What to do when your partner criticises your looks

Do you have a partner who criticises your looks?

Sadly, I hear a LOT from women who want to know how to deal with a partner who criticises their looks.

So, in this post, I’m sharing three strategies and perspectives to help if you have a critical partner.

Listen or read below:

Dealing with a body critical partner

If your partner criticises your looks, it’s a horrible situation to be in.

I’m not talking about the odd playful comment, but constant comments and criticisms that leave your body image and self-esteem on the floor.

I know how it feels, because I’ve been there, having spent four and a half years with a partner who criticised my looks. 

I constantly felt I had to work on my appearance to live up to his standards. Nothing was good enough.  I had a tubby tummy, hairs on my chin, and I wore the wrong clothes.  The list was endless.

Thinking about it now still takes me to a dark place.  A place where I felt the problem was me and my body.  I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t worthy enough to be with this man.

If you are in this situation, I empathise.  But I want you to know that you are not the problem, and you don’t have to put up with a critical partner. 

So, if your partner criticises your looks, I’ve got three strategies and perspectives that will help.

Know that you are not the problem

The moment I figured out the real reason my partner was criticising my looks, it was a light bulb moment.

Because I was so busy blaming myself for not being attractive, or sexy enough, I missed what was going on.

The problem wasn’t with me, it was him.

I realised that when a partner criticises your looks, it’s often a way for them to feel better about themselves.

My partner and I confided in each other the things we weren’t confident about. For me, it was my looks, having been bullied about my appearance from any early age (you can read my full story here).

It never occurred to me that my partner would use what I’d shared against me.

By picking on something that he knew would make me feel small, unattractive, and insignificant, he was able to feel better about himself.

If your partner criticises your looks, ask what is going on for them. Is it possible that they are trying to feel better about themselves by putting you down?

Or perhaps they are worried that you will leave them and use the criticism to keep you where you are? If you believe that nobody else will want you, you’re more likely to stay with them.

Take a stand

As soon as I realised what was behind the criticism, I called my partner out on it. I told him what I thought was behind his behaviour, and that I wasn’t prepared to put up with it anymore.

At first, he didn’t concede he was criticising me to feel better about himself. However, a few days later, following a period of reflection, he realised this was the case.

I don’t think he was consciously aware of what he was doing, but on a sub-conscious level, his mind was trying to protect him – doing what it could to improve his self-esteem.

Just pointing the behaviour out to your partner might be enough to put an end to it. Or at least it might open the door to a conversation about what is going on for them, and how you can support them.

If you want to put a stop to the criticism, you need to be firm about what you’d like to happen, and the consequences if it doesn’t.

For example, you might say, “I’m no longer prepared to listen to derogatory remarks about my appearance. If these persist I will (break-up with you/move out, etc.)”**

Re-examine your relationship

A loving relationship is based on love, respect, and acceptance. When your partner constantly puts you down, they are not being loving, respectful or accepting.

Even though I took a stand against my partner’s critical behaviour, I didn’t feel he fully accepted or loved me. I realised that I couldn’t trust him with my vulnerabilities, so I ended the relationship.

So, in examining your relationship, ask yourself if this relationship is what you really want. Does it make you feel safe and loved?

If your partner can address their critical behaviour, that’s great. If they can’t, or you feel too much damage has been done, it’s time to move on to someone who will treat you in the way you deserve to be treated – with love, respect, and acceptance.

And that’s exactly what I did. Today I’ve been married for nearly 15 years to a wonderful man who accepts me, warts and all!

So that’s it, three strategies to help you when your partner criticises your looks.

While it’s not possible to control how your partner behaves, you can control your own behaviour. So, decide what you will and won’t tolerate in your relationship, and take action.

**Please note that if you are subjected to put downs and criticisms that make you fear for your physical or emotional safety, please tell someone. Make sure you get the help you need. It is never acceptable to be subjected to emotional or physical abuse.

If you’re struggling with your body image and it’s affecting your relationship, career, or social life, I can help. On my coaching programme, The Body Confidence Journey, we look at all the things that could be sabotaging your relationship with your body, (including your relationship with your partner) and what you can do about them.

If you want to know if the programme is a good fit for you, simply answer a few questions to help me understand what you’re looking to achieve, and I’ll come to you with details of how I can help.

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