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7 Relationship Risks Of Criticism

April 21, 2024 Paula Gurnett, C.C.C.


Criticism can pose several risks to relationship satisfaction and success and is a predictor of divorce. Here are seven potential risks:


  1. Erosion of Trust: Repeated criticism can erode the trust between partners. When one feels judged or evaluated negatively, they may become guarded and hesitant to share their thoughts and feelings, leading to a breakdown in communication and intimacy.

  2. Resentment: Criticism can breed resentment if it's perceived as unfair or delivered harshly. Over time, resentment can build up, creating emotional distance between partners and hindering their ability to resolve conflicts constructively.

  3. Low Self-Esteem: Constant criticism can chip away at an individual's self-esteem, causing them to doubt their worth and capabilities. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity within the relationship, making it difficult for both partners to feel valued and appreciated.

  4. Communication Breakdown: Criticism can impede effective communication by creating a defensive atmosphere where one or both partners feel attacked or invalidated. Instead of openly expressing their thoughts and feelings, individuals may resort to avoidance or passive-aggressive behavior, further straining the relationship.

  5. Emotional Distance: When criticism becomes pervasive, it can create emotional distance between partners as they may begin to withdraw or withhold affection to protect themselves from further hurt. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation within the relationship, ultimately weakening the bond between partners.

  6. Impact on Intimacy: Criticism can impact physical and emotional intimacy within a relationship. Feeling criticized or put-down can make it challenging for individuals to feel emotionally connected to their partner, leading to a decline in intimacy and sexual satisfaction.

  7. Negative Cycle: Criticism can perpetuate a negative cycle of behavior within the relationship. For example, one partner criticizes the other, leading to defensiveness or counter-criticism, which then escalates into a cycle of blame and resentment. Breaking this cycle requires both partners to acknowledge the impact of criticism and work together to foster a more supportive and understanding dynamic.

Addressing these risks involves fostering open communication, practicing empathy and understanding, and being mindful of how words and actions affect the other person. Moving out of blame and into vulnerability and accountability can drastically shift a conversation from being harsh and disconnecting to being constructive, supportive, and respectful.

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