Judgment can be one of the most damaging weapons in a relationship. It tells your partner that it’s not okay to be themselves.
This builds resentment in them and will eventually corrode even the most intimate relationships. Even if your relationship survives the corrosive effect of judgment, it still suffers.
This article explains how your emotional triggers form your judgments and how judging those closest to you can make you and everyone else around you miserable.
Judgment truly is the ultimate relationship destroyer.
Important: If you’ve discovered that your judgments cause you to be emotionally abusive and you’d like to change that about yourself, sign up for the life-changing Healed Being program over at healedbeing.com).
If you are currently in a relationship with someone who is judgmental and critical of you, listen to my podcast Love and Abuse to help you navigate through the difficulties.
Releasing Judgments is a Difficult Path
For most of my life, I’ve judged people by my sky-high standards. Not everyone though. I was actually very selective in who I judged over the years. I mainly chose only my romantic partners to be judgmental toward. Every woman I’ve ever been in a relationship with has been a victim of my judgmental behavior.
When you judge someone, you are looking down on what they do in their life as not acceptable, or not good enough for you.
Judging is when you can’t accept the words or behavior of another person so you impose your standards upon them.
Up until 2013, I was highly judgmental toward all my romantic partners. However, something changed that year. I finally figured out that it wasn’t everyone else that had problems. It wasn’t that they weren’t doing the best they could. It was I who had a problem accepting them for where they were and needed to be in life.
What I want to emphasize to you is that you will struggle in your relationships if you have judgmental behavior that you don’t address. Life will be harder and you will lose people that are close to you. And if you never let go of being critical and judgmental of others, you will never be able to get the kind of relationships you want.
I left a path of destruction in nearly every relationship I’ve ever been in because of my highly critical, judgmental attitude. In this article, I’ll explain how judgments form and what you can do about them if you are a judgmental person. And even though I’ve healed and let go of most of my old judgmental ways, every now and then they show up and need to be addressed. It may be a lifelong process to work on your own critical thoughts and perspectives, but it’s worth the journey because of the high-quality relationships you end up with.
Releasing judgments is a difficult path.
But it’s also a rewarding one. And even after you’ve done the work and aren’t so judgmental toward others anymore, you may still find them rising up in you every now and then just like I do. The good news is that any step toward being less critical and less judgmental is a step toward more meaningful, fulfilling relationships.
Our judgments stem from emotional triggers inside of us, causing us to feel bad. They hurt others, often unintentionally. When we become triggered by something we are judging, we behave as if we are reacting to something we first experienced a long time ago. As if that same scenario from our past is happening all over again.
This is important to remember because anything that triggers you today is never about what’s happening today, it’s about what happened in the past that created that reaction in the first place. It can be the way someone looked at you, or how you were smacked, neglected, bullied, or beaten up as a kid. They can even come from the beliefs you adopted because you didn’t know any better.
All of our judgments were formed in the past, but the emotional triggers that stem from them are activated in the present. It’s a well-oiled emotional machine that can ruin relationships and make you unhappy time and time again.
In a moment, I’ll outline how judgments are created. But first, let me share with you how I single-handedly destroyed my marriage because of my judgments.
How To Destroy A Marriage
I met the woman who would be my future wife in 2006 through an online dating service. When we finally met in person, we were ecstatic with each other and fell in love fast. But something happened just a few days after we met that set the tone for the entire 8 years we were together:
She told me that she was addicted to sugar.
I laughed. I thought, “Who isn’t addicted to sugar?”
I knew that almost all bread, many processed foods, and of course fruit contain sugar, so unless one drastically changes their diet, it’s hard not to be addicted to it. So I didn’t take her comment too seriously. That is until she mentioned her addiction to it again later on, which is when we decided to have a deeper discussion on it.
I admit I was ignorant. I truly believed that almost everyone I knew had a “sugar addiction”. People drink soda, they eat sweets, and all kinds of things that are bad for you. I thought it was no big deal. But after a few more days together, I started to notice behavior I wasn’t aware of before.
Some people can eat a piece of pie. It is a pleasurable and even sociable experience. Others, however, perhaps sugar addicts, want to eat the whole pie. I was starting to notice that she really did have an issue stopping herself from eating “the whole pie”.
Of course, this is something that anyone of us could do on a holiday or special occasion, so I didn’t think too much about it. But I was taken aback that even on regular days she ate sweets like it was a holiday.
We went out to eat several times during the first few weeks of our relationship. I was repeatedly exposed to her addiction and it finally sunk in that she was serious. She really was addicted to sugar. It wasn’t just a humorous comment, but an actual admission about a major challenge in her life.
As soon as I accepted that her sugar addiction wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill craving, I finally realized that I fell in love with an addict. I know it sounds harsh when I say that, and I mean no disrespect toward her or her struggles during that time, but it was that moment of realization that I became emotionally triggered for the rest of our time together.
That was the moment my fear kicked in and I closed off a small part of my heart. From that point on, I was quietly and unconsciously disgusted by her behavior. It’s actually embarrassing to put that into words now because I have learned and healed so much since then. But at the time, her behavior repulsed me and made me see her as disgusting.
Because of that, my judgments kicked in. And the part of me that felt free, happy, and in love closed up just a little to protect myself.
Protect me from what though?
I grew up in a house where my stepfather was addicted to alcohol and I feared for my safety on an almost daily basis. I developed a hyper-awareness of addictive behavior. And though I never considered sugar a “drug” before, after I met her I found out just how much control it can have over a person.
The stronghold it had on her was eye-opening. I never met anyone before her that had an addiction except a couple of relatives so I thought I was free of the addictions of others forever. But this woman that I was now in love with was pulling up some deep, childhood fears I didn’t even realize were there.
That’s the challenge with triggers: You can go for years without ever getting triggered. Then one day, someone does or says something that regresses you back to a time when you were younger and feared for your safety in some way.
That’s what happened to me. When I was younger, still living in my family home, I didn’t know if I would be hurt or killed when my alcoholic stepfather decided to kick open the door to my room. Fortunately, he never actually did that, but it was always on my mind because of all the yelling and smashing I heard through that closed door.
When he was drunk, his personality was completely different. He acted volatile, angry, and aggressive. He would say mean things and destroy material objects. He hit my mom several times over the period of time I lived there. He was highly unpredictable and in general just a scary person to be around.
After I moved out, I never saw anyone’s behavior change like that again so I felt pretty stable from that point on. But when I met the woman who would become my wife, all of that changed. I found someone I truly loved and accepted in almost every way except one: Her addiction.
Her behavior changed when she craved sweets. The person I knew became a person I didn’t know at all. She went from sweet and caring to extremely focused and cold. This was a direct reminder of the type of behavior change I experienced as a kid. I would watch my stepfather go from a well-mannered, kind-hearted person, to an irrational, uncontrollable, scary monster.
Comparing them is like comparing night and day of course. But when you’re in judgment mode, you are perceiving the world from the mind of a child (or at least a younger version of yourself). My perception of my wife’s behavior was the same as my perception of my stepfather’s behavior.
Different stimulus, same reaction.
This is how triggers are. We only get triggered because of something that happened to us when we were younger. Some of us tend to blame the event happening in the moment. But when we seek a more thorough understanding of what’s really taking place inside of us, we realize that there are sometimes deeper, more primal fears at work.
When we married about 3 or so years after we met, I still had unresolved fears that I never shared with her. That’s because the person I was supposed to trust the most in the world was someone I couldn’t feel safe around. The woman I was marrying, who I was supposed to be able to share anything with, was the last person I could trust with my past trauma. And it all started that day early on in the relationship when I first became triggered by her addiction.
For our entire marriage, my fear sat in the background but came out in small but destructive ways. My subconscious mind was telling me, “If she is an addict, she is dangerous.”
Slowly and systematically, my behavior toward her caused her to close up little by little, making it harder for her to allow herself to love me, and allow me to love her.
This is what judgment does: It closes you off from those you love and forces them to close up when they’re around you. After all, how can one feel safe around someone who puts them down for being themselves? That’s a huge issue in many relationships today. We judge so often that we may not even know we’re doing it.
In this article, I want to dive into this a little deeper and perhaps break down the process we go through when we’re judging someone. I can speak from both sides of the coin from firsthand experience. Though, I’ve been fortunate in many ways not to have some of the problems others have had like addictions, which may have been a determining factor in why I became so judgmental.
But let’s figure this out as we go along. Perhaps you can relate to what I’m talking about.
The Emotional Triggers Leading to Judgment
Triggers are what cause you to have a negative emotional reaction. When you experience something that goes against your belief system or your morals or violates your personal boundaries, or flies directly in the face of your insecurities, you will respond internally by getting a bad feeling. This is a trigger.
Triggers usually appear when you are in a happy or neutral state, which makes them even more powerful because they immediately put you into an unhappy state. You usually feel hurt, angry, or saddened by something that you experienced.
For example, when I was in my 20s, I used to get triggered whenever my girlfriend had any male friends. It used to bother me a lot. Things would be going along great, but then she’d mention a friend of hers that just happened to be of the opposite sex.
When I heard that it was a guy, I felt my chest tighten and the anger rise up into my throat.
I was insecure as a boyfriend because I could never fully trust my partner. I figured that I wasn’t good enough so if she saw other guys, she’d probably want them more. This insecurity caused me to form a judgment about her selection of friends. When she had female friends, that was fine. But when she had male friends, I got triggered with anger and started asking her a bunch of questions like, “Who’s that?” And, “How did you meet him?”
I would interrogate her until I came to the conclusion that he was not a threat. The stimulus that caused the trigger was my perception. I perceived myself as not worthy or good enough, or strong enough of a man. I felt that her male friends were a danger to me because they could simply replace me. After all, I’m “not good enough” so she’s always going to be on the lookout for something better.
Since I had a belief that other men were a threat to my relationship, my radar was always on, scanning for those threats. My fears stemmed from my insecurities. My triggers stemmed from my fears. When it comes down to it though, triggers are basically our fight or flight response system being activated.
Back in the day when we humans didn’t have grocery stores and had to hunt for our food every day, we were also being hunted. Because of that, we had heightened awareness all the time. Our fight-or-flight response saved our lives because we knew when it was better to fight and win or run and hide. Nowadays, we don’t need to fight or flee like we used to, but it’s still hardwired into us, so it kicks in even for non-threatening events. Even leaving the toothpaste cap off can elicit the fight or flight response in someone.
If someone cuts in front of you in a long line, does fight or flight kick in? For you, it might! At least in the sense that you want to push them out of the line or yell at them.
What about when you perceive a parent who is being a bit too rough on their child? Do you get the urge to confront the parent or do you stay out of it? These are a couple of the many scenarios where fight or flight can kick in.
As for triggers, these occur when an event happens today that resembles an event that happened in the past. And because the brain operates by remembering patterns, it associates memories from the past with the emotions we felt at that time as well.
