12 THINGS NOT TO SAY TO YOUR MATE
“Words are loaded pistols.”
— Jean-Paul Sartre
The children’s playground chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a lie! Wounds caused by careless or cruel words will continue to hurt long after bones heal. Below are just a few of the things that you should determine never to say to your mate, the person that you love and with whom you want to build your life.
1. “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t have to ask what I need.”
Do you actually want to test their love for you? It indicates that you are needy and insecure and even manipulative. Such a statement is a way to put a guilt trip on your mate as well. Only an unhealthy person in an unhealthy relationship would allow attempts to put them on a guilt trip over and over. Rather than set up a test, be mature enough to own your feelings and needs, and be able to say to your mate, “ I need… and I would feel valued and loved if you could do that.” Ask for what you want or need. If you don’t ask, chances are you won’t get it!
2. “You always” / “You never.”
Never use these superlatives when in conflict with your mate. First of all, you should never say this because it is a lie. No one “always” or “never” does anything. To use these superlatives makes your mate defensive and resistant. To think like that will close your own mind to the possibility of growth and change. Say something instead like, “It seems that we end up in the same place every time and don’t seem to make any progress. How can we break this cycle?”
3. “You need to get help.”
This phrase conveys to your partner the message, “I’m not the problem, you are.” It reveals an unwillingness to look at yourself and own what is yours to own in the present situation. This attitude is counter-productive and will only make things worse – for you and for your relationship.
4. “Stop overreacting.”
It is arrogant to tell someone how they should feel and how they should or shouldn’t react. “You shouldn’t be so sensitive/dramatic/needy,” etc. are just other variations of this statement. Your feelings are your feelings, and it is healthy to draw a boundary that prevents someone else from dictating to you what you should feel and how you should react. Likewise, a healthy and loving mate will honor and respect your feelings and reactions, even if they don’t understand or agree with them.
5. “I know you’re not going to like this, but…”
This is a variation of “Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but…” Do your best to avoid the word “but” because it negates everything that you have just said. If you know that your mate is not going to like it or take it the wrong way, find another way, place, and time to say it! And while we’re on the subject, how do you know if they’re not going to like it or that they will take it the wrong way? Stop being the parent and be their mate! Do you best to say even the hard truths with love and respect and allow your mate to show you how maturely they can deal with it. If you treat them like a child, then you give them permission to act like one.
6. “Nothing’s Wrong”
Beware of making this statement when there really is something bothering you. This is often a sign of passive-aggressive behavior. When your mate senses that something is wrong and you deny it, “There is nothing wrong. Don’t be silly!” you may be attempting to punish or control them. This can make them crazy, and eventually they will most likely tire of the game and quit caring if there is anything wrong or not.
7. “You need to take responsibility.”
Once again, you are behaving like a parent. Examine yourself and if you are over-functioning- taking on too much responsibility- then you are enabling your mate to under-function and not take responsibility. Nagging or complaining never works, by the way, so you’re just wasting your breath!
8. “You’re acting just like your mother (father).”
Nothing hits a nerve like comparing your mate to their parent, primarily if that parent has caused pain or exhibited unhealthy or destructive behavior. Always be respectful of your mate’s parents, even if they were/are terrible parents, in your opinion. They are still the parents of your mate, and he/she will still love them despite their faults. And always be respectful of your mate and refuse to hurt them by making unfavorable comparisons to their parent(s).
9. “I want a divorce” / “I’m done.”
These statements are “nuclear bombs.” Once they are dropped, often irreparable damage is done. If they are overused, they just become empty threats that change nothing except the rate of deterioration of the relationship. Ask your mate, “Would you go to a marriage seminar or retreat with me? Would you like to get a relationship coach or counselor to help us?” Once you have reached this point, it is almost impossible to return without professional help.
10. “I hate you.”
“Hate” is a toxic word and should never be used for our mate, no matter how angry or hurt we become. Call a “timeout” and take a break from each other if you feel a conversation escalating, and you know that it could get out of hand. “You and our relationship mean too much to me for us to continue right now. Let’s take a break and talk about this again after dinner” would be a much better thing to say to your mate.
11. “I don’t believe you.”
Trust is the foundation of a relationship. In saying, “ I don’t believe you,” you are also saying, ” I don’t trust you,” and to put it bluntly, ” You’re a liar!”. It would be more beneficial to your relationship is you would say something like, “ I don’t understand. Could you help me make sense of this? I’m confused and need your help.”
Said with the right tone, this will take your mate off of the defensive. They may also be more willing to fill in the blanks and add the details to whatever you are dealing with.
This is a dismissive statement. It dismisses your mate, and it dismisses their feelings. Of course, there are times when you want to give up and give in – just throw your hands in the air. Instead, let your mate know that you don’t have the “bandwidth” to deal with this at the moment and that you need some time to think about it. Let them know how valuable they are and how important the issue is and promise not to avoid or deny it. Set a time and place so that you can hear each other. It’s the respectful thing to do.
Of course, there are many other things that you should never say to your mate or anyone. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself a couple of questions “Will this harm my mate in any way?” and “Does this work for our relationship or against it?” If it will harm your mate and/or if it will work against your relationship, don’t say it! Of course, this means that you have to think before you speak, a wise habit to develop and worth the effort. See the previous blog on what things you should say to your mate.
If hurtful words have been spoken between you and your mate, and you can’t seem to get past them, a good, interactive marriage seminar or marriage retreat could help. You may also want to consider a relationship coach to work with you to restore or renew your relationship.