Leading Authority in Treatment of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

(206) 219-0145
Emotionally Abusive Marriage

How to Give and Receive Criticism in an Emotionally Abusive Marriage

Dr. David B. Hawkins, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director of The Marriage Recovery Center talks about the difficult topic of giving and receiving criticism. He talks about tools that are likely to help in delivering criticism which is necessary for emotional and relational growth.

How to Give and Receive Criticism in an Emotionally Abusive Marriage

Do you find yourself in a relationship where you are unable to give criticism without facing emotional abuse? Does providing feedback result in blame shifting, defensiveness, or being told that you are the problem? In emotionally abusive marriages, giving and receiving criticism can be incredibly challenging and fraught with difficulties. In this article, we will explore some strategies for navigating criticism in an emotionally abusive marriage and fostering a healthier dynamic.

Acknowledge the Emotional Immaturity of the Abuser

In emotionally abusive relationships, the abuser is often emotionally immature and resistant to receiving critical feedback. They may be extremely thin-skinned, defensive, and unwilling to acknowledge their faults. These defensive mechanisms protect them from facing the truth and cause further harm to the relationship. Understanding this aspect is crucial in addressing the issues surrounding criticism.

Establish the Need for Critical Feedback

In any healthy relationship, giving and receiving critical feedback is essential for growth. Communicate with your partner about the importance of creating a safe space where both of you can express concerns, hurts, and the need for change. Emphasize that criticism is not inherently negative or harmful but rather a necessary tool for personal and relational development.

Techniques for Effective Criticism

Once you have established the agreement to give and receive critical feedback, it is important to employ effective techniques that can increase the chances of productive communication. Here are a few strategies to consider:

a. Respectful Tone: Criticism should never be delivered with a belittling or confrontational tone. Agree to give and receive critical feedback in a respectful and constructive manner. Approach discussions with gentleness and care, choosing the right time and place to communicate your concerns.

b. Constructive Approach: Focus on delivering criticism in a way that offers potential solutions or improvements. By framing feedback constructively, you enhance the likelihood of your partner being more receptive to your concerns.

c. Utilize Touch (If Appropriate): Physical touch can convey a sense of care and safety. With your partner’s consent, try holding their hand or finding other appropriate ways to connect physically while expressing your concerns. This gesture communicates that you genuinely care about them, even if your feedback might be difficult to hear.

Overcoming Potential Challenges

In emotionally abusive relationships, the recipient of criticism may respond poorly, shifting blame, minimizing the issue, or offering insincere apologies. It is crucial to address these challenges as they arise. Engage in open dialogue, discussing the impact of their response on the relationship and seeking resolution. Remember, the goal is to foster growth and understanding, not perpetuate a cycle of abuse.

Seek Professional Help

Dealing with the complexities of criticism in an emotionally abusive marriage may require the assistance of a trained professional. Seeking the help of a therapist or counselor can provide guidance, support, and specialized strategies to navigate these difficulties effectively. A professional can help you and your partner develop healthier patterns of communication and work towards healing the relationship.


In emotionally abusive marriages, giving and receiving criticism can be incredibly challenging. However, it is essential to establish a healthy dynamic that allows for growth and personal development.

By acknowledging the emotional immaturity of the abuser, communicating the need for critical feedback, employing effective techniques, and seeking professional help when necessary, you can begin to transform your relationship into one that fosters open and constructive communication. Remember, change takes time, effort, and a commitment to healing, but it is possible to create a healthier and more fulfilling partnership.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: How to Deal with Narcissistic Men

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


Sign up our newsletter to get updated information, promo or insight for free.

Latest Post


Need Help?
Get The Support You Need From One Of Our Therapists