An excellent example of a trigger forming in my life is when my friend and I left a college dorm at 7 AM on a Sunday morning. The building was wired to alarm if anyone opened certain doors at certain times, but we didn’t know that because this wasn’t our school and no one told us the rules (I know it’s a bad excuse).
We got up early and went for the exit. It was completely silent in the building and around the campus because it was early on a Sunday morning at a college. I’m sure you know what I mean when I say that a college environment on a Sunday morning is eerily quiet. Well, as soon as I pushed on the door, the loudest alarm blasted throughout the entire building, and possibly through the entire campus. When that went off, my flight mode kicked in, and we both ran as fast as we could across the field and into our cars.
We ran as if a tiger jumped out of the bushes and chased us to the parking lot. What’s funny is that we had absolutely no reason to run, except that we thought maybe we broke a rule and didn’t want to get caught.
But that moment, that exact moment when the alarm sounded, my brain latched onto everything that was happening and formed a pattern. The pattern included a visual of a door in front of me, my hand reaching to push it open, a loud siren in my ears, an immediate fearful feeling, and running for my life scared.
This pattern became a trigger that lasted about 1 or 2 years. After that event, I actually got triggered every time I approached any door to a store or building and had to hesitate each time before opening it. I would walk up to a door, feel this fear kick in, and stop myself before opening it.
My fear learned to kick in before my rational thought process because my brain learned in an instant what to avoid doing next time. My brain memorized the steps I went through to create a flight response. These steps formed a trigger that could be reactivated anytime I repeated the same steps in the future.
Because of that event, every door I approached for the next 2 years triggered me. And as you’ll learn in a moment, triggers are directly connected to judgments.
So let’s talk about how judgments linger in the background just waiting to pop up and be a burden in our lives.
Where Do These Judgments Come From?
Judgments are conscious responses to triggers. When you are triggered, your subconscious mind evaluates existing circumstances to figure out if the events happening right now match the pattern of events that happened in the past.
For almost two years when I walked toward a door, my brain remembered the pattern of events from before and caused a flight response inside of me. Whenever a pattern from the past is recognized in the here and now, we are triggered. It can be just like a typical PTSD response.
A judgment is what we do in our heads consciously, to figure out how to respond to the emotional trigger happening in the moment.
Let’s take the door alarm example I used in the previous section. Every time I approached a door, my fear kicked in. This was an unconscious program just waiting to be reactivated in order to protect me. That’s what fight or flight is designed to do: It protects us to keep us alive. The fight or flight mechanism can activate for all sorts of reasons, even something as simple as walking through a door.
After I felt that unconscious fear when I approached an ordinary door, my rational, conscious mind would kick in and determine if that fear was justified or not. This justification process is judgment.
I became fearful (trigger), then analyzed my fear (judgment).
Judgment is when we consciously analyze our triggered negative emotions to determine if they’re justified. Whenever the fear about walking toward a door arose in me, I would remind myself that the door was very likely not armed to blast an alarm. This helped me determine, or judge, my trigger to be inaccurate in almost every situation, so I started creating new patterns in my brain.
For almost two years, this old pattern reactivated in me, but every time I analyzed it and determined it was an old, useless pattern, my brain started memorizing a new pattern. I was replacing the old one with something new. Soon thereafter, I never felt it again.
Every now and then, that old pattern might still show up in small ways, but it’s so distant and fuzzy now that it’s no longer a problem. If anything, the visual of the memory may show itself, but the emotional attachment has dissolved.
That’s good news because I really believed that I was going to have to live with this fear for the rest of my life. Many victims of more traumatic events often do.
It makes me think about scare pranks. Scaring someone can burn a pattern into their brain so that the fear is repeated over and over again until they finally overwrite the old pattern with a new one.
In my opinion, scare pranks are pretty cruel because of this. If the person you are scaring does get that event burned into their brain, which doesn’t always happen (but it can), they might re-experience that fear over and over again for years.
In other words, a single prank might not be a one-time event. It can be relived over and over again throughout their life. This is something to keep in mind if you’re into pulling pranks on others.
I did a prank on my dad once that caused me to burst into laughter for years every time I thought about it, but I now realize that I should never have done it because of what I’ve learned about emotional triggers and how the negative patterns can stick around for years.
Can you think of any judgments you carry?
Do you feel a certain way when someone you know does a certain thing?
Do you get triggered by other people’s behavior?
I’m willing to bet you can think of someone that does something that bugs you.
Whose Responsibility Is It To Change?
When my ex-wife reached for sweets, I got triggered. The emotions that came up for me were anger, fear, and sadness. I was angry that she was destroying her body with junk food, I was fearful that she’d gain weight and I wouldn’t be attracted to her anymore, and I was sad because if she chose to reach for food instead of talking to me when she was in a bad emotional space, it hurt. It was like the food was her emotional support, and not me.
Now, it doesn’t matter if all of this is true or not. It doesn’t matter if she was actually destroying her body or not. At the time, in my mind, all that mattered was that I believed that’s what she was doing. It doesn’t matter if she was actually gaining weight or not or shortening her life span or whatever, because at the time I believed it was true.
And it doesn’t matter if she would feel better eating sweets instead of talking to me for emotional comfort because I believed it was true regardless of the facts.
When I got triggered, I made a judgment about her. My judgments about her were safety mechanisms for me. The pattern was: she would reach for junk food, I would get triggered, then I would judge my emotions to be true without question.
The problem with that is that I didn’t take responsibility for my own judgments about her behavior. Instead, I placed all the responsibility for my judgments on her.
Instead of being reflective and exploring how these beliefs I have are a problem, I chose to believe the only way to make my fears go away was to push them onto her so that she would have to change, not me.
This is typically the problem with judgment:
We use our judgments about others to make the people we are judging responsible for how we feel.
In other words, I would only ever feel better if she changed her behavior instead of me changing my judgment about her behavior. If she reached for junk food and my judgment became activated, I would be unhappy with her even though I was making myself unhappy.
Many of us do this! We look at someone else’s behavior as an offense against us, instead of something they’re doing to themselves. I did this most of my life. Any behavior I disagreed with in a romantic partner I’d see as something they were doing against me, not for themselves. I wasn’t conscious I was doing this until the last couple of years of my marriage. However once I figured it out, I started taking responsibility.
When you judge someone else, whether it’s about how they eat, what they drink, if they smoke, if they exercise, what kind of car they drive, how they talk, or any of a number of things, you are actually addressing a fear within yourself that has yet to be resolved.
Think about it: Have you ever been to a gathering of people, and saw this one person that you felt judgmental toward?
Maybe it was something they did or said. Maybe you have a history with them of some sort. Regardless, there was something about them that rubbed you the wrong way.
When you felt the judgment kick in, did you want them to do something different in order for you to feel better? Did you want them to leave? Did you want them to stay quiet? How about wanting them to stop drinking so that they didn’t embarrass you?
Whatever triggered inside you and caused you to judge them was actually revealing a fear inside yourself. And this is where it gets a little closer to the truth of what’s happening.
Every judgment you make about someone else stems from a fear or insecurity inside yourself.
If you make a judgment about someone’s lack of attractiveness, that can make you aware of a part of you that feels like you’re not attractive. If you judge someone because of the amount of money they have, that can be revealing a part of you that has a fear of having too little, too much, or no money at all.
Whatever you find yourself being judgmental about in someone else is a reflection of how you feel about yourself, usually at a very deep level. I should also add that sometimes when you judge, it can be from feeling that your personal boundaries are being violated. In which case, if that’s true, you could instead honor yourself instead of judge someone else.
For example, if you can’t stand people who smoke near you, then someone sits right next to you and starts smoking, you could get angry and think about how upset you are that someone sat next to you and started smoking.
This type of judgment is more about you feeling as if your personal boundaries are being crossed. It’s the type of judgment I was dealing with in myself when I was married. I wanted a healthy lifestyle with the one I loved so when I saw her reaching for sugar instead of vegetables or something healthier, I felt my personal boundaries were being violated.
The problem with that, however, is that instead of honoring myself and getting out of the situation, I expected her to change to satisfy my personal boundaries.
The road of life will never be clear of all obstacles, otherwise, you’d experience and learn nothing. Some lessons are much harder than others, but some of them are worth learning so that you can live the best life possible. When you’re willing to be open to learning something new and even recognizing behavior in yourself that may need to change, you’re already halfway there.
Expecting someone else to change to satisfy your personal boundaries is possible, but you will often end up disappointed in the end because they will end up not honoring themselves, causing them to resent you.
It’s a complex topic for sure. Talking about this stuff can get so deep and convoluted, especially when your emotional triggers offend and trigger another person. Like the time I got triggered by something my wife did. She in turn got triggered because she felt she was being judged (which was true). This caused her to respond to me, and her environment, from a triggered state.
When you make decisions from a triggered state, it doesn’t always work out well but lots of people still do it.
I worked with a guy who, sad to say, got triggered one day and murdered his wife. This was around 1993. Thinking about that now, it’s so crazy to think that someone I knew pretty well would do something like that. He seemed pretty normal at work, but he had triggers lingering in the background that put him into an altered state.
Many of your judgments about people and the world exist because of the lingering emotional triggers inside of you. For example, if you see someone doing something that disgusts you, it’s because whatever they were doing triggered an emotional response inside of you.
That emotional response is then analyzed by your conscious mind, forming into a judgment about the person or situation. Then you act upon that judgment.
This pattern gets repeated over and over again until either the stimulus for the trigger disappears, or the emotion behind the trigger is processed and released.
How Can I Stop Being So Judgmental?
What can you do when you feel yourself judging someone? It took me years to find a way out of my own judgmental responses.
I didn’t realize that my relationships were failing because of my judgments. But when you think about it, who wants to be around someone who judges them for being themselves?
When you can’t be yourself around someone, you build resentment, and eventually, the relationship ends one way or another.
How do you avoid this?
There’s really only one thing to remember. And it’s this one important fact that changed my entire perspective on judgments. If you completely adopt this into your belief system, you will never depend on others to change who they are or what they do to comply with your standards to be who you want them to be. Because remember, expecting someone to change for you can and does lead to resentment. They may make the changes, but it may not be because they wanted to. It may be because they felt obligated to.
That’s one of the key challenges in relationships, and one of the main reasons, in my opinion, why relationships fail. When you change for someone else, you are typically doing it because you want to please them, not yourself. This is neither empowering nor long-lasting. Again, this is usually what happens but not always. Sometimes you’ll change for someone else and you’re actually happy that you did so.
But many other times you might forego a part of who you are to make someone else happy. This can make you happy in the short term, but long term, the relationship can start to crumble.
The one belief I’m asking you to adopt today is this:
Whenever you feel the need to judge anything or anyone outside of you, remember that you are the one with the problem, not them.
I apologize if that sounds harsh. But let me assure you, as soon as you redirect your judgment back into yourself, you’ll begin to realize that your judgments have to do with a part of you that you haven’t fully developed and evolved yet.
I say that with the utmost respect for everything you are and everything you can become. And I also say it from my years of experience being a very judgmental person.
