What to Do When Your Spouse Makes Snarky Comments A few years into your marriage and the snarky comments and off-handed put-downs are getting old. Here's what to do. BY SHARON M. RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
Snarky comments might not seem that damaging because they can lack the emotion of yelling, but they can be tough on a relationship.
“ Put-downs are a form of control and power, and carry the potential to do major damage to the marriage.”
Snarky comments… you know, those snide or critical remarks that your spouse may say that hurt, put you on the defensive, and spoil your day? Exerted by one over the other, put-downs are a form of control and power, and carry the potential to do major damage to the marriage. However, the sooner this condescending behavior is addressed, the better likelihood that harmony can be restored to the marriage.
It all starts with understanding why your partner does it, which takes some investigation. Then, with a well-instituted game plan that both partners work at and commit to, the put-downs have the potential to be eradicated from the relationship!
Why Does Your Spouse Put You Down?
Let’s start by asking two important questions: Did you marry someone who has this disposition? Or did it start later in marriage?
1. If you married your spouse knowing he had this "quality," it will be more difficult, though not impossible to change. Put-downs are almost always associated with control and power, and/or insecurity, and are used to one-up the recipient as a means to make the deliverer feel better and more important than the other. Those who exhibit this behavior on a consistent basis were most likely raised by parents who used invasive control. What does that mean? Parents who tried to control your thoughts, who you are, or how you feel, all of which can be very damaging to the individual. This type of parental control makes you doubt your own perceptions and opinions because they were probably squashed by your parents and substituted with their own. Also, if you were controlled, you want to control, as a means of trying to gain control! But this obviously backfires big-time.
2. If snarky remarks started later in the marriage, possibly communication has started to break down, which can eventually lead to resentment, insecurity, disrespect, and mistreatment. Factors contributing to this could be an affair, raising children, job-related issues, a health crisis, etc.; any of which could disrupt the status quo of the relationship. If any of these factors are an issue in your relationship, even with a healthy childhood, anyone is capable of developing resentment, anger, and hurt, which leads to snarky comments. Why? Because you want to hurt back.
For instance, if there was an affair, one spouse might put down the other as a form of punishment. Or, if your wife is having job issues, the added pressure might cause her to lash out at you for her inability to solve her own work problems. Or maybe you started to pull away from your spouse, and your partner reacts with mean comments intended to get a rise out of you.
Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting your spouse to stop confronting you with the desire to process everything (which men think women do a lot), and you react by making a sarcastic remark just to get her to stop talking—a hurtful and indirect means of communication.
How Do You Stop The Put-Downs?
The first thing is to acknowledge that neither of you like doing it to each other, and then make a game plan to stop. If one or both of you can’t acknowledge that something needs to change, it’s time to elicit the help of a good therapist.
However, if both of you acknowledge the problem, here’s what you can do:
1. Good communication is the key to solving this issue. Most people don’t understand what that means. Good communication is the safety to state your opinion, without judgments or interruption from your partner, and your ability to listen to your partner in the same manner. The more you both can listen and hear, the more likely that your spouse will take action from what you request in your conversation. When this happens, trust builds, respect enters, and the relationship gets closer.
2. If you are the one who typically delivers the snarky remarks, each time you feel like something mean is going to be expressed, immediately stop and replace that with talking about your feelings about what’s really going on.
"I get really irritated when I ask you to stop talking and you persist. I think you know how much that bothers me." As the recipient, you need to listen to what was said, and rather than take it personally, respond with, "Okay, I hear you. Can we talk about this later? I just need 10 minutes of your time."
Though it may look like the partner who says the snarky comment is the guilty one, the recipient spouse also plays a part. Each spouse needs to look at their own behavior to see how it contributes to this painful interaction, and once acknowledged, the potential to change these destructive patterns with better communication will create a more loving and healthy marriage.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com and follow her on Google+.