When you’re in a long-term relationship, you know exactly how to make your partner feel loved, appreciated, and special. And, you also know exactly what buttons to push, where to push them, and what will send them over the edge. Even in happy partnerships, disagreements are part of the game, and language plays an important part in your relationship fights. In other words: certain phrases and statements are more likely to send your one-and-only fuming. Rather than infuriating your partner or making them feel less appreciated or heard, it’s vital to bite your tongue and think before you allow these triggering phrases to slip out. Here, a guide from experts on the phrases that produce the most relationship fights between couples:
“You always blame everything on me.”
The tough word here is ‘always’, since it’s 100 percent a lie. When we are frustrated, we tend to think back on past situations where we felt similarly, causing us to tell our partner they ‘never’ or they ‘always’ do something. In reality, no one ‘always’ or ‘never’ does anything since we’re humans, so using those words can cause couples to break down. Instead, it’s important to dive into why you’re feeling that way, since a relationship fight over something small but actually be about a larger issue, says Lisa Sisemore, a professional matchmaker and dating expert with It’s Just Lunch San Francisco. “How couples handle disagreements can result in a heightened emotional argument or a healthy debate that draws them closer together,” she continues. “If emotions are running high, take a step back to get them in check. Listen to one another without interruption and ask for clarification when needed. The goal is to understand your partner’s viewpoints, not simply to ‘win’ the discussion.”
“You behave like your mother/father with the way you spend!”
Yikes, there are two-party fouls here: you’re comparing your partner to their parents (who they may not have a healthy relationship with), and you’re not communicating effectively about your anxieties around money. Relationship fights over finances are common between couples, especially since most of the time, one person is a spender and another is a saver, says Allison Chawla, a licensed clinical psychotherapist. However, for a dynamic to thrive, there needs to be a general understanding of how money is tracked and, most importantly: trust. “Lying about money is a huge issue in relationships. Be transparent. If you’d like to keep an account of your own, so you don’t have to explain every purchase over and over, that is one solution, but do not lie to your partner,” she shares. “Discuss financial decisions together and agree upon financial planning together as well. Not everyone spends nor saves the same.”
“No, you’re wrong.”
When your partner is — in fact — incorrect about something, what’s the harm in this phrase, right? Well, um, wrong. As much as you can, psychotherapist Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., says to avoid point-blank statements that your significant other is wrong. “This kind of phrase leaves no room for even considering if anything your partner is saying about something is valid or valuable,” she explains. “A phrase like this can immediately put your significant other on the defensive because it can feel like a complete dismissal or rejection of his or her thoughts and/or feelings.”
Depending on the delivery, this phrase can always come across as condescending, offensive or arrogant. Instead, Dr. Thomas recommends taking a beat and consciously thinking about your partner’s position based on his or her thoughts and feelings with an open mind. Then, you can genuinely address with your partner what you do and don’t agree with them on the topic and do it in a collaborative way.
“This isn’t enough sex for me” or “You ask for sex too much”.
Intimacy and under-the-sheet action are touchy subjects, particularly since many are raised to be ashamed or secretive about their sex lives. However, Chawla reminds that meeting your partner’s sexual and intimate needs is a huge part of a relationship. But to effectively improve the way you physically connect, phrasing makes a big difference since certain ones like ‘this isn’t enough sex’ or ‘it’s too much sex’ can come across as dismissive and demoralizing. “Communicate well, be open but also be honest. If you begin to feel a shift in your sexual interactions with your spouse, talk about what can happen to spice things up or create a balance that feels satisfying but not draining for either party,” she explains. “As sterile as it sounds, there’s nothing wrong with scheduling sex in the calendar! It beats not having the connection at all and leaving someone to feel undesirable, unsatisfied or even unloved.”
If you’ve ever been asked to relax when you’re feeling angry, upset or anxious, you know it usually has the opposite impact on your psyche. Rather than soothing your symptoms, it irritates them. In fact, relationship guru and founder of NYCDateNite Alexis Wolfe says it’s one of the most frustrating — and least helpful — phrases you can say to someone when they’re in an emotional state. “Telling someone to ‘calm down’ when they are emotional is like pouring salt on a wound. It, without fail, makes that person feel even more fired up about the situation at hand.”
Instead, Wolfe says you should sit back, let them say their piece, show that you are listening, and then you can say: "Ok, I hear you and understand you have strong feelings about XYZ. Maybe we can both take a deep breath, and you can let me know what we can do to fix it.’
“I don’t need you to come home and jump in and take over everything.”
As humans, we are great at saying what we don’t need or what we don’t want, which licensed professional counselor Crystal Bradshaw calls ‘negative need.’ As she explains, it’s often more difficult for people to express what they need rather than complaining. “What most people do is state a negative need in a futile attempt to get their positive need met, but it does not work,” she continues. Instead, your partner probably thinks: ‘Great, you told me what you don’t want or don’t need, that leaves a million other possibilities. Could you narrow it down a bit more?’
Bradshaw says these are better examples of positive needs:
Negative need: "I don’t need you to help me."
Positive need: "I need some alone time to recharge my batteries and destress."
Negative need: "I don’t need you to fix me, just hug me."
Positive need: "I feel disconnected and overwhelmed. I need some quality time with you."
“You’re too sensitive.”
Your partner may be overly sensitive, but remember, they’re still your person. And you choose to spend your life with him or her, so you need to meet them where they are. As Wolfe says, you can’t tell someone that they are too much of themselves. “When I hear those words, all I’m really hearing is ‘you’re crazy’ and ‘I don’t care about your feelings,’” she continues. “Telling your partner that they are overreacting is a common form of gaslighting: manipulating someone to question their own feelings.”
Instead of hurting their feelings more, Wolfe says you can ask, “Is what I said genuinely upsetting to you?’ Then, really take the time to listen to his/her response. You can then say, ‘I hear you and will do my best to approach it differently next time.’