Whenever you judge someone or something for any reason, it is a part of you that hasn’t evolved in some way. I realize the word, “evolved” is a tad exaggerating, but look at it in the sense of evolving your consciousness to the point where you take full responsibility for what you think and how you feel.
I’m not absolving anyone’s bad behavior here. I’m not saying there aren’t cruel people in the world that do awful things. But when you judge someone, you are responding to an emotional trigger that was set off and put you into an altered state of mind.
When you are in an altered state of mind, you actually lose some of your good judgments and can make bad decisions.
When you’re not triggered, you probably have good judgments like how to treat people, knowing you need to pay your bills on time, and knowing you need to go to work or school, or whatever. Your good judgments exist because you are not triggered.
But when you are triggered, bad judgment can kick in and you might do things you later regret. For example, if I saw someone attacking my girlfriend, I might get emotionally triggered and become altered in my mind enough to do something quite awful to the perpetrator.
How far would I go? Would I kill the person? I would hope that it wouldn’t lead to that, but if fight or flight kicked in and the other person wouldn’t stop… who knows?
And if I killed that person would I end up in jail? These are the kind of questions we don’t ask ourselves when we’re triggered because we’re too unconscious, following a very old, primal pattern of protecting ourselves and others.
Of course, this is a worst-case scenario sort of thing. There are times when your triggered state will be useful in protecting you and your loved ones, for sure. In this article, I’m just referring to judgments that pop up and keep us feeling bad most of the time.
During my entire marriage, I felt a low-level state of anger and sadness all the time. I stayed in a “hoping” state. I kept hoping she’d stop eating junk food. I kept hoping that her addiction would simply go away. And the more I hoped, the more it seemed nothing changed.
When something inside of me finally clicked, I got the answer. Instead of focusing on her to fix her problems so that I would feel better, I came to an ultimatum in myself. And this is important because first off, I finally realized that her problems are her problems, not mine. What I did was make them mine because I didn’t want to leave the relationship.
I figured, “Because I don’t want to leave the relationship, she will have to change to make me feel better.” But, that’s not reality. That’s not how life works. People don’t change for us, we change for ourselves. This has to be the way.
You have to change for yourself, and no one else.
That is if you even want to. When I took responsibility for myself and saw that there were three fingers pointing back at me when I pointed one at her, my judgments shifted inward, and I now focused on what I needed to do to be the type of person that could accept those around me for who they were, or if I couldn’t accept them, I had to leave the situation.
That was the turning point for me. My ultimatum for myself was to accept that my judgments were my problems or leave the relationship. That’s it, no other choices.
But because I so badly wanted to keep this person in my life, I chose to accept that she will always be this way and may keep gaining weight until she can no longer move. I realize that’s probably an offensive way to say it, but I had to create scenarios of what could happen if I accepted things as they were, instead of trying to fight them.
Once I accepted this scenario, my judgments stopped. I realized I loved her no matter what and that I just needed to accept that who she is wouldn’t change. I also needed to realize that if I wanted this relationship to work, who I am needed to change.
It was all about me and always has been.
If I left, that would have been okay too, because it would have been me honoring my personal boundaries and what I wanted in my life. But the final decision to stay was all based on what I wanted in my life for me and had nothing to do with her changing or doing anything different than she already was.
This is how you evolve your consciousness. You make all your judgments about yourself, then you go inside and give yourself an ultimatum. Do you accept everything about the person you’re judging right now, or is their behavior simply crossing your personal boundaries so much that you will eventually crumble?
There may be other choices too, but in my experience, they typically need to be absolutes. An absolute brings closure. It’s the difference between, “Well, I’ll just be more lenient”, and, “I will absolutely accept everything about them. And if I can’t accept them, I will leave to preserve who I am.”
Just think of an absolute as a final decision on something, as opposed to a wishy-washy decision. For example, if you said, “I’m going to give it more time”, or, “I think I can handle his or her drinking, but I still want them to stop smoking”, these do not bring closure and rely on someone else changing.
However, if you gave yourself an absolute, it might sound like this, “By December 31st, if he or she doesn’t change, I’m leaving.” And of course, it can also be an absolute acceptance as well, “I realize that my problem with his or her behavior is my problem, not theirs, so I just have to accept that that’s who this person is, and they will never, ever change.”
Do you recognize the closure that brings? Closure is so important to your mental health. Giving yourself an ultimatum provides closure. Otherwise, you’re stuck with these emotional triggers and judgments coming up all the time, and they add to underlying stress and anxiety that never seems to go away.
But knowing there’s an end either way, whether you accept and stay or reject and leave, is closure. It could be a very hard decision, but at least it gives you direction and forward momentum.
And, as I always say, sometimes you’re in a situation that simply cannot change. When you are in this type of situation that you know will never change, then full acceptance of what “is” needs to happen. Or, look for outside assistance to help you cope and handle things. Remember that you’re never the only one with challenges like yours. There are billions of people on the planet, so I guarantee someone is going through or has gone through, something just like you.
These are the people you want to reach out to. In this day of easy access to so many groups and individuals who we can reach in a click, there’s no longer a reason to feel alone. There are people just like you out there, just waiting to hear from someone in the same situation.
What all of this comes down to is you. That’s what everything comes down to really. No one needs to change for you. Only you need to change for you. And let me tell you what happens when you focus on yourself instead of others, you give them the gift of freedom. They are now free to act and change if they want to or not. This is very empowering for both you and them.
When other people no longer feel that you are judging them, it frees them.
And sometimes, they may change just because they don’t feel pressured to. Maybe they’ve been wanting to evolve themselves all along but resented the idea of pleasing the people that were judging them.
And maybe when they no longer feel judged, they feel empowered. This is what happened just before my divorce. When I let go of my judgments, my wife was at first lost. She didn’t know how to act or what to say without me judging her. She was confused and wasn’t sure what to do next. This allowed her to find her own path and look inward to decide what she really wanted for herself.
Instead of always worrying about pleasing me and making me happy, she felt the freedom to be herself. She started working again. She made friends. And she made changes in her life that fulfilled her in ways that I couldn’t during our marriage.
I admit it. Living with me during my judgmental years took a toll on her, so she had to break free from that. Sometimes the most important lessons originate from the most painful events. My divorce was important, painful, and liberating all at the same time. It was what needed to happen in order for both of us to be free of the chains of judgment and stagnation.
It was an absolute. It was closure. It hurt, but it was needed in order for both of us to move forward and gain momentum.
The One, Big Step To Stop Judging Those You Love
The judgments we form create a low-level, underlying stress and anxiety that is hard to get rid of. When we hold judgments about others, we hold on to negative emotions. We can feel like we’re in a consistently heightened emotional state where we can be triggered over and over again by the same behavior.
This article is more about how our judgments affect our relationships as opposed to judging people for crimes or heinous acts of cruelty. The judgments we have about others eat away at us emotionally and psychologically.
It’s when we judge loved ones for how they eat, how they dress, their nuances, their overt behavior, their friends, how much money they make or don’t make, or their attitude, and so many other things that we take on as our own problems.
When I realized that my ex-wife’s addiction problems were hers and not mine, I let them go. When she realized I let them go, she didn’t get triggered by me anymore. Not being in a state of always worrying about what someone else will say or do is liberating. It frees you to live authentically. You can become the person you want to become because you feel empowered.
We went through a lot of detail in this article, but really what it all comes down to is letting people be themselves. Period. And if their being themselves violates your personal boundaries, and you can’t or won’t accept their behavior, then give yourself an ultimatum. Come to terms with everything going on and learn to either accept everything about the other person or remove yourself from the situation.
I can’t think of any healthier way to do it. I realize that other people in your life might seem to be destroying themselves, but if they don’t want help, there’s nothing you can do. The people in our lives are their own people. If they want to change, it has to come from a decision inside of them, not us.
They may want to change because they may want to keep someone like you in their life, in which case, jump in and help them all you can – if that’s what you want for your life. But if they have no desire to change, there’s nothing you can do.
You could try other things for sure. You could do an intervention, or you could force them to get help if they need it, but change happens at such a deeper level within someone. There has to be a desire to change somewhere in them. Once you recognize that desire, you can work with them instead of against them.
Helping someone who doesn’t resist is a lot easier than trying to help someone who doesn’t want it. I have loved ones that I wish would change, as I know that as long as they stay on the road they’re on they will die young. But what can I do?
I believe I have the skills to help them but they are not asking me to help them. They know they can reach out anytime but they’re either not ready for help or don’t believe they need it. Because of that, I just stay available if they need me.
I don’t want them to die of course, but I can’t force them to want to live. If they’re in pain and want to talk, I’m here. They know this, but it’s a matter of self-empowerment. In other words, they have to want to change or heal.
I realize some people are just too far into their own stuff to become empowered, but that’s where acceptance comes in.
Accept others are where they need to be at this time, even if you disagree with their choices.
After all, if you were ever a teenager (which of course you were, or still are), you know what it’s like when someone else, especially an adult, tells you what to do. You think you know what you’re doing but you do your own thing anyway.
That’s how I see people that are rebelling or intoxicating their lives somehow. Some act like teenagers believing that they know exactly what they’re doing and don’t need anyone’s help to change.
If you’re a parent, sometimes you have to intervene. But sometimes people just want to know that you are there for them as an open, non-judgmental ear, so that when things do get bad, they have someone to share their struggles with.
When this happens, and someone trusts you enough to share some of their pain, that’s when their self-empowerment can begin. When you feel safe to share with someone else, you will find behaviors in you that you may not like start to disappear on their own.
It’s just the way it works. If you can find a safe, non-judgmental person who will listen to you without giving you their opinion, and won’t judge what you say or do, healing can happen on its own.
Life After Judgment In The Relationship
I remember the moment my ex-wife had enough of my judgmental attitude. It was the moment she closed her heart completely. It was a moment I could never take back no matter how much I grew and healed from whatever fears or old belief systems I still had in me.
It wasn’t too long afterward that I finally did stop being judgmental toward her, but she had already locked the vault to her heart once and for all. All that chipping away I did year after year simply took its toll. Her feelings of safety were gone and she could no longer stay in the relationship.
Sometimes we need to learn and grow by experiencing pain. It’s just the way life works. Pain is our greatest teacher, as long as we are strong enough to learn the lesson. The lesson I learned was that when someone gets close to us, they do so out of trust. They open their heart to us. And by doing so, they become vulnerable.
I have learned that it’s a massive responsibility and honor to be trusted with something that can be so easily damaged. It’s amazing to think that another person could choose to spend their time with anyone else in the world, but they are choosing to spend it with me.
When someone in your life makes the choice to spend time with you, that says a lot about you and it shows how valuable you are to them. That’s why it’s important to remember how our judgments hurt the people that choose to be with us over anyone else – in the moment or even for the years we are together.
After my wife left, I was alone for almost a year. During that time I felt so grateful and honored when someone would call and want to talk with me. I felt special when someone would share something with me in an email or text message. I realized people wanted to connect with me and that it was important I never took advantage of that.
How often do we really connect with other people?
