When it comes to arguing with your partner, do you fight fair or dirty? Do you focus on the problem or the person?
We’ve all done it. We’ve been in a heated argument and said things we’ve regretted or will never be able to take back. While we don’t mean them, they can really hurt the very people we love the most, our partners.
Just because you love this person, it doesn’t mean you can treat them poorly or speak to them however you want. It’s a reminder of just how important positive communication is in relationships.
“The key to a successful relationship is a balanced relationship, where both partners contribute relatively equally to that relationship,” said Jerimya Fox, a licensed professional counselor and a doctor of behavioral health at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital. “Balance is about mutual respect and words play a major role in showing mutual respect. In order to have a healthy, balanced relationship, you need good communication skills and to choose your words wisely.”
Words are powerful. They can build up your relationship or tear them down. While most of the time our partner will understand we’re just angry, there are some things you should try to never say.
Dr. Fox shared 7 phrases you should try and avoid saying to your partner:
You’re just like your mother/father
If your partner doesn’t get along with a parent, this can be a stinging comment, because it draws a negative correlation between them and their parents.
Why can’t you be more like …
This says to your partner they aren’t good enough or they need to change to be more like someone else. You aren’t saying this to compliment them; you’re saying it to hurt them.
If you loved me, then you would …
It’s okay to ask for what you want, but this manipulative phrase is used to guilt-trip your partner into doing something as proof of their love and fidelity to you. This is a huge responsibility to put on someone you care about.
You always / You never …
In relationships, there are no absolutes. Words “always” and “never” are rarely true and are usually said out of anger. Instead, focus on the facts.
You need to calm down
Telling your partner to calm down when they are trying to express themselves can be dismissive. It may make your partner feel you don’t respect their feelings.
I don’t care / Whatever
Showing that you don’t care or are indifferent to your partner’s feelings can leave them feeling abandoned and worthless. Being in a relationship means you care about your partner—no matter what.
You’re crazy / idiot / stupid or (fill in the blank)
Character shaming like this is a cheap shot and can also be very triggering for most people because you’re targeting their mental and intellectual states. When you shame them, you’re making them feel worthless, like they are a horrible person.
Tips to better communicate with your partner when you are upset
We must remember that words like NEVER, ALWAYS, CRAZY and STUPID can weigh heavily on your relationship. While apologies can be made, wounds may run deep and may never be forgotten.
“If you’re experiencing regret over some of the things you’ve said to your partner, know that your relationship is always repairable,” Dr. Fox said. He shared the following tips to help improve communication and your relationship with your partner.
1. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Explore the words you use from an empathetic perspective—put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Ask yourself how’d you feel if your partner used those words to describe you.
2. Focus on your partner’s positives. Words can influence the way you feel and act about your partner. Not only does it influence it, but it also affects how you treat them and how they treat you. If you think “my idiot partner” all the time, you’ll start to believe it. Write down all the positives about our partner, refer back to them often and lean toward the positive thought process.
3. Think before you speak. Stop. The next time you are irked or ramping up for a verbal attack, take a moment to just breathe. Force your body and mind to relax and focus on the behavior and not the person. When you’re ready to talk, let your partner know how you think and feel without criticizing them as a person.
4. Recognize the errors in your words. Sometimes you may use words that aren’t perfect or ideal, but don’t make them a habit. Remember—just like your partner—you aren’t perfect. Recognize when you’ve said words in error, apologize and work on not saying them again.
5. Seek counseling. If communication conflict continues, then individual counseling and relationship/couples counseling may be helpful. “Individual counseling can help you explore your word choices and really focus on taking in that empathetic perspective,” Dr. Fox said. “When we put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we can relate to how they would feel.”
Would you like to speak with a licensed behavioral health specialist?
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