All relationships have their ups and downs. What is important to remember, is to be empathic to one another, so that you can communicate and solve problems. Otherwise, you create injuries that may last for the duration of your relationship. The old adage, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you,” is absolutely not true, for the sting of words can fester for a lifetime.
Here are things that you should never say to your spouse:
1. Never threaten divorce.
Never tell your partner you’re leaving, unless you really mean it. The fear of abandonment is deep-rooted in each of us, and can be traced back to early childhood, when mom and dad were, for whatever reason, absent. When you tell your spouse, lover or partner, that you are leaving, you threaten him at his very core. His inner dialogue confronts the idea, possibly for the first time, that you could actually live without him. This realization tears at the very fabric of your marriage vows and the idea that your commitment to one another, no matter what, is constant and forever. The threat of divorce can seed those first roots of distrust and rejection, sowing the loss of intimacy.
2. Never use the phrase “don’t start.”
It is a common way to shut down mutuality and, more importantly, it is condescending. It shares the limelight with other phrases such as, “cool it,” or “keep calm.” Phrases such as these dominate and demean your partner. A better way to address escalating discussions is to simply ask, “What can I do to make things better?” This recognizes your mate as a grownup, both valued and validated.
3. Never say “You’re just like your mother…” or father, sister, or brother.
This is like name-calling. It objectifies your partner and makes him feel helpless. An accusation is impossible to confront without being defensive. Objectifying your partner bruises his sense of self and prohibits any possible empathy or resolution.
4. Never say “You always….” or “You never…”
Criticism has been identified by researchers as one of the four communication habits that predict divorce. Instead of discussing all of your partner’s shortcomings, again, be constructive. Simply tell him/her how you feel and what you would like him/her to do differently. Instead of saying, “You never do anything around here,” say, “I am feeling overwhelmed and not considered. Could you please be in charge of doing the dishes every night after dinner?”
4. Never say “I don’t respect you anymore.”
This is a real conversation stopper and it is so hurtful to one’s inner core that it leaves your mate powerless. Deflating one’s persona can only lead to withdrawal. It is right up there with betraying a confidence shared in a moment of intimacy or weakness, and is translated to the other as betrayal.
5. Never say, “Do it because I said so.”
This phrase trivializes your spouse and reduces him to a juvenile status. Phrases such as this that make your loved one feel inferior are toxic to your relationship, as they close down any possibility of real problem-solving, which by its very definition must be mutual.
6. Never say “Nothing.”
The “silent treatment,” or in couples-therapist-speak “stonewalling,” is very dangerous to a relationship. It creates disconnection and frustration. Instead, tell your partner you need a short amount of time to “cool off,” and then intentionally go back to the conversation later.
8. Never say “It’s your fault.”
Assigning blame is useless and nonconstructive. It just leads to further disconnection and anger. Instead, always also consixer your contribution to the problem. Also, directly ask of your partner for what you would like him/her to do differently instead of assigning blame. Instead of saying, “Well, we wouldn’t be late if you didn’t take so long to do your hair,” say, “Could you start doing your hair earlier? I will help out with the baby to make that possible.”
9. Never say “This is why my mother doesn’t like you,” or something like that.
Instead, show solidarity to your spouse when it comes to other people’s criticism. If you have you own issue with your spouse’s behavior, take it up with him/her by explaining your feelings and making a direct request. There is no need to “gang up” on him/her in order to make your point.
In the end, language that bruises the tender part of your feelings from the person you love the most, can create an atmosphere of hopelessness, and loss of resolution. When partners see no potential for change in the future of their relationship, and when communication is shut down by phrases such as these, it can easily be the beginning of the end.