3 Seemingly Innocent Words That Drive Happy Couples Apart

They're simple and common, but when used in specific ways, they can do enormous harm to a person's ability to trust.

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There are three small, powerful words in the English language that can derail any relationship. Be sure you know these words. Otherwise, they can sneak in and contaminate even the most potent love. 

Ready to practice removing these needlessly provocative three-letter words? If so, once you're finished reading, make a list of emotionally sensitive issues and then try discussing them, one by one, using your freshly cleaned-up speech (minus the pesky little three-letter words listed below).


Learning how to communicate collaboratively by being mindful of your word choice enables folks to turn potentially sensitive conversations into delightfully productive, intimate talks.

RELATED: 30 Unsexy Communication Habits That Make A Relationship Work


Here are three small but powerful words to eliminate from your relationship vocabulary

1. But

The word "but" at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence deletes whatever came before. It works like an eraser, a backspace delete key, or a subtraction sign. Whatever came before gets erased, deleted and taken away. "But" is what people say when they are defensive. "I'd be glad to try, but …"

The "but" deleted the information that came before it. We enjoy talking to people who listen to learn and add to what they say. "But" substitutes your own thoughts for others. Therefore, train yourself to replace but with and or and, at the same time.

RELATED: 10 Little Communication Tricks That'll Lead To A Much Deeper Love

2. Not

The word "not," even when it's hidden in contraction form (isn't, won't, haven't, etc), is a downer. The more "nots" you use, the more negative you sound. Notice the different feeling created by "I'm not going with you" versus "I'm staying home today."


Which would you prefer to hear? Flip the sentence so that instead of saying what isn't you are saying what is. Flip "doesn't like to" to would "likes to." Fortunately, with "nots" you get a second chance. If you hear yourself having said a "not," especially in a statement of preferences like a don’t like or don’t want, just add the positive. 

RELATED: 8 Communication Skills That All Happily Married Couples Know

3. You

"You" as the first word in a sentence is never a good idea. Any and all comments to a spouse or partner saying what I think you think, feel, or could do will sound bossy or invasive. Therapists have a name for sentences that begin with the word "you," or that begin with "I think that you ..."  

They call these space invaders "you" statements. I also refer to "you" statements as "crossovers." In these sentences, the speaker crosses the boundary between self and other.


Invading someone else's territory is provocative and it feels threatening. That's why "you" statements create negative energy and push people away. Instead, use I statements, which are sentences that start with the word "I." Sharing insights by starting sentences with "I" enhances feelings of closeness and intimacy between people.

RELATED: 3 'Love Language' Communication Skills That Will Make Your Relationship Last Forever

Harvard-educated psychologist and marriage counselor Susan Heitler, Ph.D. teaches couples skills for relationship success. Her book "The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage" teaches the how-tos of having healthy partnerships in full detail.


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