7 Things Not To Say During A Fight With Your Partner Unless You Want To Break Up
Fights happen in romantic relationships, period. Arguing isn't necessarily a bad sign in itself, but there are definitely healthy and unhealthy ways to handle relationship conflict. When it comes to things not to say during a fight with your partner, certain kinds of dialogue should be completely off-limits. In the middle of an argument, tensions tend to be high and you may find yourself getting caught up in the heat of the moment. But whether you're intentionally trying to hurt your partner, or you accidentally let something slip out of frustration, you're probably aware that there are specific topics you should stay away from at all costs.
Your relationship can come back from a disagreement, but the way you choose to fight can promote resentment and decrease trust over time. Unless you want to break up, it's best not to resort to making empty threats or giving petty reminders of past mistakes. Saying terrible things won't help anyone. By engaging in these types of harmful dialogue, you're only adding fuel to the fire. So in order to prevent one or both of you from getting burned, it's important to be aware of these seven things you should never say to your partner in the middle of a fight.
1. Threats And Ultimatums
Threatening to break up with your significant other if they don't agree with you or act the way you want them to can lead to a breakup, whether you actually mean it to or not. If you're looking for your partner to move in, propose, or make any other kind of big commitment, giving them an ultimatum could backfire. Maybe they would have left anyway and you're doing yourself a favor by finding that out now, but it's also possible that they do want to move forward, and they just aren't ready yet. Feeling ready for these major relationship milestones is a very personal thing. Not everyone gets there at the same time — and that's normal.
"It forces the other person to show their hand, but you might also be premature in calling it. Maybe they need more time. Check in with yourself and see if you are doing this prematurely out of insecurity, because you want [the level of commitment] defined quickly," says Dr. Jeffrey Rubin, psychotherapist and author of The Art of Flourishing: A Guide to Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Love in a Chaotic World. He also explains that with an ultimatum, even if you 'win' in the moment, you may lose in the long run.
"Because you’re reeling the person in against their wishes, they may feel coerced and later rebel and/or blame you," he says. You don't want to have any doubts about the reasons you're together, so you shouldn't force your partner into a decision. You want them to come to it on their own, because it's more secure and means your relationship is more likely to last. "You want love that is genuine and is earned, not extracted," says Dr. Rubin.
2. Emotional Diagnoses
Another tactic to avoid is emotionally diagnosing your partner. Saying, "you're borderline," "you're hysterical," "you have an anger management problem," or classifying them in any way that you aren't medically qualified to will not end well, according to Dr. Rubin.
"We want to communicate in ways where we aren't asking our partners to change themselves, but to enhance themselves," says Dr. Sherrie Campbell, licensed psychologist, counselor, and marriage and family therapist. By diagnosing your partner or blaming their mental health for problems in your relationship, you can make them feel unsafe. "On the other hand, if a relationship is making zero headway, partners may need to say that unless things improve they cannot stay in the relationship and explain why. This turns a threat into a significant part of the discussion which has the potential to be positive," she says.
3. Everything But The Kitchen Sink
As a result of not feeling heard in the relationship, piling on complaints is a common occurrence in the midst of an argument. "I think too many women don’t speak up enough along the way because they're culturally conditioned to play second fiddle ... and then they tend to bring up the whole kitchen sink," says Dr. Rubin. While your points are likely valid, their importance can be minimized by adding them to a laundry list of qualms when you were initially arguing about something completely unrelated.
For example, if you're upset with your partner because they shared a private part of your relationship with their friend, expressing your frustration at the fact that your partner never does the dishes could be saved for a different time. If something is important for you to communicate, don't make it feel extraneous.
4. Targeted Attacks
Hurtful comments or insults about your partner's appearance, sexual ability, insecurities or past traumas you are aware of, or any information told to you in confidence can have long-term consequences on your partner and on your relationship. "It's not healthy to bring up things your partner has told you in confidence about their past family or romantic relationship issues that have impacted them as a way to prove your point. It is best to keep the conversation to the current issue and only between the two partners," says Dr. Campbell.
Creating or provoking insecurities can impact how secure you feel in your relationship, and it can even affect your sex life. "It can create lasting insecurities that your partner will always be thinking other people are more attractive than you are. Love thrives in positive environments. Negative comments create a very toxic and manipulative relationship environment," she adds.
5. "Always" And "Never"
Targeted comments promote resentment and make people avoid being vulnerable in the future. "If you choose to criticize your partner's insecurities, you can't expect him or her to communicate openly with you in the future because you've made it dangerous. When there are barriers to communicating openly, the relationship slowly dies," says Dr. Gregory Kushnick, Psy.D., licensed New York psychologist.
Dr. Kushnick says you should avoid using the words "you always" and "you never" in an argument. "These phrases will only yield a defensive response and they convey that you don't appreciate anything else about your partner," he says. Instead, he suggests saying "sometimes" or even better, being specific about when and where the undesired behavior actually occurs. Not only does this show your partner the respect they deserve, but it also gives them more motivation to work out the problem.
6. Comparisons To Past Relationships
Comparing your current partner to people you have previously dated is a big no. In addition to hurting their feelings, you also detract from your message. Your real point is invalidated because you're focusing on an ex. If you bring up a past relationship, your partner may tune out or disregard what you're trying to say.
Adding something like, "This never happened with my ex," only causes your partner to take your original point less seriously. "It's not in your interest to seek revenge in that way, because your partner will focus on the cruelty and not the useful feedback," says Dr. Rubin. "It hurts you instead of your partner. It makes your own message difficult to digest, and it will be taken less seriously."
7. Calling In The Troops
What Dr. Rubin refers to as "calling in the troops" is when you say, "even your sister, mother, brother, father, or anyone else agrees that you are difficult, challenging, a handful, etc." Bringing other people into the argument is not only unnecessary, but it can also shame your partner in an unhealthy way. "It drives people crazy, because it really hurts. It’s an emotional killer in relationships," says Dr. Rubin.
Employing this (and all of the other strategies on this list) during a fight will leave you and your partner walking on eggshells around one another. You shouldn't constantly have your guard up in a relationship, but engaging in these behaviors shows your partner that there is a possibility of it happening again. Bringing up these hurtful topics "can deeply erode trust, trigger a feeling of betrayal, and make people gun shy," says Dr. Rubin. And those are three things you definitely don't want happening in your relationship.
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