It’s not always easy to express what’s going on in our heart and mind. Whether it be telling a loved one about a problem that’s been upsetting us or simply telling a friend we don’t want to go out, our emotions and feelings might get in the way of our intended message. The person we’re talking to may feel hurt, get defensive, or offended. As confrontational as misunderstandings and disagreements can be, they cannot be completely avoided.
However, we are more likely to have healthy relationships if we think more consciously about how and what we say to others. And there is one particular relationship where this is so important—and that is the romantic relationship we have with our partner.
Here are 14 things that we shouldn’t say to our partners anymore (and what to say instead).
1. Instead of “I hate it when you…” say “It’d help a lot if you…”
We all have quirks. We might even have “bad habits” that grate on the nerves of others. But when you choose to be in a relationship with someone, you make a conscious decision to accept the “good” with the “bad.” As annoying or frustrating some character traits or behaviors may be, it is still a part of the person whom you care deeply about.
Keeping this in mind, you need to be gentle in your approach. For example, you could say, “It’d help a lot if you put your dishes in the sink when you’re finished. It just makes it easier for me when I’m cleaning up after dinner.” This approach acknowledges your true feelings without hurting the other person. Telling your partner about any kind of upset does not need to be confronting in an aggressive way. You can speak up and still minimize conflict.
2. Instead of “You don’t care about how I feel” say “Sometimes I don’t feel that you take my feelings into consideration.”
When our partner says and/or does something that’s upsetting, it’s easy to assume that they don’t care about you at all. But chances are, that’s far from the truth. All of us are capable of hurting someone else, regardless of whether that was the intention or not. But what’s important is that they validate how we feel.
Rather than assuming that they don’t care, it is more respectful to say, “Sometimes I don’t feel that you take my feelings into consideration.” This will give your partner a chance to ask why you feel that way and put you both on the path to finding a solution.
3. Instead of “You don’t even try.” say “I’d like you to put in more effort.”
We all have our own responsibilities and priorities. Sometimes there are periods in our lives that are busier than others. But this doesn’t mean that we don’t care about our partner. If you’re someone who is feeling a bit neglected and thinks their partner doesn’t make an active effort anymore, then approach the topic with your partner, but be kind.
Your partner may be working hard to make ends meet; they may be going through a crisis and need your help, or maybe they’re not “trying as hard” but don’t realize it. Rather than be confrontational, gently tell them, “I’d like you to put in more effort” and elaborate on the area that is upsetting you.
4. Instead of “You don’t love me.” say “I wish you’d paid more attention to me.”
There may be times during our relationships that we feel unloved, or that we don’t feel that our partner cares about us as much as we thought they did. It’s important that we vocalize these feelings. We can do this by saying to our partner, for example, “I wish you’d paid more attention to me.” If they’re the right person for you, they will want to know why you feel this way and how they can stop you from feeling this way.
5. Instead of “You never tell me how you’re feeling.” say “I know it’s hard for you to open up, but I’d like to know what you’re feeling.”
For many people, it’s hard for them to express how they’re feeling. They might not even know what it is that they’re feeling. Rather than be confrontational, try a much gentler approach and say, “I know it’s hard for you to open up, but I’d like to know what you’re feeling.” This approach acknowledges that it’s not easy for your partner and encourages them to talk about it.
6. Instead of “You never treat me as an equal.” say “I’d like you to help more with…”
If you feel that your partner doesn’t do their part in helping around the house, with the children, and/or value your opinion—it could be quite possible that they don’t realize it. So, a “you” statement might just leave them feeling defensive. Instead, tell them, “I’d like you to help more around the house/with the kids” or “I wish I could have more of a say in where we eat dinner.” These statements are far more direct and a better indication of what is upsetting you.
7. Instead of “You never think about the future.” say “I’ve been thinking about _____ and was wondering what your thoughts are on this?”
Although people can have very differing views of short-term and long-term goals, it is never appropriate to label them as “right” or “wrong.” People value different things and have different plans for the future. If your partner is quite different than you in this respect, you need to remember that they may not look at life the same way you do. So, if you still want to approach this topic, it would be more appropriate to say, for example, “I’ve been thinking about _____ and was wondering what your thoughts are on this? I just want to see if we’re on the same page.” This would seem less of a personal attack on your partner and also help you to better understand where the relationship is heading.
