How to deal with criticism from my partner?

Apr 3, 2023

 

QUESTION

Dear Venerable Robina,

 

I have been following your teachings for the past couple of years together with some other Buddhist teachings. Quite often in my day-to-day life and when problems or tricky situations occur, I think about the Buddhist teachings and where, according to that, the problem is and how to work on it.

 

For several months I have been traveling with my partner in a small van. We do pretty well together! But. Oftentimes he asks me to do daily things differently, to handle things differently, to not do this in that way, take better care of this and that because from his point of view it makes more sense. It’s little things related to the van interior, the kitchen, the way of cooking, organization in a small space.

 

I try to do my best and oftentimes I feel super insecure while doing something because of course it can end up being “wrong.” Then he points out something and we often end up in an argument. But it’s just so hard for me to deal with this criticism. 

 

Looking at the Buddhist teachings I wonder why there is so much insecurity and sensitivity in me, why I have a problem with the criticism (or in his words “helpful tips”). Where does it come from? And how can I work on it? I guess it’s somehow related to this desire for approval, being liked, but it is so difficult to be myself or be authentic when this is around.

 

I hope what I wrote makes sense and is understandable. And I am looking forward to your answer!

 

Much love,

C

 

ANSWER

Happy to hear from you, dear C.

 

I understand very well the situation you describe!

 

Clearly it’s not appropriate that he bosses you around like this. He needs to learn to accept you as you are!

 

But of course, we know that’s not how people are. We want to change people, to get them to do what we want.

 

Why are we like this? Well, our deepest attachment, for sure, is to be approved of. This drives so much of our lives. So when we don’t get approval, we panic!

 

So what are your options here? To put it bluntly, there are two choices as far as you yourself, you personally, are concerned — not choices for him.

 

One: If it’s all really too much for you, and you find it too difficult to cope with, then you must leave him.

 

Two: On the other hand, if you feel there’s something worthwhile in this relationship — and you have to decide this, choose this — then you need to find ways to accept or live with the way he is.

 

For example, you don’t have to follow his wishes. You could tell him, thank you very much for your suggestions, but this is how I like to do things.

 

This is the ideal. You can’t force him to change — in just the same way that he can’t force you to change.

 

This doesn’t mean you have to fight with him. No. Just say what you think and do things the way you like.

 

Of course, you can also take his suggestions as well sometimes!

 

You need courage to do all this. It’s easy to allow ourselves to be dominated by someone. Basically, we’re afraid of upsetting the other person, which means we’re afraid of them not liking us. As you say, yes, it’s very much to do with our attachment to approval. So we become a victim, we become scared. And then we blame the other person.

 

We have to become strong ourselves, that’s the point. Not easy, but possible.

 

This is the main advice, C.

 

What do you think?

 

Love to you,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Dear Robina,

 

Thank you for your suggestions! I spoke about it with him a couple of times, going into details about what he means and how I interpret it.

 

We had really good discussions about it, with the result that he has become more sensitive with me, and I am becoming more brave in doing things the way I do them and not seeing everything as a critique. There is a lot of fear, being afraid of upsetting him and others, which I can see more clearly now.

 

In general, I can see very clearly that I am quite often like this, and also I feel bad if I don’t offer my help to people all the time because my mind tells me I might appear lazy.

 

So, much much to learn!

 

Thank you very much, Robina.

C

 

ANSWER

Well done, C! I admire your courage. You will only see benefit.

 

Keep moving!

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