I listened to Les and Leslie Parrott on the radio yesterday, talking about conflict in marriage. They spoke of research that concluded that if couples had four styles of conflict, that there was a 94% chance that their marriages were doomed. These four styles are:

criticism, contempt, stone walling, and defensiveness.

The one point I took away was of how to turn critcism around to a self-expression of personal pain. They said (I am paraphrasing here) that complaining is a better way than to criticize. I don't mean complaining about your spouse because that would be criticism. I mean just complaining, preferably owning the feelings with "I statements". "Woe is me" ALWAYS sounds ten times better (even a hundred times) than, "you are bad". A complainer is at worst a pest and a neurotic, while a critic is hurtful and even abusive and destructive. They used the example of saying, "I feel so frustrated when we're always late" (complaint), versus "you always make us late" (critcism).

There is a way to vent frustration and express personal pain without criticising, without abusing.