Aside from "You’re making no sense,” “It’s fine” (when it’s clearly not), and “I ate your takeout that was in the fridge,” “chill” is just about one of the worst things that can say to your partner. And yet, it continues to be a common utterance in relationships. It makes sense if it flies out of your boo’s mouth once in a great while when you’re throwing a mini-tantrum that Chipotle ran out of guac. But if your partner always tells you to chill out or calm down — to the point where you’ve even become accustomed to hearing it — that could mean it’s time to take a deeper dive into your behavior, as well as theirs.
According to board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman, if your SO is telling you to chill on a weekly basis, it likely indicates that they often think you’re overreacting.
“They may not be comfortable with how emotional your reactions are,” she explains.
This could be because they express themselves differently than you emotionally (for example, by shutting down or getting quiet when they’re upset). Or, it could be because they’ve noticed a shift in how often you're getting worked up. For example, Amanda Ruiz, licensed professional counselor and founder of The Counseling Collective, points out that if you’ve been stressed, overworked, or overwhelmed lately, then there’s a chance that your feelings and reactions have been a tad amplified — understandably so.
“It might mean you are taking out these feelings on your SO without realizing it,” she explains. “And your anxiety could be wearing off on them.”
So, it makes sense why your SO might say that. But here’s the problem: It tends to have the opposite of the desired effect.
“You’re probably going to feel less chill,” says Dr. Edelman, and TBH, truer words were never spoken.
Speaking from experience, this is in part because the words “chill out” not only sound judgmental about the magnitude of your reactions, but they also make you feel as if your emotions are unjustified. Needless to say, on the rare occasions when the words “calm down” have slipped out of my boyfriend’s mouth, I ended up losing my chill even more.
“People can feel frustrated, angry, or misunderstood when someone tells them to calm down because it's like they're saying, ‘You shouldn't feel that way,’ or ‘Your feelings don't count,’” Dr. Edelman tells Elite Daily.
Experts agree that if it’s bothering you that bae has been saying this to you frequently, it’s definitely worth speaking up. Not sure what to say? Dr. Edelman suggests something along the lines of, "When you tell me to chill, I feel like my feelings don't matter to you."
Rather than dwelling on what you don’t want them to say (which could cause them to get defensive), offer up a solution to the problem by advising them on what to say instead. For example, Ruiz notes that a more helpful response from your SO could be, "I am noticing you seem stressed. What could we do together to help you relax a bit more?"
After that discussion, if the problem is still persisting and it’s affecting your relationship, you may want to seek some extra help from a couple's counselor or therapist.
“Therapy is always a great idea to help you gain better insight into yourself and your coping skills,” says Ruiz.
Hopefully, your boo will be dedicated to changing their language once they know that it’s upsetting you. Either way, however, if it’s become a habit, a therapist might be able to highlight the underlying issues and offer up some guidance on how to resolve the situation.
Let’s be real here, folks. Have you ever in your life witnessed someone telling another person to chill, to which they responded, “you’re right,” and actually calmed down? (If you have, I’d love to meet this peculiar human and study them.) It’s not really productive, because it makes you feel like your feelings and reactions aren’t warranted or valid. The thing is, your partner may not realize how that statement comes across. That’s why it’s up to you to explain how it lands on you, and why it’s bothersome. A supportive partner will be eager to change their words once they realize that they're hurtful — and furthermore, don't accomplish anything. So with that, go ahead and let bae know that there are far more effective ways to help you calm down — no chill pill required.