When I spent time in New Hampshire after my divorce, I enjoyed being able to see my mom and invest in quality time with her. I can look back and remember those times as some of the best memories I’ve ever had with her.
There are people in our lives that may not always be there. When you can turn off your judgments and just be present for them as they talk and share what’s on their mind, you will connect with them at a wonderfully deep level. And they’ll feel it.
Giving someone that time where you really listen without giving advice or interrupting is one of the most wonderful gifts you can give. They may still ask for advice and that’s fine (feel free to offer it when asked) but sometimes people just want to know that you are there listening and connecting with them to show that you really care.
Every now and then, I’ll still feel emotionally triggered. But instead of acting on that trigger, now I immediately turn my focus inward and reflect. Instead of keeping the finger-pointing at others, I point it at myself and make sure I know that I have the issue, not them. It’s helpful for me to remember that I am not being triggered because of the moment, it is because I have a belief from childhood that has made it into my world today.
This is what our triggers usually are:
Old belief systems that no longer apply.
When you find yourself judging someone, explore what triggered you and figure out when you first experienced that trigger. When do you think you first felt that way? Were you a child? And does what you used to believe still apply today?
If so, would you be better off leaving the situation you are in now or talking about what’s triggering you with the person who is triggering you?
Maybe you can even come to a full acceptance of what you cannot change and just let the pieces fall where they may. Only you know you best so this is for you to decide.
I prefer closure so I go for absolutes. Either I’m all in or all out.
How come no one has commented here? I’m an extreme overthinker, and so, as you would imagine, I’ve scoured the internet many times when my brain was on overload and I just wanted to understand things. I’m realizing through therapy and my time with God that thinking too much through emotions can be more damaging. Realizing that I can’t solve/control/change things and acceptance are key. But, every now and then, internet researching does pay off without me going down the rabbit hole of obsessively trying to find an answer to my pain, and your article was one that was quite illuminating. Thank you so much for sharing. Ever since I was young, I’ve always had very strong feelings, which makes it hard to not react to many things. It’s like I was always on the defensive, fleeing or freezing for fear of getting hurt. But, I’m learning to accept that pain is a part of life, even if sometimes the pain may feel more intense for me. Learning to accept that my sensitivity, though seeming like a curse, can also be a gift in many other aspects. You helped emphasize another truth that I really needed to hear, which was that I must free others to act how they choose, even if it hurts me (or I perceive it to hurt me), and that there aRe things I can do to honor myself instead of running away or holding my breath – either speaking to that person in truth and choosing with an absolute to stick with them whether they change or not, or letting the person/situation go without holding anger/bitterness/judgment against them, or shaming myself for leaving the situation. Your article was beautifully written. Thank you so much.
Wow, your reply was beautifully written too. You get it! I used to be exactly where you described. Overthinking and judgmental, wanting others to change to accommodate me. Letting them be was the hardest step into my power and the most empowering gift I could give to them as well.
I appreciate you sharing this. It is vulnerable and honest. Thank you for your kind words.
This was a phenomenal read. Thank you for the time and energy you put into this!
I appreciate your words Amy. Thank you so much. I’m glad you got value from it!
Amazing article, exactly what I was looking for after what I just went through tonight. Incredible.
Thanks for sharing this Nicholas. I appreciate the time you took to comment.
Paul, thank you for the great article. I am in a r/s now (limping towards the end) where my gf is extremely judgemental. It gives me peace knowing that the problem doesn’t lie with me. Who is perfect? Who is flawless? Everyone has their own struggles and shortcomings, and I have worked so hard on them and will continue to do so. And it always bothered me that things I did for my own life – getting a car I love, buying things I like – seems to trigger her even though it has no impact on her whatsoever. Now I know it triggers her and she’s rationalising that through judgementalism.
I was a judgemental person in the past, and am still learning to let go of that towards people. I have gotten significantly less judgemental already, and learning to love people and seeing the positives in them. Being with a judgemental person can deal a lot of damage to one’s self-worth, and keep the other person constantly second guessing. I guess it is universe way to show me what being with the “old” me was like.
Your last sentence is exactly what I believed happened to me as well. When I got into my next relationship, my girlfriend started being judgmental toward me and my decisions. I was upset at first, but then soon realized I was being given the same treatment I gave my wife when I was married. I felt I deserved it so I let it happen. I didn’t react or respond, I just allowed her to judge.
I learned a lot during that time. I have healed from most of that time in my life as well, but it was a good experience to go through it myself. Probably the universe balancing itself out!
Thanks so much for sharing here. I love that you are on this path.
This article really made me think about the way I view others. I am currently going through a very hard time with my girlfriend of 4 years that I brought upon us myself. I have made her sad or angry many times, as is normal in any relationship but this time was different. I said something that hurt her on a very deep level and that happened because a thought I usually keep for myself slipped out and brought a lot with it. I now feel like I am on the turning point, like you described in the article. She loves me, but what I said hurt her so deeply and cant be repaired, it makes her question my love to her. After what I did, she cant combine her definition of what love is with my behavior and it’s my turn to show her what I really feel. I have noticed I have been very out of touch with my emotions and thoughts, and now as the world I know is beginning to crumble I cant sort them out in my head. The thing I commented on is not the only thing I judged her about and she felt that I did all throughout our whole time together. The only way forward is probably setting that ultimatum for myself that you mentioned. I am still only 21 years old and I do not have a lot of experience with relationships and i deeply regret causing so much pain and destruction in the only person I would claim I truly loved. I find it difficult to find the events in my past that cause these present triggers because I would usually describe myself as a pretty carefree person, probably because I bury my deep thoughts in distractions of life. I came to think I might have a superiority complex about my intelligence because of how parts of my childhood played out, but can that make me judge someone I love about their appearance? I might have buried many other insecurities deep inside of me as well, but can they be that severe if they never come to my mind to haunt me? These questions are all rhetorical and I don’t expect anyone to answer, I am kind of using this as an outlet to channel my thoughts.
Anyways, I very much thank the author of this article to help me understand my subconscious self a little bit better. – Joe
Thanks for channeling here Joe. I hope it helps! A lot can be learned through reflections like this.
I’ve come to learn that if I don’t like someone’s appearance that I need to make a decision to move on or accept how they look. I had to learn the hard way that it is never how someone looks, it is always how I look at someone. That puts all the responsibility for change on me.
If they are okay with the way they look and I am not, I am the problem.
If they don’t mind gaining weight and I mind that they are gaining weight, I am the problem.
If they like to smoke and I don’t like smoking, I am the problem.
If I am the problem, I need to make the changes, not them.
It’s the way I live my life now and it’s very freeing. It’s also very humbling because of what I wrote about in the article. Forcing myself to make the decision to leave or accept someone as they are keeps me out of obsessing about them all the time and helps me get past the road blocks I used to run into all the time.
I wish you much strength and healing through this.
I finally met someone I felt happy with. That I didn’t need to judge, because he was what I wanted. I was just in the moment, and accepted flaws and all. No one is perfect, right? Well, then ugly judgments crept in, but from him, not me! I felt that I was getting a taste of what it was like to date the old me. It was horrible! It felt like they hated me. And their anger certainly backed it up. But I could never quiet put my finger on what was wrong. He would get angry with me for not listening, like he already told me, but, I swear I was and I didn’t get enough info to understand.
Unfortunately, his anger eventually turned into physical abuse, and I had to exit the relationship. But that level of judgment still sticks with me. I can’t imagine how harsh I was on others and the damage Ive done. Its just devistating to think about.
Thank you so much for sharing this here Jenni. I’m so glad you’re safe now. Physical abuse should not be tolerated and I’m glad you got away from that.
It’s interesting that you worked on your judgments then you met someone who was judgmental. This same thing happened to me (minus the abuse). After I healed and got into another relationship, I not only noticed when judgments came my way, but I also realized how bad it felt to be on the other end of them. I mean, I understood being judged from an empathetic perspective but it was almost like the universe handed me a judgmental person just to make sure I experienced the full breadth of judgment and how much emotional hurt I caused others throughout my life.
I was grateful for the lesson. I think lessons like that solidify what we’ve worked on and what still might be in there sometimes. They are reminders and incentives. They remind us of how we used to be and incentivize us to never be that way again.
Again, sorry you had to deal with that and I’m glad you’re safe. But I do hope there was some value in being on the receiving end, not because I want you to experience that ever, but because when we receive what we’ve healed in ourselves, it can be the final piece of closure we need to fully move away from how we used to be.
Thanks again for sharing.
The precision in which each scenario you describe matches exactly with each scenario I have lived! I needed this article just now and I’m glad to have found it!
Altough with my actual relationship I think I’m passed the point of no return for her.. just as you told happened in your case.
It help a lot to put thinkg in perpective and accept the wrong we have done and use it to repair and improve ourselves.
Thank you so much to take the time to write this amazing article 🙂
I appreciate your comment Aniol, thank you for sharing it here. I am also glad you are using what happened for healing and learning going forward so you don’t get the same results you got before. My life changed after I working on these shortcomings / dysfunctions in me. It’s amazing what happens to you when you are no longer carrying around old emotional triggers.
I wish you strength and success moving forward. Thank you again.
This was a fantastic and radically honest article! I’ll be coming back for more of your wisdom, Paul! Thank you!🙏🏻
Thank you so much Anita. I appreciate you taking the time to say this. 🙂
Wow 😳 I can’t believe I’ve operated this way. Especially with my spouse. It has opened my eyes. I have to come up with some absolutes for sure!! Thank you for your personal insight on this and also sharing your pain. 🙏🏽
Thank you for your comment Daisy. I’m so glad this was helpful to you!
This article helped me a lot to understand what I am dealing with. Thank you for writing it.
Thanks Daniel. Sorry you are going through this but i hope you have the tools you need to deal with it.
I fear I am on the other side of this right now. My partner judges me for my past and constantly brings it up, quite often while we are relaxing watching a movie or about to fall asleep and I am in my most comfortable mindset. so much so it has given me anxiety while just simply hanging out with her. I have started to notice she is extremely judgmental of everyone she meets. I’m not sure where I am going with this but I want to thank you for this article.
Thank you for sharing this and I’m sorry you are going through this. I completely understand how you would not be able to get comfortable (walking on eggshells… waiting for the other shoe to drop… etc). I don’t know if your partner ever listens to the show, but the segment I created on getting past your partner’s past might be helpful to her.
OR, you could listen and perhaps learn some pointers to help you communicate to her how to treat you in a healthier, friendlier way.
Here’s the episode:
I wish you much strength through this.
And remember, sometimes it’s better to own your past than to defend it. Sometimes you can address it right up front and put it back in their face like this:
“Yup, that’s what I did, that’s who I was. I made mistakes (or “I regret nothing”), but it happened so that’s how it is.”
When they say, “Well, I just can’t believe you did that”, own your response by saying “Yeah, well. I did it.”
Or if they say, “Aren’t you embarrassed / ashamed / feel guilty for what you did?” say, “I’ve processed this and healed and moved on, but you haven’t. So this really isn’t my problem anymore.”
