Nitpicking and Fault Finding Can Damage Your Marriage

Why continually finding fault in your spouse may have you divorced one day

Couple having a discussion in the kitchen
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Nitpicking, finding fault and criticizing your spouse over petty, inconsequential issues or tasks can tear away at the bond in your marital relationship. 

The message is clear: DON'T DO IT!

If and when you nit-pick about what one another has done or not done or how your spouse accomplished a task or said or wrote something, you have decided to belittle, embarrass, and demean each other. Nit-picking is a sign that you don't respect your mate and is a huge red flag in your marriage.

If you continue to nit-pick at your spouse, a growing resentment will create a wall between the two of you.

If you nit-pick at your spouse you are saying you want your spouse to change and that he/she isn't good enough. The issues or things you nit-pick about may be some of the unresolvable issues in your marriage. All marriages have issues that involve personality traits or temperamental qualities that can cause perpetual conflict in any long-term relationship.  

"Dr. Gottman brings up something no one ever talks about, that irreconcilable differences are normal, that you just have to come to terms with them, not try to resolve the unresolvable." ~ Susan Boon, Ph.D. 

"Most marital conflicts don't ever get resolved. There are always issues around in-laws, children. Solving the problems doesn't really matter. What's crucial is keeping things positive. You have to accept the other person's perspective, have an appropriate discussion without getting critical or blaming." ~ Shae Graham Kosch, Ph.D. in an article by Jeanie Lerce Davis on called "Want a Happy Marriage? Be Nice, Don't Nitpick."  

Things You Can Do Rather Than Nitpick at Your Spouse

  • Accept that some habits of your spouse will annoy you.
  • Learn to pick your battles. Save your arguments for the big issues and fight fair.
  • Focus on your internal feelings that come up before you decide to nitpick. What is it that you really need? be heard...seen...hugged? There's a good chance the nitpicking is just a poor attempt to get some other important need met. 
  • There are many little things you can do that can make a positive difference in your marriage. Do them—often.
  • If you can't stop, acknowledge this as a problem you have and get help for it. 

One Solution If You Are Being Nit-picked

If your spouse nitpicks at you, puts you down, or demeans you, it is important that you talk about this issue. Yes, it will be a difficult discussion, but it is necessary. Describe the hurt and pain you feel from this behavior. Let your spouse know that when you think you are being nit-picked you will not overreact but you will say "enough" and will leave the room. Hopefully, after you've done this a few times, your spouse will start to notice his or her nitpicking behavior. If the nitpicking continues, we suggest marriage counseling for the two of you.

When Nitpicking Crosses the Line

In some marriages, the level of nitpicking may accelerate into blaming, severe criticism, and hurtful remarks.

It is important that you realize when nitpicking crosses the line into abuse. Whether it is physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse, abusive behavior is never acceptable. If you think you are being abused, please seek professional help immediately. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

*Article Updated by Marni Feuerman