Words are powerful, and they can be used to build an amazing relationship or to destroy a relationship. Here are 10 things to be careful to never say to your spouse:
1. “You’re crazy.”
The way someone feels can never be “wrong” or “crazy.” Instead, say, “I can see how you would feel that way.”
The “silent treatment,” or in couples-therapist-speak “stonewalling,” is very dangerous to a relationship. It creates disconnection and frustration. Instead, tell your partner you need a short amount of time to “cool off,” and then intentionally go back to the conversation later.
3. “It’s your fault.”
Assigning blame is useless and nonconstructive. It just leads to further disconnection and anger. Instead, always also consider your contribution to the problem. Also, directly ask of your partner for what you would like him/her to do differently instead of assigning blame. Instead of saying, “Well, we wouldn’t be late if you didn’t take so long to do your hair,” say, “Could you start doing your hair earlier? I will help out with the baby to make that possible.”
4. “You always….” or “You never…”
Criticism has been identified by researchers as one of the four communication habits that predict divorce. Instead of discussing all of your partner’s shortcomings, again, be constructive. Simply tell him/her how you feel and what you would like him/her to do differently. Instead of saying, “You never do anything around here,” say, “I am feeling overwhelmed and not considered. Could you please be in charge of doing the dishes every night after dinner?”
5. “Just be nicer/better,” or any other vague request.
While making a request is better than criticism, vague and unrealistic requests can just further intensify the situation by frustrating your partner. Tell your spouse specifically what you would like, and be realistic. For example, instead of saying, “Pay more attention to me,” say, “Please give me a hug and a kiss when you get home from work and have your phone put away during meal times.”
6. “The word “divorce,” said in anger/during a fight.
Using the “D” word is the ultimate way to nonconstructive get out your anger and hurt your partner. It causes mistrust and uncertainty in the relationship. Instead, explain how you feel and what you would want your spouse to do differently in the future. If you are too angry to talk rationally, take a short, intentional break, but go back to the conversation later. (Don’t ignore it, stonewall, or give your spouse the silent treatment.)
7. “Kate never complains to her husband,” “John helps out with carpool,” or any other version of comparing your spouse to someone else.
Instead, focus on your spouse’s contribution, and openly appreciate him/her for what he/she does “right.” If there is room for improvement, without mentioning any comparison, simply ask your partner for what you would like him/her to do with a reasonable and specific request.
8. “THIS is why my mother doesn’t like you,” or any other form of aligning loyalties with someone else.
Instead, show solidarity to your spouse when it comes to other people’s criticism. If you have your own issue with your spouse’s behavior, take it up with him/her by explaining your feelings and making a direct request. There is no need to “gang up” on him/her in order to make your point.