I Love You, But...

Effective Communication You'll Love, Just Remove Your "But"

Get rid of the 3-letter word that will wreck your relationship.

You can't understand why your boyfriend claims you don't show him any respect. You're baffled that your wife says you're "impossible" to please. None of what your partner says makes sense to you because—in your mind—you're always loving and supportive.

Before you totally discount what your special someone alleges, think again. Take some time to observe your own words and habits. It could be that a certain 3-letter word is creeping into your comments to and about your partner and this average, ordinary word is contributing to distance and disconnection in your relationship.

This seemingly harmless word is "but".

Unfortunately, it's commonly used by both men and women all of the time in casual and more serious conversations. This word not only stands in the way of having effective communication, but ultimately a long-lasting and happy relationship.

Here are just a few examples...

"I love you, but I wish you were more romantic."
"I respect you, but you do have a tendency to be wishy-washy."
"You are beautiful, but you've put on a few pounds lately."
"I want your input, but here's what I've decided to do ... "

The "but" in each of these statements essentially wipes away the compliment or appreciation that precedes it. "But" is almost always a word of exclusion and negation. Many of us use it to deliver what we really think with an intention to soften the harshness. Despite this attempt, the emphasis is on what we're disappointed about or critical of.

Your partner sees right through this. He or she will mostly hear whatever comes after the "but" and is likely to feel confused, hurt and angry because of it.

Watch Your "Buts"
Try this experiment for two or three days: Listen closely to what you say to and about your partner. When you hear yourself use the word "but" (or even if you just think it), notice three things:

  1. How you're feeling
  2. What you really want to say
  3. How your partner reacts.

If you realize that you include a lot of "buts" in your talk, you're not alone. With any damaging habit, it's necessary to first notice what you're doing.

Say It A New Way
Get curious about what it is you've been really wanting to say to your partner but haven't known how. This could be something you've been hinting and hedging about or maybe it's something you've already said before—but not very tactfully.

Our "buts" can also sneak in when we've made a request or let our opinion be known, but haven't seen any follow through or positive change result. Sometimes, promises or agreements are made but then ignored. Nobody wants to be a nag or a complainer, but...

The point here is not that youre wrong or bad for peppering your talk with "buts." Just remember, "buts" rarely invite follow through or even real listening.

As unfair as it is that you should have to do anything different when it's your partner who is stubbornly clinging to his or her ways, if you want a change, you're probably going to have to be a leader in your relationship. Finding a new way to communicate is one way to do that.

Experiment, in your mind or on paper, with different words and phrases that are authentic and true for you, but will be easier for your partner to hear. It's not necessary—or advisable—for you to pretend or deny how you feel or what it is you want. Focus in on your priorities related to the situation and come up with requests for what you DO want.

Follow these communication guidelines...

  • Make requests that are specific in terms of action and timeliness.
  • Ask for what you want with confidence (no apologizing for your wants and needs).
  • Keep it doable and, if necessary, break it into achievable steps.
  • Don't get side-tracked by secondary issues or questions of "Who's to blame?"
  • Be open to feedback and possible discussion, but know your non-negotiables.
  • Acknowledge the improvements you see.

Discover new and more effective ways to communicate with your spouse or partner that aren't reliant on "buts." In this free video, we tell you what to say (and what not to say) for a healthier, happier relationship.