. And when you catch yourself doing it, say so: "I'm sorry, I think that was overly critical for me to say." And then try to do better. Sometimes just putting it out there helps both parties.
Thanks, I agree -- admitting fault quickly and completely is a crucial part of "great communication." Even if it's a warning of more nasties to come -- "I'm being a complete jerk and will probably stay that way until I make deadline/Mom's out of the hospital/I kick this cold" -- taking responsibility makes it clear it's about your shortcomings, not your partner's.
I'm dating someone who vacations there occasionally, and I wholeheartedly agree about apologizing on the spot. I know she nitpicks when she's stressed, and she knows I know; all I want is for her to acknowledge it without my having to say my feelings were hurt.
As someone who has broken bad patterns this way, I know the repetition of prompt acknowledgement got me to the point where I could anticipate having to apologize as I was actually doing something, until finally I was catching myself before I did it. Repetition is the best way to break patterns like this.