Although the ability to be open and honest with your partner is technically a good thing, there are some thoughts you really should keep to yourself and not say to your partner. The reason for that is simple, saying certain things to your partner could cause damage to the foundation of the relationship – the type of damage that can be especially challenging to come back from.
What Relationship Experts Discovered
Relationship experts Dr. John Gottman and his wife, Dr. Julie Gottman, conducted numerous studies on couples, specifically focusing on their communication methodology and how key markers were high indicators of a future divorce. Through their work, John Gottman found that four specific behaviors — Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling – were so predictive of killing a relationship, he had to give them names using an apocalyptic reference (the Four Horsemen).
Dr. Gottman found that if people engaged in these behaviors in a conversation, it would degrade rapidly, and if couples experience enough degraded conversations, the result will be a degraded relationship over time. Of the four, contempt is the most potent. In fact, as Dr. Gottman’s research has proven, Contempt is one of the biggest predictors of divorce. Listed below are 8 things you should never say to your partner. These will also help you improve your communication skills as a couple, so your relationship can benefit as a result!
Things You Should Never Say To Your Partner
“I should never have married you.” – As a couple we want to hear that our partners would marry us again and again, which is why this can be so painful to hear. It’s a statement that undermines the covenant that was created when you committed to the partnership. Saying this to your wife or husband can create deep resentment and feelings of insecurity which can be incredibly challenging to repair.
“I’m no longer attracted to you.” – This is one that can be very hard for people to overcome, even if it was not something that was intended. That’s why it can be such a damaging thing to say. Humans in general have a very difficult time being told they are unattractive and then believing that our partner didn’t mean it. It can stop intimacy in its tracks for long periods of time, and it’s a hard one to repair.
“You are such a slob.” – This type of statement is criticism in the form of name-calling, which is damaging to relationships. Instead, try asking for what you need with gentleness. A better approach would be rephrasing your wishes gently but clearly by saying something like, “Would you please put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher tonight before going to bed?”
“Here you go again! You always ruin every dinner out!” – Going global with your criticism and applying it in sweeping generalities doesn’t give your partner much insight as to where you’re coming from or how they can avoid repeating it in the future. To get more on the same page, work on improving your communication in the relationship. Make a specific, temporary request instead. For example, “Tonight when we go out with my brother and his wife, please don’t bring up politics,” is much more clear cut.
“Why can’t you be more like her/him?” – Negative comparisons of one’s partner to others creates insecurity and hurt between people. They may feel that they can never live up to some imagined person and/or that they are unworthy. Or, they might just get really angry and decide to check out. Ultimately, negative comparisons are highly unproductive and erode trust in relationships.
“You know what your problem is? You’re just selfish.” – Placing the problem within your partner is an especially damaging form of criticism that can breed insecurity or disdain in your partner. Instead, complain without blame by saying something like, “I was surprised to see you ate all the leftovers. Please check with me before doing that again.”
“Clearly, you let people down all the time.” – Avoid using information that your partner shared with you about other conflicts in their lives against them when you argue. A sure fire way to damage the trust between you is by using your knowledge of some vulnerability that they have against them when you are in conflict. This is siding with the enemy and you will become part of the enemy.
“Oh yeah? What about you?!” – When you’re on the receiving end of criticism, it’s tempting to respond with defensiveness. But, while it might feel good in the moment, it won’t help you and your partner work through any relationship issues you’re dealing with. Instead, own any part that’s true by responding with something like, “I apologize for doing that. It was inconsiderate of me.” Going this route, with time, can help disagreements get resolved more easily by making your partner feel heard and understood.
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