“The Ten Most Deadly Phrases In A Relationship”! Do You Use Any?

In my practice I spend a lot of time in relationship counseling discussing communication. In an intimate relationship where both individuals are vulnerable and defensive (in most cases), the words that are shared have an awesome affect on the relationship. Brittany Wong recently wrote an article capturing some of the most deadly phrases not to use in communicating with that special someone in your life. I list them and add my commentary.

  1. “You never do the dishes. You always just leave them there.” There are two mistakes here. One is the use of “never” and “always”. Don’t use those words. Be specific and situational. Second, this criticism sets up a prosecutor-defendant relationship that usually escalates a negative encounter. I could go on and on as to how to best deal with this issue and those similar to it.
  2. “You sound exactly like your mother.” Boy, there’s one that works – not! Do not introduce others into your particular issue, especially Momma. Stick with the concern at hand and not add fuel to the fire by such additions.
  3. “You think you’re better than everyone else!” Mind reading is a no no. Do not pretend that you know what the other is thinking or feeling. Instead address the issue, or issues, that lead you to that conclusion.
  4. “Do I look like I’ve put on weight?” Don’t go there with this grenade. What is the asked spouse to say in this situation? The person knows s/he has put on weight and is looking for a confirmation that all is well. The only safe response here is, “you look great to me” – and then go wash out your mouth with soap!
  5. “Have you put on a few pounds?” Note that here again weight is a point of discussion. This usually is a dangerous topic between lovers. This unconstructive criticism is hurtful and only makes the recipient of such a comment feel bad and defensive and will probably lead to an emotional withdrawal.
  6. “You’re a horrible parent, breadwinner, lover … .” This may be the worst. You are going for the jugular here. Such cruel sweeping generalizations serve no purpose except speeding up the exit road to divorce court. If you have a specific issue with one of these areas, or others, address the particular concern in a kind manner and work to resolve this negative perception.
  7. “Ugh, I hate when you do that.” (Said in front of family and friends). This passive aggressive put down of your spouse is despicable. If you have a concern about something your spouse does, say it respectfully and privately. Also, when you do it in front of others you are making a fool of yourself and will be negatively talked about behind your back.
  8. “I barely know him – he’s just someone I work with.” I disagree on this one. If you have a short term crush on someone, you do not need to speak about it to your spouse. Don’t downplay it or own it. Just get over it and focus on continuing to build a solid trusting relationship with your spouse.
  9. “You shouldn’t feel this way.” This is one of my favorite phrases to eliminate. Never “should on” another, especially telling someone what to feel. Feelings just arrive. You don’t choose to feel something.
  10. “Don’t wait up for me.” This should be a rare exception. Sharing the last minutes of your day in bed with your spouse is a wonderful bonding way to end your day.


Well, Respected Reader, do you agree that these are the most “deadly phrases” not to use in a relationship? If not, what would you add or delete? I would add name calling and a few others to the list.

Think before you speak. Everything you think and feel does not need to come out of your mouth. Be respectful. Relationships thrive better that way!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

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