Sarcasm and criticism, two things one can likely expect to encounter in relationships. As common or natural as these things might seem, it is however very important that partners be mindful about just how much sarcasm and criticism they are using.
As much as you’re intentions might be good and you’re probably hoping to help your partner, the likelihood is that the more you criticise the less likely they are to receive it in a positive and encouraging way. Sometimes we use sarcasm in an attempt to try to get our point across in a funny, rude or backhanded kind of way, but why not just be direct and say what’s on your mind?
Criticism, even constructive criticism when coming from a spouse or partner has the potential of being very hurtful. Don’t believe me? Well then just ask your spouse how they feel when you are criticizing them?
In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work., John Gottman warns against both these habits couples commonly find themselves developing. He urges couples to recognize the difference between a complaint and a criticism. He states: “A complaint only addresses the specific action at which your spouse failed. A criticism is more global – it adds on some negative words about your mate’s character or personality i.e. “I’m really angry that you didn’t sweep the kitchen floor last night. We agreed we’d take turns doing it” is a complaint ‘Why are you so forgetful? I hate having to always sweep the kitchen floor when it’s your turn. You just don’t care’ is a criticism.” (pg.27-28)
I encourage couples to get in the habit of being direct an honest with each other when there are issues of complaint in the relationship. Why play games by being ‘sarcastic’ and why be hurtful by criticising. Instead be direct about the ‘exact’ behaviour that is upsetting/bothering you, and be transparent about how those actions leave you feeling i.e. uncared for, taken for granted, unloved etc. When couples are able to do this, then they are able to share with their partners what they are needing vs. focusing on what their partners aren’t doing right.