You know, relationships are a funny thing.
You’re crazy about this person, and you want to express your feelings, your thoughts, your frustrations. But sometimes, the words that come out of your mouth can do more harm than good.
We’ve all been there, right?
Maybe it’s a thoughtless comment thrown out in the heat of an argument, or maybe it’s a well-intentioned joke that doesn’t land quite right. Either way, you’re left with a partner who’s hurt, frustrated, or just plain mad.
And the crazy part? You probably didn’t even realize what you said was so damaging.
That’s where psychology comes into play. Here are 8 phrases that can be harmful for a relationship.
1) “You’re overreacting”
Now, this one might seem harmless. You might even think you’re trying to help by bringing a sense of perspective to an emotional situation.
But here’s the thing – telling someone they’re overreacting is basically invalidating their feelings. In other words, you’re saying that their emotional response to a situation isn’t valid or justified.
And guess what? That hurts.
Nobody wants to feel like their emotions are being dismissed or minimized. It can lead to resentment, frustration, and even a breakdown in communication.
Psychology tells us that validation is a key component of emotional health in a relationship. When you tell your partner they’re overreacting, you’re doing the exact opposite.
2) “Why can’t you ever understand?”
Here’s a confession. I’ve been guilty of this one. In the heat of a moment, frustration mounting, I’ve asked my partner, “Why can’t you ever understand?”
But here’s what I’ve learned. This phrase, it’s like a double-edged sword. It not only makes your partner feel inadequate but also puts them on the defensive.
Psychology explains that when we’re defensive, we’re less open to understanding and more focused on protecting ourselves. So, by using this phrase, we’re actually pushing our partners further away from understanding us.
What’s more, it’s a blanket statement that unfairly generalizes their behavior. Nobody gets it right all the time, and it’s important to remember that.
In retrospect, I realize how crucial it is to choose our words wisely and express our concerns in a less accusatory manner.
Instead of saying “Why can’t you ever understand?”, consider saying “I feel misunderstood when…”. It makes a world of difference, trust me.
3) “You always…” or “You never…”
I remember one day, my partner and I were having an argument about the dishes. Yes, the dishes. It’s funny how the smallest things can spark the biggest arguments, right?
In my frustration, I blurted out, “You never help out with the chores!”
The look on their face hit me like a ton of bricks.
Using absolutes like “always” and “never” is something psychology advises against. These words are not only inaccurate but they can also make your partner feel cornered and attacked. It indicates a pattern and makes them feel as though they can’t do anything right.
Looking back, I realize that my statement was far from fair. My partner had helped me out numerous times before. In that moment, my frustration got the better of me and I ended up saying something I didn’t mean.
I’ve learned since then that it’s more helpful to communicate specific instances and feelings instead of generalizing their behavior.
4) “It’s not a big deal”
Picture this. You’ve had a tough day. All you want is to vent about it to your partner, but instead of lending a sympathetic ear, they tell you, “It’s not a big deal.”
According to psychology, when we downplay or dismiss our partner’s concerns, we’re essentially invalidating their experiences and feelings. This can lead to feelings of resentment and create emotional distance between the two of you.
In fact, researchers have found that empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – is one of the strongest predictors of a healthy, satisfying relationship.
So, instead of saying “It’s not a big deal”, try to show empathy and validate their feelings. You could say something like, “That sounds really hard” or “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
It may be a small shift in language, but it can make a world of difference in how your partner feels heard and understood.
5) “You’re just like your mother/father”
Okay, let’s be real. Comparing your partner to their parents – especially during an argument – is a no-go zone.
When we use this phrase, we’re usually trying to point out a negative trait that we’ve observed in their parent and that we now see in our partner. And let’s be honest, nobody likes to hear that.
Psychology tells us that such comparisons can lead to feelings of resentment and defensiveness. Why? Because it’s personal. It hits close to home.
And most importantly, it’s often used as a low blow during arguments rather than a constructive criticism.
6) “If you loved me, you would…”
Now, this is a tricky one. You might think that this phrase is a simple way to express your needs or desires.
But here’s the catch – it’s manipulative.
When we use love as a bargaining chip, we’re creating a transactional dynamic in our relationship. We’re saying that their love for us should dictate their actions or behavior, and that’s not fair.
Psychology points out that this kind of emotional manipulation can lead to resentment and can create a power imbalance in the relationship.
Instead of using this phrase, try expressing your needs or wants directly and respectfully. You could say something like, “It would mean a lot to me if you could…” This expresses your need without questioning their love for you or making them feel obligated to act in a certain way.
7) “I’m fine”
How many times have we said, “I’m fine,” when we’re anything but?
This phrase is one of the most common yet damaging things we can say in a relationship. By saying “I’m fine” when we’re not, we’re shutting down communication and creating a barrier between ourselves and our partner.
Psychology tells us that open, honest communication is key to a healthy relationship.
When we bottle up our feelings and hide behind the facade of being “fine”, we’re not allowing our partner to understand or address what’s bothering us.
Last but not least, we have “whatever”.
This phrase may seem innocent enough, but it’s actually one of the most destructive things you can say in a relationship. When we say “whatever”, it’s like we’re waving a white flag. We’re showing indifference and disengagement, which can make our partner feel unheard and unimportant.
Psychology reminds us that this kind of dismissive behavior can lead to feelings of resentment and can erode the trust and closeness in a relationship.
Instead of saying “whatever”, try to stay engaged in the conversation, even if it’s difficult. You could say something like, “I need some time to think about this”, or “Let’s come back to this when we’re both calmer”.
This shows your partner that you value their perspective and are committed to resolving conflicts in a healthy way.
Having read through these phrases, you might find yourself reflecting on your own communication patterns. That’s a good thing.
We’re all works in progress, and there’s always room for improvement when it comes to how we communicate with our partners.
But don’t feel discouraged if you’ve used some of these phrases before. We all have. The important thing is recognizing them and understanding the impact they can have on our relationships.
The key is empathy and understanding. When we put ourselves in our partner’s shoes, we can better understand how our words might be received.