8. Instead of “You can’t…” say “I don’t like it when you…”
As much as relationships add value to our lives, it’s important for us to value ourselves and our independence. As much as you dislike some aspect of your partner’s life, you can’t ban them from behavior you don’t agree with. You can’t force them to follow a different direction. For example, you can’t say, “You can’t go drinking with your friends” because you hate drinking. You can, however, accept that is a part of them and who they are. You can still be honest and say, “I don’t like it when you drink so much because…”
9. Instead of “I don’t like your family and/or friends.” say “I’m worried that your family and/or friends are having a negative impact on your life.”
It’s quite possible that you don’t actually like your partner’s family and/or friends. But you need to re-evaluate your reasons for this and whether your feelings have more to do with you than with them. Are you feeling jealous that your partner spends so much time with them? If that is the case, you could try saying, “I’d love to spend more time with you.” If your reasons are definitely tied to your partner’s family and/or friends, then be honest. You could say, “I’m worried that your family and/or friends are having a negative impact on your life.” then add your reasons for why you believe this.
10. Instead of “Why did you come home so late?” say “I was really worried about you. I wish that you’d let me know that you were running late.”
This statement itself doesn’t sound particularly confronting, but the problem lies more in the tone. Communication is key in any relationship, but sometimes, your partner might have plans that come up out of the blue. If you wish they’d called or messaged to say they’re running late, it might be better to say, “I was really worried about you. I wish that you’d let me know that you were running late.” This gets your message across, without adding further anxiety to your partner’s mental state. Maybe your partner was late for a perfectly valid reason and is already feeling quite remorseful about it.
11. Instead of “Why do you spend so much money?” say “I’m worried about how we’re spending our money.”
Many people differ with their spending habits. They prioritize certain types of spending over others. If you are worried that your partner’s spending is affecting your finances as a couple, it is reasonable that you want to speak up. However, just like every other topic, this should be done tactfully. You could try saying, “I’m worried about how we’re spending our money. Maybe we could both work out areas where we could cut down on our spending?” This shows that you’re not just “pointing a finger.”
12. Instead of “All you do is work.” say “I’m worried about you working so hard.”
Life is about trying our best to maintain balance, but it’s also about plenty of responsibility. Your partner might be quite passionate about their career, have extra deadlines to meet, or simply not have realized that they are overworking themselves. Rather than finding ‘fault’ with their behavior, express your concern. Try saying, “I’m worried about you working so hard. I miss spending time with you.” Hopefully, your partner will see that your comments come from a kind and loving place—and they will be more likely to re-evaluate their priorities.
13. Instead of “It’s all your fault.” say “When you do/say _____, I feel _____.”
When you’re having a disagreement with your partner, it’s easy to fall into the “them vs you” trap, to believe that everything is about “winning.” But it’s not. In order to grow as a couple and to learn from each other, you must both be willing to accept responsibility for the relationship. Rather than laying blame on your partner, it’s more constructive to say, “When you do/say _____, I feel _____.” If your partner understands how you feel and feels remorseful, then you can both work together to find a solution.
14. Instead of “I want you to change.” ask yourself, “What can I do to help the relationship?”
It’s so easy to look outwards as opposed to inwards, to focus on the weaknesses of others. But in order to have a healthy relationship, it’s important to compromise, to learn from our partner, to stop the finger pointing and ‘”blame game,” and to make changes within ourselves that will improve us and the relationship. When we choose someone to be our partner, we choose all of them. Both their strengths and weaknesses, even their flaws. If one of their character traits is affecting the relationship, you could gently say, “It hurts me when you ____.”
e need to focus on how we’re feeling, not on labeling our partner. It is not our job to “change” someone. We do, however, have the chance to help them fulfill their potential, to be an encourager and motivator, to reveal their own inner beauty. When you choose to stand by their side, you’re choosing to work together and make each other better. It’s these types of healthy relationships that impact us for the better and help us to become the person that we were destined to be.
Featured photo credit: Nick Fuentes via flickr.com