Note: This is the first of a three-part series.

Dear Neil:  My boyfriend accuses me of being a critical person.   I admit I complain from time to time about things that bother or disturb me about him, but I don’t think that I am that critical of him overall.  Is there a way to tell if I am crossing the line and being too critical?

Upset In Phoenix

Dear Upset:  Take this quiz if you’d like to learn how critical you are:

  1. During an argument or disagreement, I tend to think it is very important to determine who is at fault.  You: __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes ___no
  2. I see it as my job to present all of my complaints. You:  ____yes  ___no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  3. I try to make a general point instead of being specific about one situation or action.  You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  4. I analyze my partner’s personality in addition to discussing specific actions that bother me.  You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  5. I let things build up for a long time before I complain.  You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  6. I don’t censor my complaints at all.  I really let my partner have it full force. You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  7. When I complain, my emotions are very intense and powerful. You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  8. I don’t try to be very rational when I state what I think is wrong. You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  9. When I complain, I bring up my partner’s faults. You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  10. There’s no stopping me once I get started. You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  11. I regret my tactless choice of words when I complain. You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  12. Whenever I bring up a problem, I know I am basically right. You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  13. Whenever I bring up problem, it is my goal to get my partner to see how I’m right.  You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  14. It’s my goal to get my partner to accept some blame for the problem. You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no
  15. When I complain, I tend to use phrases like “you always” or “you never.” You:  __yes  __no   Your partner:  __yes  __no

Scoring:  If you checked “yes” on more than five items, you are a candidate for being considered critical in your relationship.

Being critical is not evil.  It can begin innocently enough, and it is often an expression of pent-up unresolved anger or frustration.  Problems occur when criticisms become so pervasive—or one person is so sensitive to it—that it begins to erode the relationship.

I will discuss criticism—and how it effects an intimate relationship, and what you can do about it in next week’s column.

Source:  Why Marriages Succeed Or Fail by John Gottman (Fireside)

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