Criticism erodes relationships. Being mindful that your words are non-critical is a key to success. If your partner reacts or responds defensively to your words, there is a high likelihood that you are using critical words. However, there is an additional way to minimize your use of critical language.
Pay attention to the tense of your language: past tense versus future tense. If one uses past tense, he or she is more likely to be commenting on what their partner has been doing wrong. Granted, successful couples learn from past issues and conflicts. However, if the couple is processing in the past tense, they are more likely to be criticizing their partner, e.g. “You did this wrong!”
Try using the future tense when processing past conflicts. In this way, you are more likely to be talking about what you want or need from your partner. Past tense focuses on what your partner did wrong—criticism. Future tense focuses on what you would like differently from your partner moving forward. It gives your partner a clearer direction of what will work, e.g., “This is what will work for me.”