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7 Toxic Things Couples Say To One Another

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

sliced pepper couple making mean faces

When Your Communication Is Cringy

As a therapist who has spent significant time working with couples, it is common to witness them get into squabbles. The following list includes frequent remarks exchanged between couples in the heat of the moment.

Trust me when I say these types of comments never go over well and would make any therapist cringe, as they often lead to a predictably negative response. Let's explore ways to improve your relationship:

1) When a partner says, "Well if I was you..."

Well, you are not them. You do not have the same thoughts, feelings, or experiences, and you have the gift of hindsight to determine how you might deal with the same situation. This comment is condescending and is often said to sound superior to your partner.

Instead, consider showing compassion for your partner by understanding their perspective, circumstances, lack of information, or stress levels when they experience something.

Try saying something like, "I can understand why you handled it that way. Perhaps you might consider a different perspective next time that may work better for you, such as..."

2) When a partner says, "You always..." or "You never..."

Framing things in absolutes is a sure way of pushing someone away from you. Most likely, the truth is that your partner does not forget or do something 100% of the time, and this type of accusation can make them defensive and less receptive to your concerns.

Try saying something along the lines of: "It sometimes feels like you forget or do... which is important to me. Let's discuss how we can avoid the tension it creates between us?"

3) When a partner says, "Why can't you be more like..."

A statement that compares your partner to someone else, especially with an ex-partner, is a sure way to hurt their feelings and pour gasoline on an emotional fire. We're all unique, and valuing and respecting these differences is essential.

Instead, try saying, "I really admire when people handle a situation in this way... Perhaps going forward, you could try... as it would make me feel..."

4) When a partner says, "You're overreacting."

Can we say invalidating someone's feelings? While it may be one's intention to calm a partner, criticizing their response to a situation is not going to help.

If you believe they are overreacting, let them express their feelings and actively listen to them. After all, most likely, they just want to be understood.

Try saying instead, "I can see that you're really upset. Can you help me understand what's bothering you so much about this?"

5) When a partner says, "If you love me, you would..."

This is flat-out a form of emotional manipulation. Coercion and guilt-tripping are red-flag behavior and should never be expressed in a loving relationship. These types of manipulative tactics will often lead to unhealthy power dynamics. Love is not a bargaining chip.

Instead, try saying, "It would mean a lot to me if you could..."

6. When a partner says, "You're just like your mother/father."

While it might seem tempting to draw parallels between your partner and their parents, especially during conflicts, that is not the time to bring up similar behavior. The result will be that your partner will feel like you are shaming them and attacking their individuality and/or their family.

This often leads to resentment because it is highly unlikely your partner will turn to you and say, "Gosh, I am so glad you brought that up during the heated argument; I can see everything so clearly now and feel completely respected."

Instead, try calmly saying, "I noticed you have a habit of doing this, which causes me to feel... Can we talk about it so we don't have tension around it as I want to feel closer to you?"

7. When a partner says, "I don't care, or Whatever."

When something like this is said in a heated moment, it typically signals indifference or dismissiveness toward your partner's feelings. This often causes a partner to feel unvalued or ignored.

It may be better to say something like, "I'm feeling overwhelmed right now. Can we take a pause and talk about this later?"

Your Words Have Power, Use Them Wisely

While we may have the right to free speech, we are not immune from the consequences of what we say. Our words hold power, and each time we choose a more empathetic response, we strengthen the bond of love and trust. Caring about our interactions creates a more resilient and vibrant relationship.


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