There’s so much more I could share, but really when you stop defending yourself and stop believing you owe her anything for your past, you’re going to be free and be able to pass the baton of growing and healing to her.
Thanks again jf.
Going through a similar situation as well. Thank you for such a insightful article and very touching as well and thank you for being open and sharing your experience with us. I am going to listen to the link you sent and learn more as I want to learn and understand more of where my partner is coming from. He’s brought up my past countless of times now and apologizes right after. In the beginning, he wasn’t as apologetic and as self aware, but now he is, even though he still does it. But he’s mad a lot of progress in the sense of him being self aware, letting me know it’s not me and I’m not the one who has problems but it’s him who has the issue and it’s his problem that he judges and says the things he says. I am appreciative that he’s made progress, but he still gets triggered and judges my past and says unkind things and then apologizes after and says he wants to work on himself and change because he loves me and he wants to be with me and he doesn’t want to treat me bad or say those things to me. Do you have any tips on how he can work on his triggers and work on not thinking like that? Or how he can stop himself before saying anything? Because it still affects me very very deeply and each time it makes it harder for me to forgive him and move forward. I can feel myself already closing and I’m afraid that I’ll resent him. I don’t want to, but I can’t handle him being judgmental towards me. I am going to start “owning” my past. I’ve tried for months defending myself and my past and letting him know I’ve learned from my mistakes and that my history has nothing to do with him and us and that I’m with him now because I love him and he’s the only person I want to be with and I don’t want to be with anyone else. And as much as I’ve tried to defend myself, it didn’t seem to work. So I now will try to own my past.
You answered your own question! Owning your past means when someone brings it up in a judgmental way, you respond, “Yeah, so what? That’s what I did. That’s not my problem anymore. Why are you making it yours?”
If he replies, “I just can’t believe you did that stuff. Why would you do that?”
Owning it, you could reply, “That’s who I was and that’s what I did. If you have a problem with it, that’s your problem, not mine. You don’t have to get over it, but I’m focused on today and tomorrow. If you want to stay focused on what happened back then, then just let me know when you’re done. I’ll be over there.”
I am simplifying it and it sounds so heartless, but it really might have to come to that kind of response. Owning it means you are unapologetic about who you were. It means yeah, you made mistakes, but they were yours and no one else’s. If he can’t get past your past, he needs to figure it out because you’ve already lived that part of your life. If he really can’t handle it, then he should move on to someone who has a perfect past.
He’ll realize that he’ll never find anyone like that and perhaps give up trying to talk about it. The point is, his reaction to your past isn’t your problem and you have to stop making it your problem. You don’t have to defend yourself anymore. You lived it, you’ve judged yourself, you’ve learned, and you’re ready to live in the present. If he’s stuck back there, you may have to leave him back there.
This, of course, isn’t usually what will happen. The person stuck on your past realizes the futility of it when they see that you are no longer affected. Your apologies or defending is enabling his triggers believe it or not.
Likely, he wants you to feel bad for your past. When he gets triggered, his reward is you feeling bad. If you feel bad, it makes him feel good. Not because he’s mean, but because he cannot justify your behavior so he wants to make you feel bad for doing that behavior.
But that never ends until you stop feeling bad. When you no longer give him the response he wants, it will no longer be beneficial to him to be triggered. Again, it may not be on purpose. But he will need to learn that it’s pointless to bring it up if it doesn’t affect you at all.
Because it affects you, he is triggered. It’s cause and effect! But he’ll soon learn that when you no longer defend or apologize, he will have to put his focus on himself. And that’s when he can start healing.
I have an episode or two on this. It may or may not be relevant to you, and it’s for the person being triggered, not the person defending themselves, but it might be helpful for you if you want to listen to it.
It’s segment 3.
Thanks for sharing this. I know you both can get past this!
Thank you so much Paul! This is very VERy insightful and so incredibly helpful. I’ve tried defending myself so much and I too understand that my past is my past and it has. nothing to. do with who I am now and I am not the same person, and yes I’ve made some mistakes, but I feel like as they are blown out of proportion and that I’ve made mistakes that no one else has made or my past is not like most people out there or people my age. So although I’ve always thought about owning up to my past and being proud of my past because it’s led me to where I am now. and who I am now, it’s always scared me because I”m afraid that he won’t receive it well, but I have no other option now and he needs to understand that too.
As for the episode, I will listen to it to get an understanding and see what it’s like from the other end, but how do I politely tell him all of this and how do I suggest for him to listen to it without him getting defensive?
Regarding “blown out of proportion,” it doesn’t matter if he calls you the most vile, disgusting person on the entire planet for your past. That’s HIS problem. If he chooses to be with someone he finds reprehensible, that’s HIS choice.
When it comes down to it, people who criticize another person’s past are often unable to reconcile their own decision to be with someone with a past they can’t accept. So really, it’s a self-inflicted struggle.
I wouldn’t tell him until it necessary. Wait for him to get upset again then bring it up in the climax of that moment so it makes the most impact. A good way to know what to say is to be sick of being judged for someone you aren’t anymore. So get it straight in your head that you’re sick of being criticized about your past and if you hear about it one more time, you’re going to tell him to live with it or leave.
I know, harsh! And it’s only my suggestion. But if you stand up for yourself while he’s being critical of you, and you put it back on his lap (i.e., “Well, it happened. So what are you going to do now?”) then it’s HIS responsibility to make the next right decision for himself. He needs to decide if he can be with someone that he can’t accept.
You might have to show him that it makes you angry and that he has no choice but to accept or leave. It’s true, he might leave! But if he’s like I used to be, he’ll realize that continuing to give you a hard time about somebody you aren’t anymore is a waste of energy. And it’s also an excuse to put you in a down state to make himself feel better. Once he gets that “shock” to his system of “love me or leave me,” I honestly believe he’ll snap out of this self-induced torture he’s in.
And, I could be wrong about that. So take my advice with advanced warning that he really might leave. But if I were you, I’d stop showing any toleration for this crap. 😉 I say that knowing that if I got that proverbial kick in the face early on in my marriage, I’d snap out of it myself and realize I was going to lose the person I loved. That’s usually what happens. One’s priorities get reorganized when the the subject of the upset shifts to a much greater threat of loss.
Good luck with this!
Thank you so much for this article. This holiday season I had an epiphany that all these loved ones in my life weren’t the problem- I was being too judgmental. This will save a lot of my relationships and I plan to come back to this article daily.
Thank you for sharing this Megan. I think it’s awesome to make others feel empowered by our acceptance of them. Doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, but allowing them to be who they are with their own beliefs frees both of us! Thank you again for sharing.
What a fabulous and helpful article! I’m really struggling with this right now… I feel judged all the time, but I think I’m judging others and then we trigger each other. And it’s absolutely affected every single relationship I have.
Your final advice about listening is spot on! What a gift it is to just sit and listen, sit and be heard.
Thank you for taking the time to write this.
Thank you so much for your comment sy. I appreciate you sharing this here.
wow ! I feel like im a super judgmental person. When i read this, I felt like I had come to the right place. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, sounds just like what im going through. will definitely try to be less judgmental. Even though its so hard to not be judgmental in today’s Instagram world.
I still feel judgment creep up every now and then. It takes being very present and aware in order to pull it back and show compassion and care instead. It’s a journey, but it sounds like you’re on the right path!
Thank you for this great article. I’ve never read anything that describes me as well as this. My wife and I have been having the same argument for years over her pot smoking. She uses it a few times a month and sees nothing wrong with it but it triggers something inside me from somewhere and I become very judgemental towards her. She goes behind my back to do it and that makes me more angry and passive aggressive. Our home has become quite toxic. I never thought to look at my part in this only that she had to change. She’s a good person and I know I’ve hurt her but I’m going to try to be less judgemental and let go of things that I can’t change.
It’s definitely tough when your partner does something that perhaps you are against (your values, your standards, etc). I think exploring why it bothers you so much can be very helpful, but you can’t stop at the reason: Because I don’t like it. Or, Because smoking is bad. Or whatever your brain comes up with. I think it’s important to ask the deeper questions like, “Yeah, smoking is bad, but why is it a problem that my wife does it? It involves drilling down into the deeper questions (I cover drilling down in this episode, it may help: https://theoverwhelmedbrain.com/when-those-deeper-negative-emotions-just-wont-go-away/).
Once you get to the core fears or pain of your judgment, you can usually either let them go and focus on other things, OR you may find such a violation of your values that you can’t let them go. At that point, you have to make decisions that are right for you. When you do that and become clear about what you will and won’t accept in your life, then you bring the focus back to where it really needs to be.
I’m glad you’re exploring this and working on this, it will save you a lot of pain. Keep working on it.
I think it is a lot easier to tear people down than to raise them up – especially during a time where security is hard to come by.
Hi, I have read dozens of articles and not a single one has hit the mark like this whole piece has. My struggle is with a smoking partner and I am definitely guilty of falling into the trap of expecting, hoping and pushing my partner into quitting, and feeling hurt and upset when they don’t. I think this comes from my own fear of a lack of control in the other person due to past experiences and the triggers feel exactly the same as you’ve described and the anxiety feels relentless.
My question for you is this: if you provide them with the news that you are leaving the relationship as a result of this issue, and they turn back to you to say that they will now quit, should you stay with them? Or does this just result in more judgement?
I think my partner would be shocked to learn that I am considering leaving them as a result of their habit and if they knew that, they would definitely quit but I don’t want them to quit just for me. Thank you so much.
Thanks for your comment JD. You’re right, you don’t want them to quit just for you. They need to want to do it so that they don’t develop resentment toward you for “making” them do it, even though that wouldn’t / shouldn’t be your goal.
If your partner says they’ll quit, ask them why. The why will tell you everything. If they say, “Because, I don’t want to lose you. You’re too important to me. I love you…” then that reason, unfortunately – even though it’s probably sincere, isn’t enough for them to stick to it (typically).
However if they say, “I’ve really thought about this a long time. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s about time I do it. You’ve given me the nudge I needed. I want to do this.” then the relationship is definitely worth giving it a chance because they are choosing a reason that’s meaningful to them and not as something they feel forced to do as part of an ultimatum that they may think you’re giving them.
If their “why” seems to center around them wanting you to stay and not around them wanting to quit anyway, I wouldn’t put too much stock that they would stay a non-smoker. Not saying it’s not possible, but intention and incentive says it all. If they’ve been intending to quit and their incentive is their health and well-being, that’s good news. If their intentions are centered around not losing you, and they are incentivized to quit otherwise they’ll be alone, then you have to be careful because the smoking will likely start again.
Just my thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with seeing what happens by staying. They quit, you stay, you support them, they want you to be a part of their support system, and things could go well. If however they start up again, that’s something you’ll need to be prepared for. If you stay, and you won’t tolerate smoking, you need to be very clear that it’s a deal breaker for you. No matter the “why” for them, you need to follow your path.
