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When you’re married or in a long-term relationship, some things are better left unsaid.
Below, marriage therapists and other experts share 10 phrases and statements to strike from your vocabulary now.
1. “You never do the dishes. You always just leave them sitting there.”
The dishes are a placeholder for pretty much anything here. Whatever the issue, using accusatory blanket terms like “never” and “always” tends to end the same way every time: with you and your boo engaged in an overblown argument. Plus, there’s a good chance your generalization is wrong, said Samantha Rodman, a psychologist in Takoma Park, Maryland.
“Nothing is black and white so telling a partner that she’s never on time or he’s always selfish can’t be right,” she told The Huffington Post. “These types of statements only lead to a prosecutor-defendant dynamic, which is not what you want in your marriage.”
2. “You sound exactly like your mother.”
When arguing, stick to the issue at hand and keep the focus on the two of you. Introducing nasty comparisons to your in-laws is unfair and ultimately a diversion from your problems, said Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, a marriage and family therapist and the author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage.
“Mentioning parents can easily become mean-spirited attacks that interfere with the couple’s ability to address the underlying issues,” she told HuffPost.
3. “You think you’re better than everyone else!”
Never put words in your partner’s mouth or in this case, thoughts in their head. There’s no way of knowing what someone is feeling or thinking, so keep the assumptions to yourself, said Becky Whetstone, a marriage and family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“These statements are aggravating because your spouse knows that what you’re accusing them of is not true,” she said. “What you’re saying suggests you don’t think very highly of your S.O. It’s a double dose of pain in one sentence.”
4. “Do I look like I’ve put on weight?”
Questions about weight or changes in looks are the “oldest grenades in the marriage script,” said Robyn Wahlgast, a dating and relationship coach for women.
“What you really mean by asking this is, ‘I know I’ve put on weight. I’m unhappy about how I look and I need you to say that you’re OK with my current state.’” she said. “These types of questions are all about side-stepping personal responsibility, plus they force your partner into an enabling role.”
5. “Have you put on a few pounds?”
Blunt, negative remarks to your spouse about his or her appearance are also out of line.
“Unconstructive criticism of physical appearance is as bad as it gets,” Whetstone said. “It’s painful because you’re suggesting that your partner isn’t good enough or that they’re less than or defective.”
6. “You’re a horrible parent, breadwinner, lover…”
Put-downs centered around your spouse’s family or occupational roles are particularly cruel, said M. Gary Neuman, a psychotherapist based in Miami Beach, Florida.
“Negative statements about our self-identities are devastating,” he said. “These roles are so important and tender. When they’re questioned, we feel completely torn down. It becomes hard to forget statements like this.”
7. “Ugh, I hate when you do that.” (Said in front of friends or family.)
Putting your spouse down in front of others is a huge no-no in a relationship, said Whetstone.
“In this example, you are gathering people against your spouse — and what is worse than that? It is hard to recover from such a boundary violation,” she said. “It causes resentment and a lack of trust.”
8. “I barely know him — he’s just someone I work with.”
It’s almost inevitable that you or your partner will develop a small, innocent crush on someone at some point during your marriage. If that happens, be upfront about it. Don’t try to sweep it under the rug with a statement that minimizes your feelings, said Wahlgast.
“The best way to neutralize the potential destructiveness of your crush is to briefly and simply acknowledge it to your spouse,” she said. “Try saying to your husband, ‘I know it sounds ridiculous, but I have a bit of a crush on that new consultant. He’s so funny — his sense of humor reminds me of yours.’”
Though it may be an uncomfortable subject to broach, ultimately, Wahlgast said being transparent about your feelings “will create more openness with your partner. You’ll each feel more comfortable bringing up other taboo subjects in a kind and respectful way.”
9. “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
There’s nothing more belittling or condescending than telling your spouse what he should or shouldn’t be feeling in any given situation, Rodman said.
“There is no right or wrong way for someone to feel,” she said. “Feelings are what they are; try to understand your partner and be curious about his experience rather than dismissing what you don’t understand.”
10. “Don’t wait up for me.”
This seemingly innocent remark suggests you’re not going to bed at the same time, a habit that can be damaging to your relationship, said Wahlgast.
“You should view shared bedtime as a way to strengthen your connection with your partner — it’s a powerful form of physical intimacy, with or without s*x,” she said. “Saying OK to separate bedtimes enables behaviors that destroy intimacy, such as solitary P0*n-watching and flirty messaging with friends or co-workers.”
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