9 Common Phrases That Drive Couples Apart — And What To Say Instead

One simple change makes a huge difference, but it's not always an easy change to make.

Couple talking to each other respectfully Jack Sparrow, Mangostar Studio, vkstudio  | Canva 

Your partner's behavior has meaning. What starts out to be adorable and loving during the beginning stages of romance can turn into a dark smothering controlling nightmare later in the relationship, You feel tense, lonely, and scared and wonder what can be done.

In the beginning of the relationship you experience romantic love, it is the feel good, oh yes, and someone else gets me kind of love. Hollywood exploits this kind of love to make us believe this is the only kind of love. We watch movies and want to be the princess saved by the prince. When we internalize this message, it sets us up for expectations that can never be met by any human being. The magic of this feeling will fall away over time, leaving us feeling lonely, and unsatisfied. Many relationships fail at this time.


There is Hope. Together you can Journey to Abundant Life. Couples who make a decision to Love one another and are "In" for the long haul can deepen their bond and satisfaction in the relationship. You each make a decision to "stay together" and learn how to be safe and secure for each other physically, spiritually, and psychologically. This phase of a relationship is learning how to see who your partner really is, not the idealized version from the beginning stage of the relationship.

Oh, how uncomfortable this process is, especially when you are both triggering each other’s emotional wounds from earlier in life. You will be finding out the reality of your partner’s identity, the good and the bad. Learning to love someone in this way, unconditionally, can take you on a Journey to Abundant Life together. 


Below are 9 typical trigger statements of emotional wounds: Many times these emotional wounds can fester for years until you face your fear surrounding them and heal. Your partner may or may not be able to help you heal. You may need professional help. If you had the tools to heal you would have already done it. Here are typical statements from partners I hear a lot. This tool helps you to talk about your triggers without causing harm to your partner.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Cope When You Decide To Stay Together — But Still Have Emotional Wounds

Nine common phrases that drive couples apart & what to say instead.

1. You're such a nag.

Instead say, “I feel picked on and judged”


2. You are smothering me.

Choose, to say, “I feel overwhelmed, and need some space”

3. You are distant.

Another way to say it is, “I am physically in the room with you and I feel lonely.”

4. The world revolves around you.

Change to, “I feel I can’t trust you will respond in a safe way for me.”

5. You are selfish.

An alternative is,” I’m sad when I feel you don’t value me.”

RELATED: 5 Signs You're Finally Getting Over An Old Life Wound, According To Experts

6. You don’t like being physical anymore.

Try, “I’m feeling sad we don’t have as much physicality in our relationship as in the past.”

7. You don’t love me. 

Switch to, “I feel unloved by you, when you (i.e. yell at me).


8. Other people like me, why don’t you?

Try instead, “I feel you don’t like me when you (i.e. won’t talk with me).

9.You make me feel bad.

Try changing it to, “I feel bad when you" (i.e. call me names).

RELATED: 5 Triggers Of People Who Had Emotionally Volatile Mothers

As you can clearly see, the general tool you can use to help you communicate in a safer way for your partner is to change “you” statements to “I feel, when you do….” statements.

The desired effects of "you" statements are to disengage from the relationship. The person is effectively saying, “you are not important to me. I must protect myself from you.” The couple ship is now not safe and secure for either partner because the trigger has been engaged, and they are both responding from an emotional reaction. The underlying feelings typically can be fear, shame, abandonment or worthlessness. No one likes to feel those emotions.


By switching to "I feel" statements, the relationship can more easily remain intact. Your partner may be more willing to make a repair and help you heal. In a way, by owning your feelings, sharing them with love, you more effectively get your and the relationship needs met. 

Your relationship can be a safety zone for both of you if you work on it throughout your lives. One word of caution, if your partner does not invest in your relationship and refuses to grow, you have a hard decision to make. Many people choose obsessions and addictions over relationships. Your partner gets to make that decision. Your job is to see reality at all costs and adjust to what you can live with. 

RELATED: Why This One Repressed Emotion Is Ruining Your Relationship

Teresa Maples-Zuvela, CMAT, CSAT, LMHC, MS, is a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in working with women who have experienced betrayal in intimate relationships.