Finally, if you choose to leave, don’t make your reason for leaving as a “result of their habit”. Make it about, and only about, your inability to accept their habit. Their smoking is not your problem. Your inability to handle their smoking is. If you said, “Because you smoke, I’m leaving”, it’s sort of a manipulative thing to say. However, saying, “I don’t like smoke. It makes me ill and I can’t breathe, so I can’t stay here anymore. I don’t want to tell you what to do because it’s your life, but I can’t be around smoke”, then it is focuses on your stuff, not theirs.
That’s my bottom line, focus on your own stuff and never make their challenges your problem. The challenge is almost always you not being able to handle it for a certain reason. And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that you want to keep blame and accusation out of the picture, and take personal responsibility for your choices.
Hope this helps. Good luck.
Thank you for this. I’ve come to the conclusion I have been judging my fiance’s spending habits. I felt she needed to change, pay off her consumer debt before we set a date to be married. What we really need is for me to accept her for who she is, and for me to make a decision – accept her 1000% or leave – because the alternative is unfair for her. Although I am not sure, I believe this trigger comes from my dad’s love for spending on eBay when I was a child, and the distress it caused my mom that he could spend his money so foolishly.
The hard part is now making a decision. I deeply love her, but having sound financial judgement is a personal value of mine (that I didn’t realize until this relationship). I’d hate to say this has been wasted time, because it has made me love and learn. Thanks again – TJ
Thank you for your comment TJ. I was very much like you in my 30s. I had a girlfriend and told her we could get married as soon as we were both debt free. It was a dark cloud that followed us around until the day she left me.
Money is a relationship issue and will continue to be, even worse most of the time, when you get married. If she knows she doesn’t make sound financial decisions, you could simply stay together and never get married. Or get married and keep your finances separate. It has to be a serious discussion. Hopefully she is aware that she doesn’t handle money well and she can have a discussion like, “I know I don’t handle money well, so I agree that keeping our finances separate is a good idea.”
However if she doesn’t see her handling of money a problem, then you may want to both go see a financial planner of some sort and both be educated at the same time (so there is no one person that’s righteous or superior). That education could prove useful.
At the same time, like you said, perhaps your criteria for how a person handles their finances is too limited. If you learned to fear the financial decisions of others, you may carry around that fear and apply it to not-so-important things. I used to get upset when I was married and my wife spent a dollar. It would drive her crazy! My criteria was so strict. I wouldn’t allow any leverage.
If you are holding on to strict criteria, perhaps looking at that and figuring out how you can loosen up a bit might be very helpful.
So yes, you have some things to look at and perhaps you can find a way to meet in the middle. If you are both carrying around different values and perceptions about money, it can lead to arguments. But have conversations about long-term strategies too. Maybe she likes to live in the moment where you like to save for the future. If that’s the case, you might want to find a way to fill both of your pots. It’s hard to be with someone who wants to experience things today when you are always saving for the future.
Important conversations may be ahead for you. Thank you for sharing this.
I am 24 years old, who is in a relationship, I am 5 months pregnant with my fiancée’s child. He is too judgemental, sometimes I am just afraid of being around him because each and every time we are together he comes up with something that makes me feel less of me, he compares me with other women. I end up feeling am not good enough, I just have endless questions of what to do, I love him but he can never change because he has not even realized how judgemental he is, I feel sorry for myself. I have reached a point where I don’t really know what is right or wrong, your article has been of great help since am realising that I am not the problem, I am truly suffering knowing that he is the father of my child,
Ive been needing something like this for a while
Thanks for your comment Rodney. I hope it has helped you!
I just googled “why am I so judgmental of my spouse?” This article popped up. It really explained how I feel, and I did not think anyone could explain how I feel when triggered. I get triggered by the DUMBEST most ridiculous thing that my wife does. I actually am too embarrassed to say, because it is so genuinely absurd, but I think I would be triggered the same exact way as if she smoked, so I can relate in that way.
The problem with my particular trigger, I can not for the life of me figure out why it triggers me, ya know, what happened in my childhood that has now resulted in this “thing” setting me off and sending me down the path of anger, frustration, tightness in my chest and throat and resentment. But I guess the why does not matter, ultimately, I either accept it or I don’t. I am choosing to accept it. Period. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing this Carl. I get it! You don’t know why you have the trigger. I went through a similar situation not too long ago. Sometimes they are buried deep within.
Yes, it can come down to accept or not, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to know the WHY instead of getting triggered, repressing your thoughts and feelings about the trigger, accepting the behavior (because you don’t want to lose the relationship), then moving on.
When there’s a trigger I can’t figure out, I ask myself the following questions:
Why am I getting triggered? (I know, obvious)
What about what that person is doing is a problem?
What would happen if they continued to do it? Would I be able to handle it? Why / why not?
How is what they’re doing a problem, specifically?
When they do that, I feel _______
What will I lose if they do that?
There are probably a ton more questions to ask as well. Hmm… may have to create a workbook on this soon.
Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this. I appreciate your comment!
I’m so absolutely impressed and in awe as to your astute views, and dissections of the judgemental processes! Thank you SO MUCH!! I’ve learned many shocking things not only about how we emotionally process things in order to make judgements, but several other eye opening impacts as well. I tend to judge others as a means to better myself and those around me, rather than use it in a negative manner. ie; Sally looks great since the last time I saw her, and seems much happier, what has she been doing, that I may need to be doing – gardening and yoga? I also believe (as a chronic critical thinker), that you are on to something regarding the flow of information, and how it can fully, and immediately, link to PTSD. My future daughter in law works with Veterans. She’s so smart already, she’s probably familiar with your thoughts and views, but I would love to share this with her! In my personal opinion, diagnosis is only the first step in finding quality life. I know this will help me as well in my personal views, and cannot wait to re-read, dissect, ponder, and incorporate this information into my own life, so I’m able to better prepared to help my loved ones should the need ever arise. THANK YOU, your personal insight and reflection is so valued!! -Teri
Teri, I am flattered by your comment here. Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of this. It means a lot to me. I am very happy to hear this article gave you a different perspective.
I love that your daughter works with Veterans – that is amazing.
Thank you again. I am grateful. 🙂
So insightful! I just read this transcript today and found I could identify with a lot of what you shared – the emotional triggers from childhood, continuous low-level internal stress, and signs of my own personal injuries inside.
I’m afraid that I have already driven away a lot of people because I was so judgemental and scorned their behaviours. I kept feeling that a new school with different people would finally be the change, or a new job, new workplace with better people, or a new social circle, etc.
But I found the same pattern of isolation and anger, and have realized now that I was the common denominator. I am not sure how to apply what I’ve just learned here, but I want to take steps of action to start living a healthier emotional life.
The first step is the biggest and most impactful Deborah. Thanks so much for sharing this. I found that judging others was the easiest way to ignore what needed healing in me. Once I had this realization, I stopped focusing on others and expecting them to change and instead focused on myself so that I could become loving and supportive toward the closest people in my life.
It’s not an easy path, but it’s a lot more liberating (because you stop spending so much time expecting the world to change for you).
Thanks again. I love that you are on this path!
Many thanks for this article. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in sharing about your previous judgemental attitude and how they affected your marriage. I totally agree with you that judgements are a reflection of our own issues & triggers. While judging someone causes problems, your feelings about someone’s actions are valid and important; after all, our feelings for each other are the basis of our connection with each other. In my experience it can be helpful to share with someone how their actions affect you. For example, while judging your ex-wife for her addiction caused problems between the two of you, I wonder what would have happened if you had shared with her how you felt when she gave in to her addiction. I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard of a method called non-violent communication (NVC)? It’s a great model for communicating that is totally blame-free.
Another thing I wanted to mention is that the places of friction within a relationship can be amazing opportunities for healing deep wounds; this is the goal of effective couple’s therapy. If you’re interested in this, I recommend the work of Sue Johnson and Stan Tatkin, both of whom have written good books about the subject.
Thanks again for your writing. Best wishes!
Thanks for sharing all of this JT. I appreciate the resources. Communication was always open between my wife and me. I shared my triggers with her – at first in an unhealthy way, then near the end in a more NVC way (as I learned more about myself and communication).
The wounds in her ran deep because of my emotional abuse toward her during the first 95% of our marriage. Even during the last year of our relationship when I was able to free myself of judging her, she couldn’t get into a trusting space with me. It was too late for her and for us. Her heart was sealed.
Our whole marriage was a fantastic learning opportunity. It was filled with much growth and healing for both of us, both during our time together and after. I am so grateful for the marriage and that she left, because it freed her from the emotional prison she was in and caused me to finally take responsibility for my bad behavior. The deep wounds from the challenges became important stepping stones of growth and wisdom for both of us.
I appreciate your amazing input.
I enjoyed reading your post. First of all thank you for being so vulnerable. It sure made it easy to relate and learned where judgement comes from. I’m looking forward to read more of your posts. I have been on the receiving end of judgement and has made me distant myself from those people.
Thank you for sharing this Gigi and I’m sorry you are dealing with this. Sometimes distancing is exactly what you need to do not only to protect yourself, but also signal loud and clear to the judgmental people in your life that you won’t tolerate that behavior and won’t stick around for it.
This is a very well researched and beautifully written article, full of personal (and vulnerable) connection and profound insight to a very common yet impeding behavior on a relationship. There are points made that I take to heart, things that I can do to improve upon myself. Any criticisms that one would have in your article would clearly be taken out of context because the information and explanation in this article was so extensive and thorough, it would be difficult for anyone to make a point of argument in your writings AND accompany this argument with all the information surrounding whatever part they are critiquing. You left very few stones unturned.
That being said, I will say that relationships vary drastically in their issues and challenges, and judgement, I agree, is at the top of destructive behavior. I’m not playing devils advocate to this article, nor disagree with any of its premises, but judgment exists on a continuum, as they are not all created equal, and while I agree that our judgments are rooted from our own fears, that doesn’t devalue them. To judge your partner for watching his favorite reality shows, although you find them repulsive, deserves a deep dive in your own personal hang-ups, because if you love someone, they should be able to enjoy what entertains them without judgement. This I absolutely agree with. But addiction, or other self destructive behavior that might not meet the criteria of addiction, is a problem on its own. To summarize ones addiction as “it’s me that has a history with people in my life that suffer from this and this is something I need to work on….. Or if I cannot live with this, than the threat of separation is necessary because me wanting them to change is unacceptable”, is too simplistic for this very complicated scenario.
The Occam’s razor of this is that I shouldn’t judge your behavior, or you will forever resent me, so change if you want, but if you don’t, I’m gone. At the risk of sounding cliche in this analogy, this is approaching a sensitive surgical moment of a relationship with a hatchet. This approach skips long committed growth through communication, patience and counseling. Not everyone’s situation is “my girlfriend of 2 years is …. this”. Some of these situations involve children, homes, businesses and lifelong dreams. I can’t emphasize enough how you have truly covered all the bases in this fantastic article, so my “judgement” of your insightful and clearly helpful article (the responses have been very positive) isn’t what it seems in this angle of view I’m presenting now, but growth and progress takes time, and one can get better, slowly, without the threat of guillotine ready to behead all that you’ve worked for.
