10 Phrases To Avoid Saying If You Want A Thriving Relationship
Love & Relationships

10 Phrases To Avoid Saying If You Want A Thriving Relationship

I’ll never forget a quote I heard one time from motivational speaker, Tony Gaskins. He said, “Communication in a relationship is like oxygen. You need it in order for the relationship to survive.” I’d even take it a step further and add that “effective communication” is needed for a relationship to survive and thrive. You see, it’s important that we communicate our needs, our values, and our boundaries in our relationships. However, if we are not conscious of how we communicate with our partners, we can unintentionally hurt them simply by not knowing any better.

Phrases You Should Never Say To Your Partner

Oftentimes a lack of effective healthy communication skills comes from what was modeled to us as children. Was the environment you grew up in very volatile and hostile? Were your caregivers able to communicate in healthy ways or was there constant yelling, screaming/name-calling to get certain points across? How did your caregivers respond to your needs? Was communication very passive in your household or very aggressive? Did you watch your caregivers communicate with each other in ways that were effective or did they ignore each other?

These are all important questions to reflect on because whatever we see and feel in childhood is more than likely to be replicated into adulthood because our nervous system has been trained to connect in this way. Even if communication is dysfunctional, oftentimes it’s difficult to “do better” when it’s the only template we can operate from because it’s the only thing that we know.

As human beings, we all want to be seen and heard in our relationships but we may have difficulty communicating how we feel if we are using violent phrases to elicit a caring response from our partners. At the moment, we may think our partner will finally be able to understand us, but it actually does the opposite of what we want because it pushes our partner away, creating more tension and feelings of resentment in the relationship.

10 Phrases That Can Ruin Your Relationship

The following is a list of ten phrases that can ruin your relationship. If you want a thriving relationship with your partner, avoid saying these things:

1.“You always…”/“You never…”

When we speak to our partners in absolutes we are usually extremely frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed by what is happening in the relationship. When we are overwhelmed in this way, we tend to put emphasis on what our partner is/isn't doing, which focuses more on the behavior rather than the collaboration to find the solution. When we use absolutes such as “you always” or “you never,” we are speaking in extremes. In these moments, it is important that we ground ourselves with the facts. Is it true that your partner is always ignoring you or do you often feel unheard in the relationship? Is it true that your partner never listens to you? Does feeling heard by your partner help you feel more connected and considered in the relationship?

These are all requests for connection, we just have to refrain from using absolutes to get our point across. Using absolutes may point towards parts of you that may be resentful. It does not plant the seeds for resolution and effective communication in the relationship, it just plants seeds of hurt, pain, and defensiveness.

Moving forward, try to focus on what is working for you in the relationship, and what you do like/love about your partner. Start showing gratitude for the little things that you may sometimes overlook and outwardly praise your partner to show appreciation and reaffirm the behavior.

2. “Get over it.”

Get Over It Hamptons GIF by discovery+Giphy

When your partner expresses a concern and you respond with, “Oh well, get over it,” it’s extremely dismissive and very harmful to the health of the relationship. Think about it: Have you ever been hurt by someone you confided in and they told you that you shouldn’t be feeling the way you feel? I’m sure this has happened to so many of us and it is one of the most hurtful and invalidating responses to our emotional experiences.

When your partner is expressing something that is hurting them, it’s important that you do not dismiss their feelings even if you disagree with them. We must learn to put our ego to the side when this happens. If we do not put our ego to the side and create a safe space for our partner to share with us, we push ourselves further and further away from creating emotional intimacy with our partners.

3. “You’re just like my _____.”

No one likes to be compared to someone else especially someone you’re most likely not too fond of. When you say things such as “You’re just like my last boyfriend” or “You’re just like my dad,” you are passing a moralistic judgment on your partner based on your past experiences rather than seeing them for who they are. Yes, our partners may have certain characteristics that remind us of a familiar relationship dynamic but that does not mean that they are “just like” that person. Your partner is a human being with their own authentic expression. When you compare them to someone you have a conflicted relationship with, you are rejecting your partner by shaming them. This in turn will create more resentment in the relationship, creating more of a wedge between the both of you.

4. “Oh no, here we go again.”/”What did I do this time?”

