9 words or phrases you should never use in a relationship, according to psychology

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Navigating relationships is a delicate dance that requires grace, tact, and an understanding of the power of words.

The language we use in our relationships can either nurture or damage them. And, according to psychology, there are certain words or phrases that can cause more harm than good.

As someone who’s learned this the hard way, I’m here to share with you 9 words or phrases you should steer clear from in your relationships.

Using these forbidden phrases might seem harmless at first, but over time, they can erode trust and create unnecessary tension. Let’s make sure you’re not unknowingly pushing your partner away with your words.

1) “You always…” or “You never…”

We’ve all been there. In the heat of a disagreement, we resort to absolute comments like “You always forget to take out the garbage,” or “You never listen to me.”

These phrases, while they might feel satisfying in the moment, can be highly destructive in a relationship.

Psychologists point out that using absolutes like “always” or “never” puts your partner on the defensive, making them less likely to hear what you’re really trying to say.

It’s a form of generalization that dismisses your partner’s efforts and can lead to resentment over time.

Instead, try expressing your feelings and needs more specifically, without generalizing. For example, you could say, “I feel frustrated when I have to remind you about the garbage. Can we find a solution together?”

This approach not only avoids defensiveness but also fosters collaboration and understanding. It’s about transforming blame into an invitation for change.

2) “Fine.”

One word I’ve learned to avoid in my own relationships is “Fine.” On the surface, it seems like a simple, non-confrontational response. But, in reality, it’s often loaded with hidden frustration or passive-aggressive undertones.

I remember a time when my partner asked me if I was upset about something. Instead of expressing my feelings honestly, I just muttered, “I’m fine.”

But I wasn’t fine. And my partner knew it. My response only served to create distance between us and prolong the underlying issue.

Psychologists suggest that using “Fine” when we’re anything but, prevents open communication and can lead to a buildup of unresolved feelings.

It’s better to express what you’re really feeling or thinking, even if it’s uncomfortable at the moment.

Honesty is always the best policy in a relationship.

3) “Whatever.”

“Whatever” is another seemingly innocuous word that can be a relationship landmine. It’s often used as a conversation ender, a way to dismiss your partner’s feelings or thoughts.

Consider this, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that couples who use dismissive phrases like “whatever” had higher rates of dissatisfaction in their relationships.

The reason? Dismissing your partner’s feelings or thoughts creates a lack of mutual respect, which is a key component of any healthy relationship.

Instead, when you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed in a discussion, take a pause and communicate that you need some time to think things over.

This way, you’re not dismissing your partner, but instead showing them respect by prioritizing thoughtful communication.

4) “If you loved me, you would…”

This phrase is a relationship trap. It’s a manipulative statement that positions love as a bargaining chip, essentially saying, “If you loved me, you would do what I want.”

Using love as a leverage point is not only unfair but can also create a toxic dynamic in the relationship. It creates pressure and guilt, forcing your partner to prove their love through specific actions or behaviors.

A healthier approach would be to express your needs or desires directly and respectfully without making it a test of your partner’s love. For example, instead of saying, “If you loved me, you would spend more time with me,” try saying, “I feel loved when we spend quality time together. Can we do that more often?”

This way, you’re expressing your needs without manipulation or guilt-tripping. It’s all about open, honest discussions about each other’s needs and how to meet them in the relationship.

5) “I told you so.”

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with being right, especially after a disagreement. But the phrase “I told you so” can quickly sour that victory.

This phrase can come across as patronizing or condescending, implying that your partner is inferior or incapable of making sound decisions. It creates a parent-child dynamic in the relationship, which can be very damaging.

Instead of rubbing it in when you’re right, try to empathize with your partner’s situation. Acknowledge their feelings and use the situation as a learning experience for both of you.

A relationship is not about winning or losing, but about supporting and understanding each other.

6) “You’re just like your [mother/father].”

This phrase can hit deep, especially if it’s used negatively. By comparing your partner to a family member, you’re not only criticizing their actions but also attacking their identity and roots.

I’ve seen this phrase cause serious hurt in relationships. It can bring up past wounds and create a sense of alienation between partners.

Remember, each person in a relationship is unique, with their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s crucial to respect that individuality and refrain from making hurtful comparisons.

Instead of resorting to comparisons, try to address the specific behavior or issue that bothers you.

This way, you’re focusing on the problem, not attacking the person. It’s an approach that fosters understanding and growth, rather than resentment and division.

7) “Why can’t you be more like…?”

Comparing your partner to someone else, be it a friend, an ex, or a fictional character, is a slippery slope. It’s a way of saying that they’re not good enough as they are, which can severely impact their self-esteem.

I remember when my partner compared me to one of his exes during an argument. It felt like a punch in the stomach. Suddenly, I was doubting my worth and questioning whether I was enough for him.

It’s important to understand that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Embrace your partner for who they are, not who you want them to be. Instead of comparing them to others, celebrate their uniqueness and the qualities that make them special to you.

8) “It’s not a big deal.”

While it might seem like a way to diffuse an argument, using the phrase “It’s not a big deal” can actually be quite harmful. This phrase can come across as dismissive, belittling your partner’s feelings or concerns.

What might seem trivial to you could be a big deal to your partner. By dismissing their feelings, you’re sending the message that their emotions are not valid or important.

Instead of minimizing, try acknowledging and validating your partner’s feelings. Something like, “I can see this is important to you, let’s talk about it,” can go a long way in ensuring that your partner feels heard and understood. It promotes open communication and deepens your emotional connection.

9) “We need to talk.”

This phrase, while necessary at times, often sends a wave of anxiety. It’s usually associated with serious discussions or bad news, which can put your partner on edge before the conversation even begins.

Instead of dropping the “We need to talk” bomb, try framing the conversation in a less intimidating way. You could say something like, “When you have some time, I’d like to discuss something with you,” or “Can we set aside some time to chat about something on my mind?”

This approach is less likely to incite panic, and more likely to foster a calm, open discussion.

It’s not just about what you say, but how you say it that can make all the difference in a relationship.

Reflecting on the power of words

The language we use in our relationships is more than just a series of sounds or symbols. It’s a powerful tool that can either build bridges or create walls between us and our loved ones.

Dr. John Gottman, a renowned psychologist and relationship expert, suggests that the most successful relationships have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. This includes the words we choose to use.

Choosing our words carefully, avoiding these damaging phrases, can significantly shift the dynamics of our relationships. It can turn conflicts into opportunities for understanding, criticism into constructive feedback, and misunderstandings into moments of connection.

It’s not just about avoiding certain phrases, but about fostering a communication style that respects, validates, and cherishes our partners. Because at the end of the day, it is these small shifts in our conversations that can make a world of difference in our relationships.

Take a moment to reflect on how you communicate with your partner. Are there any words or phrases you need to let go of? What can you say instead to express your feelings more constructively? The power is in your words. Use it wisely.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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