Abuse, whether physically, mentally or emotionally are an exception…. it’s ultimatum time. But judgements can be me judging your view of something as a judgement, so I’m now limiting your opinion at risk of being judgmental. It can quickly turn into a high noon duel, each armed with a jar of gaslighting ready to be released.
Although bad habits are never something to be used as ammunition to belittle or cut down your partner, bad habits sometimes need to be addressed, or growth in being a better partner (not person, your already an amazing person) can never even have a chance to flourish. I’m ten times the partner I was when I first married my partner 15 years ago, and my shortcomings are still to this day becoming shorter (shorter? Longer? You know what I mean). Just food for thought. Thank you again.
Excellent point! I agree that it’s definitely not always cut and dry. Addiction especially is not cut and dry. There are people I know that have an addict as one of the partners in their relationship and they made it work. One partner didn’t want the addiction, the other didn’t want to stop the addiction. So they compromised because they loved each other and everything else was fantastic. They live separately and they don’t spend time together when the addict wants their substance. It’s certainly not ideal for everyone, but after many years, they seem happier than most couples without an addict in the mix.
The biggest issue I’ve run across time and time again with an addict in a relationship is the enabling that seems to allow the addiction to continue no matter how hard they work on it. There is a point that needs to be determined by the non-addict if they’re going to continue the relationship if they or their family feels harm or continuous fear around the addiction.
I believe in trying every possible solution before giving up. Seek counseling. Work with each other. Try new arrangements. Even an intervention might be helpful (I have no data on the effectiveness rate on interventions so I can’t really say it will help or not). No matter what though, in the end, at least when you’ve tried everything, you can look back and say, “I tried everything!” therefore, you can move forward leaving no stone unturned, as you said about the article.
I talked about the addict in an abusive relationship here: https://loveandabuse.com/understanding-the-addict-in-the-manipulative-relationship/
Addiction definitely brings in a new set of variables. I loved a couple addicts in my life: My stepfather and my exwife. I didn’t fear my exwife, I just treated her badly (something I don’t like to admit but it’s true). With my stepfather, he certainly burned a fear into me but even after all the scary nights of yelling and smashing growing up, I still loved him. It’s hard not to love certain addicts because so many are such good people when they’re not using. But as I’m sure you can agree, there’s a point where you need to protect yourself and love from afar.
With my wife, she did not deserve all those years of judgment. Her addiction had nothing to do with me. I just made it my issue. But I was not healed and caused her to suffer.
I appreciate your words about the article. Thank you! I am grateful. I don’t disagree with what you said and I’m glad you posted it here for all to see. It’s a “value add” 😉 I’m grateful.
I agree and disagree with what you said.
I agree many times our behaviour and reactions come from our judgements
What I don’t agree is placing ourselves there to be abused if there is violation of personal boundaries. Example – being criticised, ignored, taken advantage of.
You said you value everyone who come to connect with you because they want to. I have come to realise there is a whole group of people who connect with me whenever they want something from me, just because “I am dependable”, this is exact words from my friends – from asking me to join them for events just because they want free car ride from me after that, to asking to borrow money, to asking about things which they could find out if they exert a bit more effort themselves by searching on the internet.
In fact, I reached a point I am actually quite relieved to be on my own. Point is – relationship doesn’t have to be equal or balanced, but it should not be abusive One person should not be rowing the oars all the time.
I wholeheartedly agree with you! It would become very problematic if, during the time after my divorce that when people came to talk to me if they just used me for stuff instead of actually had a conversation with me. There’s a big difference between people taking advantage of you and people having a conversation with you where they aren’t there to take, but there to offer their ear and share their life.
I’m not sure what part you read where I said one should stay in an abusive relationship whilst their boundaries are getting violated. Quote me – I’d love an opportunity to explore this a bit deeper with you. Perhaps I wrote it in a way that made it sound like that. But I’m with you 100%. If boundaries are being violated, one needs to address that.
If I was an onlooker to my marriage (pretending to be an outside observer), I would have told my wife she doesn’t deserve that behavior and that she was being emotionally abused.
I think we’re on the same page but I might have said something in a way that made you think staying in an abusive situation is acceptable. It’s not. That’s what my podcast Love and Abuse is all about.
Thanks so much for your insightful comment!
Really interesting, though I’m still digesting it. I came here trying to figure something out.
I’ve been married for 14 years. In a relationship with my wife for 19 years of my 47 years. That’s 40% of my life. We had a daughter 21 years ago, before we were in a committed relationship. We had a son 11 years ago when we were married.
I think I’m fairly aware of who I am. I know that there are things about me that I like, and things I don’t like. But for the most part I accept who I am. The same with her, I think I know who she is, there are things I like about her and things I don’t. But I love her so I accept them all.
I’ve greatly upset and hurt her though, which I don’t like, but I am conflicted because I feel judged and hurt myself.
Over the past couple of months I looked at youtube videos of women posing in bikinis or in revealing clothes. No nakedness, pretty much the type of thing what you see on mainstream evening TV shows. I also watched three ASMR channels on Twitch, I was watching some gaming channels and they were at the side and I clicked on them. Again, scantily dressed women. I watched them for a few minutes each, but had no interaction with chat, I’m not even sure if they were live. It was interesting and odd, like stuff like that on TV that you don’t particularly like, but you try to figure out why it’s fascinating. I mean fair enough the women were pretty, but that wasn’t a big thing.
It’s because it’s youtube, and it’s not on in the living room, because I’ve clicked on it and made the choice to watch it that makes it much worse than the stuff which is often on on the TV when I walk in and she’s watching it. Stuff of a similar level of nudity is on the TV programs she watches, it’s part of stuff that comes on, she believes she’s not choosing to watch it in the same way.
I guess there’s some truth in that. The stuff I watched is slightly different to stuff in shows on the TV (although stuff on the TV is often more graphic and sexual) as it was just clips of women, they were not in the context of a reality TV show or something like that. So it was specifically about seeing women scantily clad. And I did go through a couple of phases of looking at actual porn, years ago. That really upset her, and to be fair, looking back it wasn’t great, that was actual porn. So I think it triggered thoughts about that as well.
It’s something we just can’t agree on. She sees any women being watched when scantily clad as objectification and links it to abuse. I can’t really agree with that. I’m talking about grown up content which is not violent or coersive. I think human beings are complex, these kind of things are part of being human. I don’t think we should be ashamed of our bodies or sexuality and it has a place in our media. Art (which media has pretty much replaced right?) reflects what it is to be human. If we were going to remove things from our media, surely it would be negative things like violence, but no, we continue to watch that for all kinds of reasons.
She watches a lot of things about murderers and serial killers which I’m not a fan of. I think there’s a massive industry built around those things and it’s hard not to feel it kind of glorifies it. It’s hard to tell if they’re exciting viewers, educating them, scaring them or giving them psychological puzzles? But I accept that’s what she watches and it fascinates her and I trust those shows are not made for bad reasons.
I do feel judged and to be honest, it does feel unfair. But I love her, and I want to figure this out. So what do I do? She’s currently talking about me moving out because she says I’m a pervert and that I disgust her.
It seems to me that there’s something else going on here if she’s ready to have you move out. Sure, it’s quite possible she feels inadequate or unattractive (or less attractive) because you seek to view other women. When there’s any type of insecurity in any person and they are with someone that looks at other attractive people (seeking them out instead of just noticing on TV or in real life), there will likely be issues.
I was very jealous when I was younger. If my girlfriends back then talked to another guy, I felt threatened as if she wanted to be with someone else. My brain jumped to the worst possible scenario instead of just being okay that girls have guy friends.
But I was deathly afraid of being alone and rejected. I carried those fears with me for years. It’s possible your wife feels the same fears and reacts from that place. OR another possibility is my suspicion is correct and there’s something more going on here, almost as if she wants an excuse to “get rid of you” so to speak.
That’s total speculation of course, but I didn’t read in your message anything like, “We need to talk to a professional” or “let’s get help on this matter” or anything else like that. All I am reading is “You’re a pervert and you disgust me,” which makes me wonder if there’s been a resentment or something like that going on for much longer and your viewing habits are just a component of a larger problem.
The primary thought that comes to mind regarding your situation is that she must not trust you for some reason AND it’s possible she doesn’t feel the kind of intimate connection she needs to feel in order to know she is your number one priority, emotionally and physically.
It’s quite possible that if she already feels neglect and/or emotional disconnect of some sort, or feels like you spend a lot of time with friends and hobbies but not her, or she feels like you don’t care about her or don’t care if she does all the work in the relationship, etc, then you looking at girls on video may not be the main issue.
At the same time, she could have had terrible challenges with men in the past who cheated on her, abused her, or worse. If that’s the case, she may have some stuff to heal, but that means you have to be totally aware of what she feels and what she’s going through, and value her wishes if you want to make the relationship work.
If I were you, I’d have a heart to heart with her. Ask her, “How do you feel when I watch that stuff? What are you thinking in that moment? What do you think will happen if I continue to seek out that kind of material?”
Get to know her real reasons. Maybe she’ll share something with you that enlightens you to the point that you can start to talk about the stuff that comes up and maybe even resolve some communication challenges. After all, there’s a big difference between: She gets upset when I watch other women on video vs. She gets upset because she was with someone who cheated on her constantly (or whatever her reason is).
She may just say, “It makes me feel less attractive,” as if she believes you’re comparing what you have to what you want. If that’s the case, how are you not making her feel attractive today?
I tell my girlfriend how “hot” or “sexy” she is all the time. She doesn’t necessarily believe me, but I guarantee she knows I believe it and she’s glad I convey it to her. Not saying this is the magic pill, but I wanted to give you a few things to think about.
Good luck with this.
I very much appreciated reading this. It was long, but so worth it. I found this article after being accused of being judgemental by my partner after expressing some fears to him about a situation we’ve been dealing with. I understand much better now that what is happening isn’t that I was judging him, but that he feels judged which is a subtle but important distinction. And leads me to wonder if he’s actually judging himself in the ways he thinks I’m judging him. He has Complex PTSD and is very easily triggered, and we are working on building skills in our relationship that will help us be more resilient as a couple. It’s a very difficult undertaking, but we are learning. I find it very emotionally draining in the moments when he’s triggered and accusing me of being a certain way as if I’m attacking him, when I know that’s not the case. I can sometimes say or do everything “right” according to relationship wisdom (I feel statements, ownership over triggers/fears, self regulation, respectfully requesting space to calm down, etc) and all he hears are his abandonment fears which triggers protest behaviour and a cycle that is hard to break. I’m going to do some reflecting on my own judgements here and what boundaries I need to honour for myself. Thank you for this wisdom.
Thanks for sharing this Julie. I completely understand what you’re saying. Sometimes it’s difficult to see past our own stuff, even when the other person has the best intentions. Your partner might have some PTSD for sure, but it’s great that you are willing to look within as well.
