Why We Hate to be Criticized by Our Ex
I share something in common with some of my clients: I find it hard to tolerate criticism from my ex. Even after working diligently on managing my thoughts about this, I still feel a sting if he implies I’m at fault when one of our kids has a problem. And here’s the interesting part: we have a cordial, friendly relationship most of the time. But, I’m still hypersensitive to being “blamed”. My immediate instinct is to prove him wrong. However, I no longer do that (much).
I’ve written about how blaming others disempowers us, and the same is true when we react defensively to being blamed. Underneath the resentment of “how dare he blame for x,y,z” are deeper, more painful thoughts about our worthiness as Moms. Because motherhood is so entrenched in the belief that weare responsible for our children’s well-being and success, we are prone to intense feelings of self-doubt and guilt when things aren’t going smoothly for them because we question our capability.
Underneath defensiveness might be thoughts/beliefs like “maybe he’s right,” “I’m doing the best that I can!” “I need to be perfect as mother and never make a mistake.” If you look within you might discover your own variation of critical self-talk regarding your sufficiency as a mother. These thoughts are extremely painful, so we don’t allow them to surface very often.
But, if we don’t let them surface, we can’t question them. Is it true that we can control the outcome of our child’s life by using just the right tone, making just the right decision, never getting angry, never making a mistake? No, it’s not true. There is so much that is out of our control. All we need to do is be good enough. Our children are complex individuals who will forge their path in their own, unique way. Our job is to love them. We do that well.
So, next time your ex tells you something is your fault regarding your kids, rather than getting angry and defensive you can agree to disagree. He has his opinion—so what? Focus on weeding out your own judgmental thoughts about your mothering instead. That’s time well spent versus deflecting his criticism. The more you do this, the less you will care or spend any time and energy thinking about what he thinks. And as you amp up your self-love and self-acceptance your children will thrive.