In Relationship Rescue
, Dr. Phil describes “bad spirits”
that people bring into their relationships. Even the most normal, intelligent people can resort to the most spiteful behavior when dealing with those they claim to love.
Allowing a “bad spirit” to take control can cause your relationship to fail. You must be willing to meet your bad spirit face-to-face, recognize how it manifests itself in your behavior, and then quickly get yourself out of that mindset before it does even greater damage.
Faultfinding is one of the most typical ways that this bad spirit shows up in life and in relationships. There is nothing wrong with legitimate criticism or input in a relationship. There is nothing wrong when one party complains about the actions or attitudes of another, if that complaint is designed to improve the relationship. But constructive criticism too often gives way to constant faultfinding, in which you obsess over the flaws and imperfections rather than find value in your partner. Characteristics of a Faultfinder:
Faultfinders are almost always telling their partner, in one form or another, what he or she should be doing. When you make demands on your partner, you send the message that you not only disagree with your partner, but that your partner has violated some standard. That is misleading.
What you're really doing is taking a sick pleasure in studying someone else's negative inventory. You get used to making criticisms, and once you start it's hard to stop. In fact, no matter what your partner does or how hard he or she tries, it's not enough or it's never as correct as you wish it to be. If your partner had 10 things to do and did eight of them to perfection, you would spend 90 percent of your time talking about the two things that did not get done. Living with you is like trying to fill a bottomless pit. You have no idea how sick to death your partner can get of your constant criticism.
Steps to Overcoming Faultfinding:
Take a brutally honest look at yourself here. This is an attitude that can quickly overtake you. Think back to the last time you said something critical to your partner and the last time you said something positive. Which statement did you make with the most passion or intensity?
Make two lists about your partner. In the first list, write down, as quickly as you can, five little things you like about him or her. In the second list, write down five little things that irritate you about your partner. What happened? If you're like most people who take this test, then you were able to come up with the five negative things far quicker than the five positive things.
For too many of you, criticizing, blaming and disparaging have become your stock in trade. Because you no doubt feel a lack of satisfaction with your own life, you attempt to "level" your partner. Instead of building your own sense of self-worth, you shoot your partner down to your own perceived low level of functioning.
Warning Signs of a Faultfinder:
- You seldom, if ever, let an infraction by your partner slide by, regardless of how trivial.
- You find yourself saying such things to your partner as, "You should have known better," "You should have helped me out when I was stressed," or "You should have done what I wanted without me having to ask you."
- You tend to say "always" and "never" when criticizing your partner. The terms "always" and "never" are judgmental and argumentative. They also should be embarrassing to the one using them because such absolute statements are typically insupportable.
- You tend to complain about how you're not getting what you deserve or that life is unfair to you " an attitude that you quickly transfer to your partner, as if he or she is to blame.
- You counter-attack with criticism whenever you're being criticized yourself.
- You are obsessively interested in getting your partner to admit to wrongdoing rather than listening to what your partner has to say.