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If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably already experienced nitpicking in some shape or form, or at least think you have in your relationship.
But does it even matter if it’s happening in your relationship? Should you address the subject with your partner? If so, do you even know what you would say?
Nitpicking can show itself in a number of ways and for a number of reasons. Sometimes, it’s not even the fault of either partner but it happens anyway because one of you is stressed or tired and doesn’t know how to express themselves.
It’s not always the fault of the nitpicker, and it’s not only down to them to make it stop. Both of you have a part to play if you think nitpicking is becoming an issue in your relationship, and it’s time to act now before it gets out of hand.
If you want to know more about how to identify nitpicking in your relationship and what to do about it, keep reading for some ideas.
What is it and why do people do it?
First of all, what even is nitpicking?
Nitpicking is when someone focuses on little things that they feel like someone, in this case their partner, has done wrong or hasn’t done at all. It’s constantly finding fault in what your partner is doing, focusing on all the negatives, and not being able to let go of seemingly insignificant problems.
When someone nitpicks, the criticism can seem endless. There’s always something that their partner has missed or done wrong. But, it’s not necessarily a choice for someone to nitpick. To this person, the little issues they see all amount to a much bigger problem that is stopping them from being happy in the relationship.
A nitpicker could be this way because they’re a perfectionist and have high standards they want their partner to meet. They have the same expectations of themselves in everything they do and can’t understand why their partner doesn’t approach life in the same way.
Nitpicking could also be a sign of a much bigger breakdown of communication in a relationship. When one partner isn’t happy but can’t express how they feel to the other, their emotions could come out as constant criticism for everything their partner does. They don’t know how to put their frustrations into words, so they’re projecting it onto small, physical problems they can control and finding someone to blame for how they feel.
It usually means that a conversation between both partners is needed to find the source of this angst and a way to better connect rather than driving each other apart.
External stress that has nothing to do with the relationship at all might be playing a part in why there’s nitpicking in your relationship. When someone is feeling disordered in other parts of their life, and as if they’re losing control, taking control over something that is within reach is a way of making them feel as though they’re getting a grip back on their life. In some small way, this helps them feel more balanced again.
What are some examples of nitpicking?
Nitpicking can generally be seen when your partner keeps finding minor details to criticize.
You could have been food shopping, bought the whole shop for the week, but got the wrong brand for one item. That one item will be all your partner will focus on, rather than the fact you’ve gone and done something helpful.
You could have tidied the whole house but forgotten to do just one job and that will be the one thing they mention as soon as they come home. Perhaps, despite always being on time, they can’t let go of the one time you were late for them or let them down, no matter how long it’s been since you did.
It might be that your partner has a habit of saying that they can do something better than you, never being able to accept that just because you do something differently to them, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Rather than show you how they’d like something to be done, or accepting the way you approach a task, they’re much more likely to make a big fuss and take over because they can “do it better.”
It’s a habit of always finding the negative, never focusing on the positive, and making minor details into big issues. It can have a seriously negative effect on your relationship in the long run.
Over time, if one partner is always being criticized by the other, they’re going to lose their confidence to be able to do anything right. The person nitpicking may think that they’re only making small comments, but that constant stream of negativity is going to wear down their partner and make them look for someone else who doesn’t bring them down.
It’s demotivating to think you can’t do anything right, and could in turn, make one partner stop trying to please the other all together because they never feel as though they’re appreciated. The relationship will begin to turn toxic if both partners only communicate in a negative way and will eventually drive a couple apart.
A breakdown of communication will inevitably lead to the breakdown of a relationship. If you can’t communicate in a non-confrontational way with each other, you’ll just be putting each other under more stress and having more arguments, making it even harder to bridge the gap between you.
A relationship should consist of two people who support each other and help the other to be at their best. Sure, there are going to be times when you get on each other’s nerves, but on the whole, you should want to be with your partner because they just make life better, not avoiding them because you never feel as though you’re enough or that they’re doing enough.
So what happens if you know that nitpicking is taking over your relationship? How do you stop if you’re the one who’s nitpicking? And what do you do if you’re on the receiving end? Keep reading for some tips.
