Heartbreak

Why Using This One Little Word Is Slowly Killing Your Relationship

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couples communicating

You can't understand why your boyfriend or husband claims you don't show him any respect. You're baffled that your wife or girlfriend 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. As much as you try to figure out how to use more effective communication skills in order to communicate better with the person you love, nothing works, because you don't really know where the heart of the problem lies.

How you can save your marriage or fix what seems to be a broken relationship if you don't even know what you're doing wrong?

Before you totally discount what your special someone alleges, take some time to observe your common words and habits and think about the way you've been communicating.

It could be that a certain three-letter word is creeping into your comments to and about your partner, and this average word is contributing to the increasing distance and disconnection in your relationship.

RELATED: If You Notice These 5 Habits In Your Relationship, Your Communication Skills Need Serious Work

The alarmingly harmful three-letter word to leave out of your conversations

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 effective communication between you and your partner but also, ultimately, your capacity to have a long-lasting, healthy and happy relationship.

Here are just a few examples of the way "but" can creep into the conversation and destroy your best intentions:

  • "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.

RELATED: 8 Communication Skills That All Happily Married Couples Know

Why we use the word 'but'

Many of us use it to deliver what we really think with the 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.

This is why trying to communicate better has, up until this point, failed.

Luckily, there is hope. You just have to 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 using the word "but" — or even just thinking about it — pay attention to these three things:

  • How you're feeling
  • What you really want to say
  • How your partner reacts once you've said it

If you notice that you have a habit of including a lot of "buts" in your speech, you're not alone.

With any damaging habit, it's necessary to first notice what you're doing. That is the simple first act toward saving your marriage or solving your relationship problems.

RELATED: The 4-Part Exercise That's Key To Effective, Zero-Arguing Communication

A new and better way to say 'but'

Next, learn how to say it in a new way.

Get curious about what it is you've been really wanting to say to your partner but haven't known how to express yourself effectively. This could be something you've been hinting at and hedging around, or maybe it's something you've already said, but not tactfully.

Your "buts" may also sneak in when you made a request or share your opinion, then don't see much follow through or positive change from your partner as a result.

Sometimes, promises or agreements are made but then ignored. Nobody wants to be a nag or a complainer, but ...

The point here isn't that you're doing anything wrong or bad by peppering your talk with "buts."

It's that "buts" rarely invite follow-through or engaged, active listening from your partner. The "buts," in essence, shut down your best efforts at effective communication.

RELATED: 10 Oddly Effective Psychological Tricks To Help You Win Any Argument (Fairly)

But wait ... there's more

As unfair as it may seem that you have to do anything different when it's your partner who is stubbornly clinging to their ways, if you want to see a change, there will be times when you simply have to take the lead.

Finding new, more productive ways to communicate is a way to do that.

Before engaging in a conversation with your partner about something you would like to see change, experiment, in your mind or on paper, with different words and phrasing you can use to explain how you feel in a way that is authentic and true for you and may be easier for your partner to hear.

It's not necessary — or advisable — for you to fake or deny how you feel or what it is you want.

Instead, focus on your priorities related to the situation and come up with ways you can phrase your requests to clearly and effectively communicate what it is you do want.

RELATED: What You Need To Remember About The Priorities You've Set For Yourself

Here are six tips to help improve your communication skills:

1. Make specific requests

Be clear and precise in explaining terms of action and timeliness.

2. Speak confidently

Ask for what you want without apologizing for or second-guessing your wishes and needs.

3. Be realistic

Keep your request doable, and, if necessary, break it into achievable steps.

4. Stay focused on resolving the issue at hand

Don't allow yourself to get side-tracked by secondary issues or questions of who's to blame.

5. Keep an open mind

Be open to feedback and possible discussion, but know your non-negotiables.

6. Express appreciation for what works

Acknowledge the improvements you do see.

Above all, remember to focus on your priorities related to the situation, and come up with requests that clearly explain what you want ... no "ifs," "and" and certainly no "buts."

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

Susie and Otto Collins are Certified Transformative Coaches who help awaken love and possibilities in your life.

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