Ellen Rohr

How to Deal with Condescension and Criticism in Your Marriage

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By Ellen Rohr, M.Ed.

Do you find yourself succumbing to critical thoughts when disapproving of your partner’s behavior? If so, you may in dangerous marital territory.

When negativity, criticism, and a condescending, superior attitude begin creep in to your marriage, you may be on a slippery slope toward letting these relationship-damaging factors begin to override the positives in your relationship.

Hurtful, damaging behaviors such as criticism and contempt may be difficult to identify as it often becomes ingrained in spousal interactions over time. Consequently, it becomes an unfortunate and alienating part of your communication.

Marriage is meant to be a safe, accepting environment.  The last thing you want is for your partner to resent and avoid you. Yet, your relationship will suffer if you don’t have a plan to avoid and recover from such negative obstacles.

Here are steps toward putting a stop to this negative behavior and begin to heal your relationship:

What Do Condescension and Criticism Look or Sound Like in Marriage?

If a condescending tone and criticism in your marriage are routine, it may be difficult to accurately identify them because you have become accustomed to this pattern of communication.

However, with mindful and diligent attention, eventually you can identify unproductive exchanges and hurtful communication. Sometimes contempt and criticism will be hidden in humor or sarcasm. Most often, criticism comes out so easily that you are unaware of it. The first step is to be aware of your hurtful words and negative behaviors, and then review and challenge your own thoughts and commentary repeatedly to make the necessary change.

For example, ask yourself the following:

  • Are your compliments genuine?

  • Are you constantly correcting your partner?

  • Do you in any way demean or dismiss your partner?

  • Do you often take over conversations or limit your partner’s expression?

  • Do you use the word “you” often when having a disagreement with your spouse?

Additionally, take stock of any power struggles in your relationship.  How respectful are you of each other’s needs, time, careers, and parenting styles? Do you both feel that the marriage allows for growth and change without ridicule or resentments?

Why It’s Crucial to Nip Negative Communication Now

Continuing condescension or criticism in your marriage hurts you both. Though you may release steam in the moment, you slowly erode your connection and damage your marriage.

When you use contempt and criticism in communication with your partner, you question your partner’s worth and character, insinuating that you feel you are superior to them. As a result, loving feelings and goodwill deteriorate, straining your bond. Ultimately, condescension and criticism build walls of dissatisfaction and disconnection in your marriage. Closeness, intimacy and forward movement are lost.

How to Cut Out a Habit of Condescension and Criticizing Each Other

Once you’ve acknowledged and accepted responsibility for your offensive words and behaviors, you’ll need to commit to a better communication practice. Try these:

  • Forgive yourselves and each other for the negativity.

  • Commit to practice better, more edifying interaction.

  • Practice more active listening to understand your partner, and less opinion-sharing and advice-giving.

  • Assess your own feelings and emotions, and use “I statements” to express your disappointments to your partner.

  • Talk about your expectations, listen to your partner’s expectations, and learn to be more generous toward each other.

Lastly, try to shift your perspective and become more open to dialogue and compromise. Train your mind to look for positives rather than negatives. Actively look for ways to be grateful and express your appreciation to your spouse. These actions will help break down the tendency to use condescension and criticism in your marriage as verbal ways to connect.

Remember, too, that stress and anxiety can negatively impact a marital connection. Check-in with yourself and your partner to ensure emotions have a voice and that you’re available to support each other. Release steam together instead of at each other.

Finally…

Healthy communication is vital for the life and success of your marriage. If you recognize a pattern of damaging condescension and criticism in your marriage, seek the help and guidance of a skilled couple and marriage counselor.  You and your partner can find more loving, supportive ways to express yourself and your needs, which will repair and reinforce the foundation of your marriage.

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If you recognize any of your own marital patterns in this post, Ellen Rohr, M.Ed, LPC at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin can help. To schedule an appointment, give Ellen a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 115, or request an appointment with her through the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We hope to hear from you soon.

How to Keep Your Relationship Strong When Struggling with Anxiety

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By Ellen Rohr, M.Ed.

Anxiety disorders have been documented from antiquity to the present. Anxiety is a normal emotion, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to manage.  

If you or your partner are struggling with chronic anxiety, you know the impact it can have on your relationship. It’s important to do whatever you can to keep your relationship strong despite struggling with anxiety. You and your partner will both need to be understanding, flexible, and willing to work together to combat anxious thoughts and feelings.

It’s possible to have a wonderful, fulfilling, successful relationship, even if one or both partners are struggling with anxiety symptoms.

Use the following tips to keep your relationship solid.

Live in the Moment

Anxiety can make a person fearful of what might happen or what is to come. In a relationship, that will eventually cause a lot of distrust. It’s important to live in the moment and be fully present, rather than thinking of the “what ifs” of the future.

If you’re the person with anxiety and you struggle with fears of the unknown, you’re not alone! One of the best things you can do is to pause, tune in to your emotion, and reflect on the cause of the anxiety. Rather than focusing on what you don’t know and what you can’t control, try pinpointing what you do know and what you can control.

If you’re trying to support your partner with anxiety, encourage them to breathe deeply and slowly to regulate their anxiety. Using tools, such as breathing exercises, to regulate your nervous system and slow down, will help you to work through the anxious thoughts and fears together.

Communicate

Communication is important in any relationship, but it’s necessary when someone is struggling with anxiety. The more you keep your anxious thoughts and feelings inside, the worse they’ll become.

While you might be embarrassed or feel silly about your anxious thoughts and worries, it’s important to share them with your partner. The more you communicate what’s going on in your head, the easier it will be for two of you to tackle it together.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Struggling with anxiety often leads to fear and feeling limited in what you can do to alleviate your unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions.