How to stop nitpicking:
1. Identify what you’re really annoyed about.
Most of the time, the things we’re nitpicking about aren’t really what’s upsetting us. There’s an underlying reason that’s causing you to be frustrated.
You may not be able to fully articulate or even realize what you’re really annoyed about at first, so you project your feelings of irritation and anger onto something that is in front of you and onto someone you can blame—most likely your partner.
The fact that they haven’t tidied up in exactly the right way, taken the trash out, or remembered your favorite brand of cereal, isn’t actually the end of the world. But it’s the last straw in that moment and the catalyst for you to let out all the emotion you’re holding inside.
By identifying what it is that’s actually causing you to be unhappy, you can separate your anger about that and your annoyance at your partner and realize your partner isn’t the bad person here.
By facing and talking about what’s really upsetting you, your partner will be in a better place to give you the support you need, rather than being pushed away by your nitpicking when now is the time you need them most.
2. Focus on the positives.
Your partner might not get everything right all the time, but the more negative you are about their efforts, the less they’re going to keep trying to make you happy.
If you’re never satisfied by anything they do, or only ever focus on what they’ve done wrong, they’ll eventually give up trying at all. Rather than immediately pick on the negatives, teach yourself to focus on the positives in everything they’ve done first.
They may not have done a task in the exact same way you would have, but that doesn’t have to mean they’ve done it wrong and haven’t done it well. Just because they might have forgotten one thing you asked of them, it shouldn’t take away from everything else they have remembered.
Positive reinforcement is the best way to keep someone motivated. Focusing on the positives will allow you to put any negatives into perspective. It will help you realize that what you might have originally thought was a big issue, really isn’t a big deal at all.
3. Think before you comment.
If you’re annoyed at your partner, pick the right moment to bring it up with them.
You might have been annoyed at them all day, or noticed something they didn’t do as soon as you got home, but you don’t want your first interaction of the evening to be a negative one.
No one wants to be greeted by someone telling them what they’ve done wrong. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and think about how and when to approach the subject.
If they’ve been irritating you a lot recently and can’t seem to do anything right, check in to see if they are struggling with anything at work or in themselves. They might not be in a place mentally or physically where they can keep up with your expectations, and as someone who loves them, you need to be sympathetic and supportive.
Equally, think about how you’re feeling at the moment. Don’t take out your own anger and frustrations on your partner just because you don’t know how to manage your own emotions.
Try not to bring up something they need to fix when they’re not in a position to fix it, like when they are on their way out somewhere. The more you think about when the right time to nitpick is, the less inclined you might become to bring it up at all.
4. Think about how you’re making your partner feel.
Compromise is important in a relationship, and you’re both going to have to adapt to be able to live with each other and keep your relationship strong.
You most likely won’t have the same habits and might not even have the same expectations about your roles in a relationship. You’re going to have to learn what makes each other tick and where you might need to adapt to accommodate your partner.
If you find yourself nitpicking at your partner because of your differences, think first about how you could be making them feel.
It’s not a bad thing to express how you feel and how your partner could do more to understand you better. But if you’re only ever focusing on the negatives and not balancing your criticisms with praise and affection toward your partner, you’re going to start significantly impacting their self-confidence and the happiness of your relationship.
Think about your tone of voice and if you’re coming across as constructive or insulting. Appreciate that your partner may not approach things in the same way as you and, even if they don’t do something perfectly in your eyes, know when they’re trying their best.
We can all get frustrated with each other at times, but above all, you should want to make your partner happy. Think about the damage your nitpicking is causing and if it’s worth the strain it’s putting on your partner and your relationship.
5. Compliment your partner.
Try to combat your nitpicking by making an effort to compliment your partner more often.
If you balance your criticisms with positive affirmations, you’ll be protecting your partner’s self-esteem rather than grinding them down. You don’t want your partner to lose confidence in themselves and never feel as if they’re good enough just because you don’t make an effort to focus on their positive qualities.
If you change tact and make more of an effort to mention good habits when you see them, not only are you affirming them in your partner, but they’ll be in a more receptive state to hear you when there is something you need them to do differently.
It’s a natural instinct to be more open to someone who’s nice to you, so use that in your own relationship.
