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When we are among loved ones, it is surprisingly easy to say whatever comes to mind. And it often seems like it’s a good thing – we are so comfortable with these people that we freely share any of our thoughts. However, sometimes our words do not just hurt others, but destroy relationships.
Couples often fail to communicate, even if they really want to, because they are awkward in formulating their thoughts. The first thinks he said one thing, and the second hears something completely different. This is where misunderstandings begin.
Experts have identified some of the most dangerous statements to avoid if you want to save a relationship.
What phrases are harmful to relationships
1. “This is nonsense” or “Everything will pass”
Such remarks are often spoken with good intentions. For example, to explain to a partner that the situation is not as catastrophic as it seems. However, he may think that you are ignoring and belittling his feelings. This is especially true for phrases like “All this is nonsense”, “Just forget it” or “Forget about it”. They make us feel stupid and regret that we even decided to share our experiences.
Family therapist Amanda Baquero advises supporting a partner in a different way. For example, something like this: “This seems to be a difficult situation. I understand why this upsets you. We’ll get through this together.”
2. “You are a copy of your father”
Or mother, sister, brother, any other person. In any case, this phrase serves to influence the weaknesses of the partner. Even if the comment itself is true, such an attack is still unfair and inappropriate. By doing this, we “reduce” a person to one negative character trait.
This is irresponsible and punishes the partner for the family features that he secretly shared. In addition, such a remark can become a trigger, because it reminds a person of traits that he himself does not like in relatives. It does not lead to any changes, but only hurts.
Instead of comparing your partner to members of his family, you should explain to him that certain behavior is unpleasant for you, and ask him not to behave in such a way.
3. “You always…” or “You never…”
These all-or-nothing lines often come up in moments of despair, but rarely truly describe the other person. Moreover, such criticism automatically puts the partner into protection mode.
In all the years that I have worked with families, I have not yet met a partner who does not care, who does not listen to the other side, or always, 100% of the time, does or does not do something. Such an elevation to the absolute leads only to one thing – a loved one begins to perceive with hostility everything that sounds after this phrase. People shut down when they hear unfounded accusations.
If you’re trying to start a productive conversation with this line, try a different approach. Explain what behavior of your partner you do not like, and share your feelings. Instead of saying “You’re always on your phone!”, talk about how you feel like he or she is ignoring you when you check Instagram* every night before bed.
A careful choice of words and phrases will help not to poke a finger at the mistakes of a loved one, but will make him listen to what you say.
4. “You are doing wrong. Why can’t you do everything the way I want?”
It’s easy to get angry when someone else does something “wrong” or not the way you want. It can be a small matter, like loading a dishwasher, or a serious matter, like parenting practices.
Family therapist Amanda Baquero notes that advice in this formulation humiliates a partner and switches him into defensive mode. It is better to phrase the comment in a different way: “You don’t seem to be doing very well. I have an idea that might help. If you want, I’ll share.” This will make it feel like you’re working on a task together rather than arguing over which way is better.
5. “I’ve had enough”
This phrase, as well as lines such as “I want a divorce” or “I hate you”, are harmful, even if you say them lightly. Being angry at each other is completely normal. But arguing and saying harsh things is not a healthy way to deal with a situation.
The moment when a partner reaches the peak of stress is the worst time to talk about your feelings. Better to calm down and then peacefully discuss what happened.
Becky Whetstone admits that she even specially trains her clients so that they understand that words spoken in a tense atmosphere are exaggerations. They don’t express real feelings. If the partner said what he really feels, the remark would most likely be: “Now I’m so angry with you that I have the feeling that it’s time to end the relationship, although I know that this is not so.”
6. “You overreact”
When a loved one is upset and we say they are “too vulnerable” or “emotional,” we downplay their feelings. Family therapist Abigail Makepeace reminds us that it is unfair to decide for another how he should feel. Moreover, it does nothing to resolve the conflict.
Even if you don’t fully understand or agree with your partner’s point of view, don’t judge their reactions. A better phrase to use would be, “I can see how it hurts you.” She will make it clear to the person that he is heard and his emotions are respected.
Why silence is just as damaging to relationships
People who like to “play silent” after quarrels sabotage all attempts to conduct a constructive dialogue in this way. Usually they close, refuse to talk, leave the room. As a result, the partner feels abandoned and rejected at the moment when he most needs emotional connection and support.
Psychotherapist Brittany Bouffard says that not wanting to connect during or after a conflict is a ticking time bomb. Each of the partners does not understand why he offended the other and how the situation can be corrected. This behavior is especially characteristic of people with an avoidant type of attachment. They feel uncomfortable in too close relationships and often look for ways to distance themselves.
If you recognize yourself in this description, experts advise telling your partner that you need a few minutes to calm down, and then return and discuss everything frankly. Perhaps you have several conditions – for example, that you are not interrupted, or that the conversation is based on solving the problem, and not arguing about who is right. In any case, do not be afraid to discuss what has accumulated – this will only strengthen the union.