GIF by VH1Giphy

This was actually one that I had to work on in my relationship and my therapist actually called me out on it in a couples therapy session. (The therapist calling out the therapist, I love it LOL.) Saying things like, “Oh no, here we go again" or “What did I do wrong this time around?" to your partner when they are expressing a concern to you is highly dismissive and invalidating. What you are doing is showing that your frustration with your partner's concerns triumphs over their feelings. This may not be your intention but this type of response may cause your partner to shut down and avoid the conversation altogether, which does nothing to solve the issue at hand, it just adds more fuel to the fire.

5. “You’re so stupid.”

John Gottman, couples therapist and CEO and founder of the Gottman Institute, researched and studied what he called The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in relationships. Each horseman describes the four communication styles that destroy relationships, also known as relationship killers. In his studies, Gottman noticed that couples who handled their conflict conversation with contempt ended up divorcing. He concluded that contempt was the biggest destroyer and predictor of divorce and separation out of the Four Horsemen.

Contempt is when we talk down to our partners by being mean to them, insulting them, calling them names, etc. Attacking someone's sense of who they are is unloving, yet so many of us do it not because we do not love our partners, but because we were spoken to in those same ways. It becomes a cycle where we belittle our partners in the same way because we have not learned the tools to regulate our emotions.

Phrases like “You’re so stupid,” or ”You're an idiot” are harmful to the connection; if it happens for long enough, it also erodes safety in the relationship.

6. “I’m sorry, but…”

sorry not sorry GIFGiphy

I don't know who needs to hear this but, “I’m sorry, but...” negates the “I’m sorry.” When you apologize, the word 'but' then counters the apology. Especially when it is usually followed by criticism or an excuse because you are most likely in a state of defense. In couples counseling, I always tell my couples to hold themselves accountable with compassion and understanding. Accountability does not mean punishment, it is simply a way to take into account what was done and acknowledge the harm that was caused by it.

When you can show compassion for the times that you may unintentionally hurt someone because you were hurting, it comes naturally to show kindness to others.

7. “I don’t care.”

This one is pretty self-explanatory. When we say things like "I don’t care," we are dismissing our partner's feelings. When we communicate this way, we are giving off the impression that our partner's feelings do not matter, which can trigger feelings of abandonment/rejection. This can create a barrier to connection because not only does your partner get the message that their feelings don’t matter but they also receive the message that they don’t matter.

Just like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we are social beings. We need to be heard, seen, and deeply felt in order to survive. If we think we do not matter in our relationships, it destroys our sense of belonging.

8. “Well, at least I’ve never…”

season 4 netflix GIF by Gilmore Girls Giphy

When we say, “Well, at least I’ve never...,” we are deflecting in order to avoid having to take accountability. According to MindBodyGreen, “Deflection is a defense mechanism that involves redirecting focus, blame, or criticism from oneself onto another person, in an attempt to preserve one's self-image.”

I would also like to add that often this is done to relieve our own anxiety around how we are perceived. However, it is not healthy to deflect because if we are constantly looking for something or someone outside of ourselves to “blame,” we are not taking accountability for our choices and how they impact our relationships. This behavior can drive our partner away because at its core it’s manipulation.

9. “You need to relax.”

“You need to relax” is another way of telling your partner they shouldn't feel what they are feeling. Granted, how we respond to certain situations may not always match the situation. For example, if your partner tells you 'no' and you burst into anger and rage, being told to relax might be warranted in a way that isn't in most other cases. (Keep in mind that we tend to view situations through the lens of our unhealed wounds. Depending on what is triggering us at the moment will determine the lens we see it through which will then influence our reaction to the trigger.)

Nevertheless, telling your partner “you need to relax” is not going to automatically make them relax. It actually does the opposite by making them even more upset because they feel invalidated, dismissed, and unheard. Remember, it's important to respect how your partner feels even if you don’t agree.

10. "I told you so."

Im Right Told You So GIF by CBCGiphy

When you say, “I told you so” to your partner, you are adding insult to injury. It’s like having an open wound and picking at it to make it worse. Your partner probably already knows they made a mistake. It is unloving to make them feel even worse by reiterating you were “right.” Instead of focusing on how you were “right,” show compassion for how your partner feels and use the situation as a learning lesson to move forward in a way that feels empowering to the relationship.

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