Marriage Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.
Whether you’ve been in a relationship for a short time or years, you’ve probably learned which compliments your partner responds well to. “Wow, you look great in that dress!” “I love when you give me a hug for no reason.”
But what about the flip side? Have you learned which comments are instant trouble? Most of the time, these comments simply flow seemingly without thinking. The fact is, there probably isn’t a lot of thought behind them. Writing for HuffPost, Kelsey Borresen describes the phenomenon: “In our closest relationships, it’s easy to speak without thinking. It seems like a good thing: We’re so comfortable with each other we can share whatever is on our mind. But sometimes it can have a negative effect. Off-the-cuff remarks can be misconstrued, and words said in frustration may cut deep.”
Borresen lists seven casual comments that can immediately cause a lot of blowback. Do you recognize any of these?
“It’s not a big deal,” or “You’ll get over it.” Talk about invalidating another person’s feelings. The problem here is that you might have completely good intentions — after all, it really might not be a big deal — but that’s beside the point. Most of the time your partner simply needs you to listen instead of immediately giving advice.
“You’re just like your father (or mother).” If your partner’s relative has a negative trait and you’re referring to that trait, watch out — this is basically a flat-out insult. Why not try to calmly point out the behavior that upset you.
“You always…” or “You never…” If you’re looking for a negative reaction, you found it. First off, this statement is patently untrue. Virtually no one always or never behaves in a certain way. Don’t count on a productive conversation after making this statement.
“You’re doing it wrong. Why can’t you just do it my way?” Okay, not too many people are clueless enough to actually say this. But, boy, can you ever communicate that thought in a variety of ways. One alternative: simply ask if you can help.
“I am done.” Unless you’re seriously contemplating splitting up or getting a divorce, this is one to absolutely avoid. If you’re actually so angry that you want to say this, try calming yourself down. Breathe. Ask your partner for some time to compose yourself — that will actually communicate just how angry you are and may really get their attention.
“You’re too sensitive.” In all fairness, you may be right. Unfortunately, being right isn’t going to smooth things over.
“Not saying anything.” Even though it’s not a statement, silence communicates its own message and is rarely helpful. What’s needed is genuine communication, which ideally leads to an understanding of the other’s needs.