One way to help someone that might get triggered easily because of old trauma or emotional baggage is to use a preparation statement. Or what I sometimes call “priming”. Priming is addressing the objection or fear before speaking your mind.
For example, someone who has a fear of abandonment might get easily triggered thinking you are going to leave them. But priming them takes their mind away from the trigger. A priming statement might be something like, “I want to share something with you but I’m afraid you’ll take it the wrong way,” or “I’d like to talk about this but I don’t want to upset you,” or something like that. What it does is it puts the recipient in a more conscientious state where they are less likely to become triggered.
The reason this usually works is because it isn’t a surprise to their nervous system. Some people’s fears are triggered by surprising information, but if you tell them you’re afraid they’ll be upset by something you want to tell them, they’ll overcompensate by expecting the worst. Then when you share what you want to say, it won’t be as bad as they thought.
It’s a neat life hack on someone’s nervous system because it interrupts their usual reaction and replaces it with something more productive. Usually.
Anyway, that’s one possible method of working with and through this. Thanks again for sharing. I wish you much strength and healing through this.
Thanks for the article. It’s definitely thought-provoking. I came across it because I’m a non-smoker dating a heavy smoker and I find myself resentful and definitely judgemental about his choice to smoke when I have allergies to smoke and I absolutely detest the smell of smoke. We’ve argued about it so many times and he’s asked me to just leave the relationship as I believe he doesn’t want to be constantly judged and nagged about his personal choice. It’s my personal choice to keep staying on but I find myself resentful of it. The truth is that I do want him to change but I’ve never really looked at it as my problem for not being able to accept him and his vices. I don’t quite know what to do. Re; personal boundaries, smoking definitely violates mine but I’ve never really thought deeper about it. I find myself feeling too selfish to want to give the relationship and him up as I do want him in my life. But at the same time, I make things very difficult because I do feel angry and resentful about his smoking and how it affects me. The bottom line is that it does affect me. I don’t know how to give myself that absolute. I don’t want to walk away but it’s hard to come to the point of acceptance without feeling resentful and feeling like I have to take it all on me. My biggest problem is that it feels like I’m the one making a big sacrifice. I’d appreciate any thoughts you have.
His smoking is not in alignment with your values and by staying, it’s dishonoring yourself. That’s why it’s got to be total acceptance where you never complain about it again (because you accept it), or if you can’t stand it and don’t want to experience the smoking anymore, it’s up to you to honor yourself and do whatever you need to do for you.
That was my dilemma with my wife eating sweets. I didn’t like it but I had to come to terms that I was either going to accept that as a part of her or reject it. I chose to accept it as a part of her which meant I had to love her, eating and all. Just like if you stay with someone who smokes and you hate smoking, then essentially you either accept everything as a part of him, or you don’t. Smoking is a part of his life, that is his choice and he wants to continue doing it.
By not accepting his smoking, you are not accepting a part of him. If you accept his smoking as a part of him, then you take the whole package. It’s like if someone said, “I have six kids. When you get into a relationship with me, you’re getting me and my six kids.” If you don’t like kids, that’s probably not going to work.
In this circumstance, you are the one with the problem, not him. He doesn’t feel his smoking is a problem but you do, so when you say you feel like you’re taking it all on you, you are because you are choosing to have a problem with it. If you chose not to have a problem with it, there’d be nothing to take on. But because you do, you have to decide what’s more important to you: The relationship or getting away from the smoke.
He’s made his decision. He wants to keep smoking, even if it costs him the relationship. That doesn’t mean he’s bad or mean, it just means he wants to live his life the way he wants without someone telling him what to do.
I realize it sounds awful when I say he is choosing to smoke knowing he could lose you, but there’s no other way to look at it. If my girlfriend had a big problem with something I enjoyed doing, and I knew it bothered her when I did it, the most I could offer would be to not do it in front of her. If she never saw it, I think that would be a fair workaround.
If however she still complained about it and wanted me to stop, even though she never saw me doing it, I’d have to reconsider if this relationship was worth giving up something I enjoy doing. It would be hard because I love her, but at the same time, I would feel like she was trying to control me and I couldn’t do things I wanted to do, making me feel like I was no longer an individual.
With smoking, some people don’t want to be anywhere near it. They don’t want to smell it on clothes or anything. That’s me too. I don’t like it and it gives me a headache. If my girlfriend started smoking and she didn’t want to stop, I would probably have to exit the relationship. That sounds so cold and of course we’d have a long conversation about it first. But if I learned she wasn’t going to stop, I’d have to end things. I can’t accept all of her when she is doing something literally makes me sick.
It’s tough, but consider that if he didn’t like your personality and wanted you to change it, would you? If so, then you may be a lot less happy than you think. Some relationships can survive partner’s vices (I know a couple that lives apart so that he can get drunk without her being around – they get along great), and some can’t because it’s just too intrusive.
It sounds like he’s made his choice. Now it’s up to you. I know it’s hard, but you have to do what is right for you. Sometimes that means accepting something you would never have accepted before in your life, and sometimes it means leaving people you care about behind because there are characteristics of the relationship that are going to occupy your mind like a toxic thorn.
I wish you much strength when you make your decision.
I dont think its judgmental when i advised my partner (back then) to spend his money more carefully.
This is especially since he was already loaning some money from me. Plus, we were about to get married and i felt his spending habits could be more controlled. He bought his favourite sports-ish car even though he just bought a new car barely a year ago. He would also buy things on impulse and end up not using them and often leaned towards premium purchases. It just felt like he wasnt respecting his own hard earned money..
I know the way i said it came out harsh and berating.. but it came from a good place.. i wanted him to be more responsible about his own money.. i wish i could care less so that i could be happy for him that his purchases made him happy.
What it really pointed to was a difference in values, lifestyles and attitudes towards money.
I think you’re right about the values for sure. It’s difficult to see someone spend money when you know that you will be affected by that, especially if they borrowed it from you. In this case, my main focus would be about when he was going to pay you back regardless of what he buys. You may have different values about money, but those values may not reflect on his promise to pay you back in the time frame you agreed upon.
Now it’s different if he promised to pay you back in a period of time but didn’t. Your response to that should be about returning the money he owes you without even having to mention what else he’s spending it on, in my opinion. The only reason for that is because, yes, it can be judgmental to tell someone what you want them to do with their money, even if you know that their spending habits will affect you in the long run. When you focus on the agreement to pay you back and keep what he does with the money out of it, then there can be no argument from him telling you to stop telling him what to do with his money.
We can know why someone ends up with the results they get and we can guide them in a way that leads them to better results, but when it comes down to it, most people need to learn their lesson so it sticks. When we start telling them what to do and how to do it, it almost always builds resentment.
Different values can drive relationships apart. If you stay and continue to tell the other person what they should be doing, the relationship will only get harder to be in. If you don’t like what they’re doing and they won’t change, it might be time to make a different decision. Not saying you have to leave. You can certainly have a conversation like, “You and I have different values about money. You like to spend, I like to save. I have a feeling those values are going to collide and we won’t be able to meet in the middle. Do you think it’s possible? Can we meet in the middle?” You can have that talk and see what happens. But if the other person doesn’t want to change, it’s time to decide if you want to be with someone like that.
That’s a hard choice because you can love everything else about them, but if that’s going to crash into your values, it can crush your happiness. But it’s not fair to either person for one person to be against the other person and continually try to steer them in the right direction. It only ends up worse.
Thanks for sharing this. I wish you much strength and healing through whatever you’re going through.
Thank you for pointing out what i failed to see earlier. I see what you mean by the building resentment & fear of being judged.. in the long run it (along w other differences) created a distance btwn us. Now i understand better.. i will definitely dial down the desire to constantly steer him in what i think is the right direction.
Definitely agree that the calm conversation to see if we can meet in the middle is the key to break out of such a judgmental/resentful cycle !
Relationships can be so complex sometimes! And it’s even harder when we know that what our partner is doing will lead them (and sometimes us) to failure. But I think keeping the focus in the right place makes the most sense to avoid building resentments. Thanks for your reply!
Hi Anna. Feel free to leave a comment.
You mention judging your wife and every woman you’ve you’ve with and you mentioned another man murdering his wife, but what i don’t see is your mention of misogyny. You can rationalize this how you like with your psychoanalysis but really, open your eyes. You have a deep seated invisible hatred of women. You’re welcome.
I prefer female leaders. I love my mom. I respect all the women in my life and trust them more than most men. I did mistreat and disrespect my romantic partners over the years, no doubt. I feel awful about that now.
So yes, my history may certainly give you the impression that I hated women. I do know if I had male partners, I would have treated them the same way because I was highly judgmental, critical, and had a superiority complex. Let alone no one would ever be able to meet my impossible-to-reach standards.
However, maybe you’re right! Maybe I felt that way at one time. I don’t think I did, but I have never been psychoanalyzed for that so I’m open to that possibility. All I know for sure now is who I am today. I am so grateful for my girlfriend and all the women I know.
I appreciate you sharing this here. Thank you!
Thank you so much for all the time you put into this! I understood some of those pieces separately, but you helped put them all together to help me see the full picture! Thank you for your vulnerability, for sharing your personal examples, and for such an in-depth conclusion (I hate when articles give you a quick wrap-up like suddenly it’s all better and you’re dismissed). I am looking forward to processing this more with Holy Spirit and asking Him to highlight and heal these wounds so I can walk in full freedom. Much appreciation and respect for your healing journey. I honor your intentionality to become better at loving yourself and others. It’s a great investment! 😊
Very grateful for your words. Thank you so much! I totally get what you’re saying about articles that wrap it up. “Okay, now that we’ve gone over why it happened, it’s important to understand how to process and heal through it. So go do it! You got this…” Uh, you’re going to leave me hanging?
I love that you are investing in yourself as well. Thank you again for sharing this. I look forward to an update in the future!
Hi Paul, this is a wonderful article as it describes me exactly. My emotions get triggered (when I know they shouldn’t) and then I become judgemental, and with that I become a less than nice person. I’m taking a break from my female partner because I need to sort myself out so that I stop hurting her unfairly. Whilst I’ve read your advice on how to do that, I think I need some help to put this into practice. Are you able to recommend a way forward. Thank you again!
Hey Robert, I’m so glad you are approaching this in a very emotionally intelligent and mature way. I wouldn’t have been so willing to change when I was being critical and judgmental with my wife. It sounds like you’ve already learned quite a bit. I see separation as giving yourself and those you love time to reflect on their life and their behaviors. It gives you both time to reconnect with yourself. And when there’s still love in both your hearts, you’re likely to return to the relationship renewed and behaving in ways that support each other’s happiness (my definition of love).
I have several resources you can check out. My Love and Abuse podcast is a great resource. It caters to emotional abuse victims, but it’s all about hurtful behaviors in relationships. I also highly recommend my article:
That article also mentions the Healed Being program, if you believe you need to go that route. It sounds like you’re on a good path either way. At least it’s a great start! Hope this helps. Thanks again for your comment.