As long as the planet Earth has had human beings on it, relationships have been complicated. No relationship is easy. Fights can happen, arguments can arise, and in the heat of the moment, we all can sometimes say things that we don’t mean to. While our mouths often run off without our brains, it’s important to make sure that nothing we say during an argument can lead to deeply hurt feelings, or a loss of trust – or to making the argument worse! So, even when in the middle of an argument, there are definitely things that shouldn’t be said. So as not to start any additional arguments, these things are not ranked, but listed in alphabetical order. Here’s hoping this list provides you with the tools you need to ensure your relationship is a long, healthy and happy one.
11. “Calm down.”
There’s nothing that can rile a person up more than hearing someone tell them to calm down when they’re not even close to overreacting. If they were throwing objects or screaming, this might be an appropriate phrase. However, if your partner is legitimately upset and expressing their emotions, albeit passionately, telling them to “calm down” is only going to have the opposite effect – while minimizing how they feel. It’s best to let the other person say what they need to say and express how they feel.
10. “Everyone knows you shouldn’t do that.”
“Global criticisms” are things that relationship therapist Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC recommends avoiding. Statements like, “You’re acting just like your father (mother, sister, brother, etc.),” or “I can’t believe you would do that… everyone knows that’s not how you wash the dishes.” See how global and all-encompassing they sound? Since comments like these demonize your partner as a whole person, and not just the thing they did wrong, they can lead to arguments and hurt feelings. And that’s not OK.
9. “I don’t have the time.”
Nothing hurts more than being dismissed. So pay attention to any words, like “I don’t have the time,” that may sound like you’re trying to brush your partner off. “This comes across as not caring about your partner’s needs, and may make them feel they aren’t important,” says therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. If you truly don’t have time to chat, look at your calendars together and figure out the best time to sit down and chat. Let them know you’ll hear them out then, and everything should be OK.
8. “I never loved you.”
This is another one that’ll echo in your partner’s head forever. “This one sweeping statement diminishes an entire relationship filled with love and good memories,” certified counselor Jonathan Bennett says. “Just because you’re in a present rough patch in your relationship, don’t let your words negate a happy past.”
7. “It’s fine.”
Only say “it’s fine”, if it really is fine, and then make sure to follow up with an assurance that yes, it is actually fine. If it – whatever it is – isn’t actually fine, then your partner needs to know. While it may work to smooth over a bump in the road, the underlying problem in the foundation will still be there. The only way for things to be fine is if they’re worked on by both partners, not if one partner is running away from the argument.
6. “Maybe we should break up.”
Threatening to walk out and leave the relationship during an argument is both manipulative and the cause of mistrust and hurt feelings. The only thing that pulling this particular card will do is make the other person feel like they have to walk on eggshells during a disagreement to avoid being broken up with. Out of all the things never to say during an argument or in the heat of the moment, this is the big one.
5. “Shut up.”
This one doesn’t really seem like a big deal. I mean, we all said it in kindergarten, right? But do try to keep it out of your relationship, if you can. “Not only is this rude, this discounts what your partner is trying to express,” says Hershenson. “If your partner is saying something offensive, be direct about what is offending you without being negative.”
4. “Who are you texting?”
While it may be tempting to ask your partner who they’re texting/emailing/calling — especially if you’ve had trust issues in the past — this isn’t the best way to express your concerns. Not only that, but psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells me it’s important to not jump to conclusions. If you’re worried about who your partner is talking to, bring it up with them directly. Asking them who they’re texting will only put them on the defensive. And that’s not helpful.
3. “You let me down.”
Even if your partner did disappoint you, it’s best to explain exactly how and why. Rather than pulling the disappointment card and making the other person feel guilty, try explaining the expectations that you had and what can be done in the future to help you and your partner achieve the needed goal. Trying to make the other person feel guilty isn’t going to solve the problem; it’ll just make it worse.
2. “You’re overreacting.”
This is the easiest way to invalidate someone’s emotions. Suggesting that your partner is overreacting is the easiest way to lead to hurt feelings. Besides, in the middle of an argument, emotions are going to be running high. Acknowledging how the other person feels is the best way to deal with those emotions. Suggesting that they’re over-the-top or unnecessary is only going to make the other person even more upset.
1. “You’ve let yourself go.”
While you might have good intentions when pointing out your partner’s physical changes, keep in mind these statements are almost always hurtful. As Rappaport tells me, your partner may be dealing with an underlying issue that’s led to their changes. So, if you truly want to help (and not just make a rude comment) address that issue, instead of how they look.