You know words can hurt. But THESE words are the worst.
It’s funny how we can be totally polite and helpful with our friends, bosses, coworkers — even complete strangers — but we spew nasty tones of voice and hurtful words at our significant others. We feel so close and so accepted by our partners, that we don’t always mind our manners.
But guess what? Criticism has been shown to be a strong predictor of divorce. So rather than belittling, beating down and criticizing your partner, you need to understand, clearly communicate and appreciate your spouse for both their strengths AND their weaknesses.
You're a team, and this is the person you love the MOST. It’s time to cut out disrespect and contempt, and be more mindful and kind to your teammate.
Here are 6 "DON'T GO THERE” comments you should NEVER say to your significant other:
1. “You're acting like your MOTHER."
We all know this is NEVER a compliment. The problem with this statement is that you’re implying your spouse is predestined to act a certain (undesirable) way.
Rather than making a passive aggressive comment like this, try identifying the behavior that is bothering you without the criticism. We all acquire learned behaviors, and unfortunately we can’t JUST pick up the good ones.
If you absolutely feel it’s necessary to point out that your partner’s behavior is similar to his or her parents, then try empathizing with why your partner behaves like this. This could lead to a productive and intimate conversation about your partner’s past experiences, or bring increased insight and awareness to his or her annoying habits — just remind yourself that you are NOT your partner’s therapist.
If you tackle this issue as a TEAM, your partner will likely feel more understood and be more willing to work towards change.
2. “WHY can't you JUST be more ... [romantic, thoughtful, helpful, etc.]"
When you sign up for marriage, you are saying, “I do” to accepting your spouse AS IS — including their flaws. But the thing is, you can’t change them. You can, however, waste a lot of negative energy forcing your partner to be someone they aren't (and we all know that goes down with a fight!)
These types of frustrated statements come from a place where your needs are not being met. Remind yourself that your partner is not a mind reader, so it comes down to you communicating in a more calm, non-defensive way.
If you feel there has been a major shift in your partner’s behavior, where in the past he or she was more romantic, thoughtful, organized, helpful, etc. then ask yourself what's changed.
Try a softer approach, such as, “I’ve noticed that I’ve been cooking dinner and doing the dishes the past few weeks. I really appreciate when we can share the cooking and clean up responsibilities. Has something changed?”
Or, maybe YOU just have NEW needs. Ask yourself whether it’s realistic to expect your partner to meet these needs before you approach them. Is there anything YOU can take responsibility for? Remember, there are more effective ways to communicate than by making blanket statements that leaves your partner feeling inadequate.
3. “I HATE YOU!”
This may sound obvious, but “I HATE you" is very different than “I hate WHEN you.” The latter is directed at your partner’s behavior or actions, rather than at who they are as a person.
When you attack someone’s character, it’s very demeaning. Respect and positive regard for your partner is at the core of a successful long-term relationship. So rather than screaming, take a deep breath and identify the actions that drive you crazy using an “I" statement.
Here’s an easy, effective 3-step way to address your frustrations to your partner (through EFFECTIVE communication):
Say, "(1) I feel [name your emotions] (2) when you [describe the situation]. (3) I need you to [describe what your partner can do to help you feel better]."
For example, “I feel disappointed that you missed our anniversary dinner because you were too busy at work. I need you to start making our relationship more of a priority.” This type of “I" statement will be much more productive than, “I hate you! You never make time for me and I’m sick of this s@#t!”
4. “I'm not attracted to you anymore.”
OUCH. I don’t care how high your self-esteem is — that one STINGS.
During my wedding ceremony, I personally vowed to make my husband feel attractive every day because I realize how important feeling sexy, beautiful or handsome is to the long-term success and happiness of a relationship. It’s true that passion tends to decrease with time, but as lifelong partners, it’s your JOB to stay emotionally and physically connected to your partner.
Your spouse is the one person in life with whom you should be having an intimate, physical relationship. This is a huge aspect of a marriage because it separates you as lovers from best friends or roommates.
Rejection and shame are extremely damaging to a relationship. You can’t expect perfection. You both need to take responsibility to initiate flirtation, sex, and maintain desire. Wrinkles happen. Weight gain happens. Bad hair cuts happen! You can each agree to take care of your bodies and put in effort to do the things your partner finds attractive.
5. “I remember when you USED to ... [clean, talk to me, be romantic, etc.]"
If you make this statement in a fondly, reminiscent way, then this can be a great way to increase intimacy and even desire in your relationship. However, if you’re lamenting about how your partner has changed as a person and you’re unhappy with his or her current behavior, it can cause a problem.
When you commit to your partner, you are committing to changing with them — the same way your partner needs to change with you. If your partner has changed in a way you don’t like, it’s probably better to consider what else may have changed in life that is affecting your spouse, and explore this directly with them.
Just make sure you approach the conversation in a non-blaming way.
For example, “I’ve been feeling disconnected lately. I realized we haven’t gone on one of those surprise dates you used to like to plan — those made me feel really special. Is there something I can help with to make this happen again?”
Perhaps your partner has been preoccupied with work, or maybe he or she has gotten comfortable in the relationship and doesn’t feel pressure to “court” you. Whatever the reason, the goal is to bring your dissatisfaction to your partner’s attention through a conversation — rather than an argument.
6. “You're such a JERK,” or “You're so STUPID!”
Name-calling is JUST. NOT. COOL. When you’re feeling so flustered and frustrated that you’re about to resort to ten-year-old behavior and call your most loved and cherished person in the entire world a nasty name, hit pause and go take a time out.
Cruel words are destructive to a relationship. If you’re not able to talk calmly, without raising your voice, crying, swearing, or name-calling, you’re just not ready to have the conversation.
What are the takeaways from these 6 things you should never say to your spouse? LESS criticizing, MORE communicating! There’s a reason you married him or her ... right? Let’s create more appreciation, adoration, and admiration.
For the secret ingredients to a happy love life, make sure to download Samantha's FREE ebook,“Love Successfully: 10 secrets you need to know right now!”
This article was originally published at LoveSuccessfully. Reprinted with permission from the author.