Complimenting your partner could even help you realize how many good things about them you’re missing because you’ve been too focused on nitpicking at the negatives. It’s a good exercise to get out of the toxic habit, but more than that, it could help you become closer as a couple as you appreciate what you have in each other.
6. Show them what you need.
If your partner keeps consistently doing something wrong in your eyes, instead of nitpicking, why not just try showing them how you’d like it done?
Different people approach life in different ways. Even though you’re a couple, you’re still two individuals and don’t necessarily think in the same way.
If there’s something that your partner keeps doing that always irritates you and you can’t help mentioning it, don’t just tell them they’re wrong and get annoyed. The simple fact could be that your partner doesn’t see things in the way you do. They could genuinely believe they’ve done a good job or got you exactly what you wanted; whereas, it’s not what you expected at all.
If it’s that important to you, then take the time to explain properly what your expectations are of your partner, and show them if you have to. That way, you’re not just criticizing, you’re educating your partner on the way you feel so you can both understand each other in a much more effective way and hopefully stop your need for constant nitpicking in the process.
7. Be respectful.
Even if your partner has done something to irritate you and you find yourself nitpicking at them, you can still be respectful about it.
If you can’t help but nitpick at your partner, at least make sure you’re not being rude, shouting, or patronizing them when you do it.
They are much more likely to respond to you if you treat them with respect and ask them to do something calmly and reasonably rather than constantly badgering them about what they haven’t done.
You should respect each other if you want a balanced, equal relationship that will remain strong. Shouting or being rude toward your partner will only cause them to become defensive or stop them from even trying to make you happy because you’re pushing them away.
Rather than becoming passive aggressive or constantly nitpicking at your partner to get them to do something, be careful what you say and how you say it to get the best response out of them. Above all, keep respect at the heart of everything you do.
8. Decide if you can accept them as they are.
You shouldn’t go into a relationship wanting to change a person.
Over time, you and your partner will both change for each other as you learn to compromise and live together. But even as you grow closer, there will still be things that neither of you ever get quite right in the other’s eyes.
You might go into a relationship thinking that if you could just change one thing about them then they would be the perfect partner. But there is a chance that your partner will never change the one thing that annoys you most, no matter how much you hope they will or nitpick at them about it.
If what they do that causes you so much angst is something you can’t live with, then this might not be the best relationship for you, and no amount of nitpicking will make it better.
Your relationship should be one based on mutual happiness, where your main concern is making sure you’re bringing out the best in each other. If you can’t learn to let some things go and accept your partner for who they are with the good and the bad, then you’re going to end up disappointed in your relationship and driven apart.
How to cope with nitpicking:
1. Tell your partner how you feel.
It’s important, if your partner often criticizes you, that you let them know how their behavior is making you feel.
Them always looking for the negative in what you’ve done could be a habit they have gotten into. Or, they could just be a perfectionist with standards that anyone would struggle to meet. But if their behavior is making you lose confidence in yourself and driving you away from them, then it’s best to tell them so they can start working on how to better communicate with you.
They might not realize that their nitpicking is having such a negative effect on how you feel, but if you don’t tell them, then they will just keep going on as they are.
Nothing will change if you don’t make a change, so have the courage to stand up for yourself and give your partner the opportunity to make a change for the better.
2. Anticipate your partner’s reaction.
If you know that your partner has a tendency to nitpick, then beat them to it and get the jobs done that you know they’ll comment on.
Don’t give them a reason to comment. There will still be times when you think you’ve done everything you can and your partner still finds something to criticize you about. But at least in those moments, you can defend yourself and show them everything you have thought about.
Just as much as your partner needs to try to manage their expectations of you and the way they communicate, you also need to be aware that this is the way your partner ticks and they’re naturally going to find things to nitpick about.
Where you can, try to anticipate their reaction. It may not completely solve the issue, but you can show that you care by taking the way they feel into account and doing the best you can to make them happy so they start doing the same for you.
3. Make them focus on the positives.
When you see your partner, before they can start to nitpick, address the situation first by immediately showing them everything you have done that you know will make them happy so that anything you haven’t done comes second.
By doing this straight away, you’re teaching your partner to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. You’re showing them that even if you haven’t got everything right in their eyes, you do care about what they think.
