Sticks and stones may break your bones, but let’s be honest: words hurt, too.
Even after years of a marriage where you and your partner are completely open and honest with each other, it’s still wise to set some boundaries and refrain from using words and phrases that may hurt your relationship.
Below are five words and phrases that harm, and you should never say to your partner.
Insulting words of any kind (i.e. fat, stupid, lazy)
This should be an obvious one, but after you’re together for years, it can be a lot easier to get frustrated when your partner does something annoying and resort to name-calling. Unfortunately, not only do insults sting, they do nothing to improve your relationship or the situation at hand.
If you would like to see your partner work out more, calling them “lazy” will not magically put them on a treadmill. Rather than shaming or insulting your spouse, think of ways that you can positively influence their behavior. Going back to the exercise example, maybe it is time you start hitting the gym yourself. With any luck, your spouse will follow along, and you will both enjoy the benefits of this new habit.
Using the word “Whatever” toward your spouse
Has your spouse ever said “whatever” during an argument and made you feel good?
Even if “whatever” is said with good intentions, it is rarely perceived positively. Instead of brushing your spouse off with “whatever,” calmly explain why you are now okay with the situation, or that you would like to talk about the situation later.
Using your child’s behavior as a weapon toward your partner (i.e. “He got that mean attitude from you!”)
If your child is acting up, putting the blame on the other parent will do nothing for the child’s behavior, and it is likely to put a wedge between you and your spouse.
Don’t do it. The child does not care whose traits are whose. Again, to remedy the situation, think of ways that you can positively influence your child’s behavior.
Using any phrases that reject your partner’s presence (i.e. “Leave me alone!”)
When you’re upset with your spouse, it is common to want alone time to think or process your feelings. Rather than trying to communicate this message by giving your partner a command, talk about the reasons why you would like to be alone.
Your spouse is around you to fix the situation at hand, and this effort should be appreciated rather than put down.
Comparing Your Spouse to Other People (i.e. “My Ex Didn’t do that!.... Or “I Wish You Were More Like…”).
You and your spouse are unique individuals, and your relationship is unique from any other relationship that you or anyone else has had. You have grown and learned so much since your previous relationships, and comparing your spouse to your ex is like comparing apples to oranges.
It's good to go by a general rule when speaking to your spouse - think about your intent before you speak.
What are you trying to accomplish with your words?
To further improve your connection
To appreciate your spouse
To protect their well-being
How are your words reflecting your core values, and your feelings? If your words are being used to hurt your relationship, refrain from saying them out loud.
To learn more about healthy communication with your spouse or other kinds of relationship help, we're here to help. Talk to an Imago Relationship Therapist today. Our Couples Workshops can help too!
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This blog post was written by Norene Gonsiewski, LCSW.
Norene has been a Relationship Coach, Counselor, Author and Educator since 1980. She offers the tools to eliminate conflict, create a vision of a passionate marriage, and overcome the obstacles to success. She has helped thousands of couples fix failing relationships and restore the love and passion in their lives.
Norene has co-authored two books, Rock Solid Relationship: Seven Keys to Restore Your Connection and Make Your Love Last with her colleague Tim Higdon, and It’s Your Mind: Own It! A Manual for Every Teen with Nicole Jon Sievers.
Check out her website: https://rocksolidrelationshiphelp.com/