Learn skills that will prevent uncomfortable thoughts or ideas from completely taking over. Try focusing on the emotion you feel, give it some space for a couple of minutes, acknowledge that it’s there. Notice where you feel it in your body. Start to get comfortable with what is uncomfortable, rather than spinning a thought around in your mind. You might find your anxiety easing.

If you’re not the partner struggling with anxiety, it’s also important that you are understanding and compassionate. Don’t force your anxious partner into anything but encourage them calmly. Remind them to breathe, focus on the discomfort in their body, and provide support and positive reinforcement to help them.

Understand How Anxiety Impacts Your Relationship

The more both partners in a relationship know about anxiety, the better. When you learn more about the signs and symptoms, it’s easier to focus on how you can both manage them. Having a support system, or someone on your side can be a big help.

Understanding anxiety often means having a better idea of what causes or triggers your anxious thoughts. That’s a scary road to travel, for most people. Having a partner who understands how anxiety impacts you and your relationship and being with you along the way can make the process much easier.

Once you better understand why you are struggling with anxiety, you can seek help to treat it.

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Ellen Rohr, M.Ed, LPC, is a senior staff counselor at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you or your partner struggle with anxiety and need guidance, Ellen can help. She can work with you to develop a plan to manage your anxiety and build a stronger relationship with your partner every day. To book with Ellen, call her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 115, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

 

8 Ways to Motivate Yourself and Move Forward When Your Ambition Stalls

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By Ellen Rohr, M.Ed.

Looking for ways to motivate yourself?

You thought you knew what you wanted. The drive and ambition were there. You could feel them in your bones and your heart. Whether it was completing a degree, working on a project, or implementing a new fitness regime, you were dedicated to your goal.

Yet, somewhere along the line, your ambition began to waver. You lost focus and things just stalled out.

Now you feel stuck, struggling to bring up the drive to get started again.

You’re not alone. Consider these tips for finding your motivation so that you can move forward once again.

1. Take a Step Back

Sometimes we get so hyper-focused on a goal that we miss out on what’s happening around us. The first step towards re-motivating yourself should always include taking a step back. This allows for a renewed perspective. Perhaps there was something you missed? Something that could help you find your ambition again?

2. Take a Break

Consider whether a complete break from what you are doing is in order. If you aren’t “feeling it,” then it may not be worthwhile to keep forcing it. Walking away affords you the opportunity to refocus your energy on other things. You never know, this might create the spark that brings you back to your original goal and ambition, or it may set you on a better and more fulfilling path.

3. Set Small Goals

Maybe you had set a major goal, such as running a marathon or starting a new company. Your goals are great! However, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lose your ambition when a goal is so broad. Instead, break it up into manageable, smaller goals. For example, start with a 5K, then a 10K, working your way up to a full marathon. Your dreams of corporate ownership may be better realized if you concentrate on a concrete business plan before jumping into an investment or property.

4. Make the Time and Space

Have you ever caught yourself saying, “if I only had the time”?

Most of us lose motivation when we don’t believe that we have the time to work on our goals. Ways to motivate yourself may require specific planning and setting aside a designated period routinely to follow your ambitions. Use a calendar and schedule allotted time to work on your goals. Hold yourself accountable for that time.

5. Give Yourself a Daily Pep-Talk

A good old-fashioned pep talk might help break up your lack of motivation so you can move forward. You could stand in front of a mirror and say to yourself, “You can do this” when your confidence falters. Or, achieve the same end by hanging a picture or changing your phone’s background photo to something that reminds you of your ambition. This could be your dream of graduating, or a picture of that literal, or figurative, mountain you want to climb.

Many people also find that repeating a daily mantra like “I am capable and clear-minded. My dreams are within reach,” helps focus them on their goal.

6. Talk to a Mentor

Perhaps you believe you just don’t have the knowledge or experience to fulfill your ambition. If so, seek out a mentor who can help. Mentors not only pass on their knowledge but can provide perspective, motivation and encouragement when you need it.

7. Ask If This is What You Want

Think about it. If you have lost the ambition to do something, question whether it’s something you really want. This doesn’t mean quitting, but it does mean reassessing what your objectives and desires are. Open your mind. Perhaps you can still fulfill your ambition in a different way. For instance, if you want to own your own business, you might need to try a few different paths before finding success.

8. Take the Plunge!

After everything is said and done, nothing helps more than just taking the plunge and going for it. For a writer, this could mean simply sitting down and just start writing. If your ambition is to be more physically fit, take that first step around the block towards a healthier you. Whatever your goal, don’t overthink it. Don’t beat yourself up for previous false-starts.  Get up now and start towards your dream!

Losing your motivation and ambition doesn’t have to mean giving up. Try not to think of the situation in all-or-nothing terms. Instead, consider ways to motivate yourself and approach the problem realistically. Use the above ideas or come up with your own strategies to regain your ambition. If necessary, seek the help of a counselor or life coach who can help you look at things objectively, identify mental or emotional roadblocks, and organize your thoughts.

You’re still in charge of your future. With a plan and support, you can keep moving forward to achieve your goals.

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Ellen Rohr, M.Ed., LPC, is a senior staff counselor at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Ellen helps guide both couples and individuals through life’s challenges, and provides insight when you may feel stuck in moving towards your goals. To get the perspective and encouragement you need to move forward, reach out to schedule an appointment with Ellen at (512) 270-4883, ext. 115, or visit the RCC Austin Scheduling page to request your appointment online.