It’s a way of preempting the inevitable and taking control of the situation so you’re not the one being attacked. You’re turning a negative situation into a positive and encouraging your partner to do the same, so anything that doesn’t quite match their expectations doesn’t seem so important anymore.
4. Ask what you can do better.
Rather than acting defensively when your partner nitpicks at you, try calmly asking what it is you can do better for next time.
It’s not a way of giving into them, it’s a way of stopping the situation from escalating into an argument. This will enable you both to engage in a reasonable discussion.
By asking them what you could do better next time, or getting them to demonstrate exactly how they’d like something done, you’re showing your partner that you’re not deliberately trying to upset them, you just don’t see the same issues as them.
Getting them to talk to you about what it is they need from you shows them that you do care about how they feel. It is much more likely to help them see the situation from your perspective.
A relationship is a process, and you’re going to have to learn how to compromise and live with each other’s standards. Make the situation one that involves both of you so you can find a way to stop the nitpicking together, rather than having all the pressure aimed at you.
5. Watch your partner’s moods.
You might find that there are times when your partner nitpicks at you more than others. Watching them closely, try to work out when these moments occur so you can be prepared for them.
Your partner’s nitpicking might be at its worst when they’re frustrated or stressed about something else, or particularly tired and upset. Nitpicking can be an outlet for the emotions your partner doesn’t know how to process. You’re the person who is closest to them and so you’re going to get the full force of any emotions they’re currently going through. They’re trying to find a sense of control over the things within their reach when internally they feel emotionally unbalanced.
If you know that your partner nitpicks more when they’re upset or tired, watch their moods and see it coming before it happens. Remove yourself from the situation, do a little extra to help out, and accept that you will need to be patient with them until they move past whatever it is that’s causing them to worry.
Their nitpicking is not a fair way to treat you, but supporting each other through the good times and bad is part of a relationship. It may take a little more understanding from you, but you know that the way they’re acting has much more to do with how they’re feeling than about how you’re acting.
6. Don’t react emotionally.
It can be hard not to react in anger and become defensive when someone is constantly telling you that you’re not doing enough or not doing something right.
You might feel that your partner’s nitpicking is unfair, or that they don’t appreciate what you do for them and only focus on the negatives. You may feel as though you want to defend yourself and lose your patience with their constant criticisms.
But reacting in anger is never a way to solve a problem. If you react emotionally, you’re more likely to start an argument where neither of you come out on top.
As hard as it is sometimes, try to communicate how you feel so your partner knows if they’re pushing you too far. Talk to them about what it is they want you to do specifically and check that they are feeling ok or if their behavior is the result of something else.
Manage the situation rather than letting it escalate into something worse. If you need to take some space until you’ve both calmed down, then take it, but try to avoid it ending in an argument.
Nitpicking might seem harmless to some, especially if you’re the one doing it. You think it’s just little comments that don’t matter, but little digs add up to an unhappy relationship.
Constant nitpicking will eventually drive a wedge between a couple. If it’s happening in your relationship, rather than giving into it and drifting apart, take it as a sign that you need to communicate more so you can better understand how to support each other. Then there won’t be a need for nitpicking to occur.
There will always be a level of compromise, but if you want your relationship to work, you need to work together to find a way where the both of you can minimize the nitpicking and maximize your understanding of each other and your own self-awareness.
Don’t let the little things become so big that they push you apart, work on putting life back into perspective and remember that the bigger picture is you and your partner having a happy and healthy relationship.
Still not sure how to put an end to the nitpicking in your relationship? It’s not an easy situation to be in, and it might be all the more difficult if the communication in your relationship is unhealthy or even non-existent.
Speak to an experienced relationship expert about this. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can listen to you and offer tailored advice to help you find ways to approach the nitpicking and its underlying causes.
Relationship Hero is a website where you can connect with a relationship counselor via phone, video, or instant message.
While you can try to work through this situation yourself or as a couple, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can fix. And if it is affecting your relationship and mental well-being, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people – both couples and individuals – try to muddle through and do their best to solve problems that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, speaking to a relationship expert is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service Relationship Hero provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to an expert. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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