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10 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Partner

10 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Partner

Most articles on what not to say to your partner circle around avoiding taboo topics and off-limits prodding. While those tips are certainly helpful, there are deeper, more cutting questions that are even more crucial to avoid.

If all you do is steer clear of these 10 questions, your relationship will be dramatically more fulfilling and rewarding than average.

1. “What’s wrong with you? Why are you always doing that?”

It’s never a good idea to make a negative judgment or a blanket condemnation of your partner. All that does is reinforce the exact negative behaviors you’re trying to change because your judgments incentivize them to isolate from you.

Rather than attacking your partner personally for what you don’t like, share what you do like and how you would feel or do feel when they do those things. You might have to get introspective and creative to find out why certain things are so important to you.

For example, let’s say they often leave the cap off the toothpaste. Instead of saying, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you always doing that?” you can say, “Honey, can you please put the cap on the toothpaste more often? It might seem silly, but when you do that, I really feel cared for by you.”

Then, the next time they put the cap on, feel that joy of being cared for, and let it make you happy. Go give them a big hug and kiss. Tell them you know it’s a small thing, but you really appreciate it. When your partner feels appreciated by you, they’ll want to do more and more of what you like to continue the positive vibe between you.

2. “Why do you never do what I want?”

Blaming is not sexy. It creates an atmosphere of hopelessness, resentment, distrust, and separation in the relationship. Not only is it harmful, it’s ineffective as well.

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When have you ever seen someone flip their life and personality around because they felt blamed enough? People sometimes change because they feel bad enough and hit rock bottom. In those moments, they find the inner strength to carry them into a new way of life. Don’t be that catalyst that gets your partner to rock bottom, though. There are other ways to create the same effect that are much more reliable and constructive.

Whenever you’re upset at your partner, focus first on taking responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, and actions. Take ownership of your part of the equation. Instead of dwelling on what you think your partner is doing wrong, shift your focus to how you might be able to improve the relationship.

Once you’re more solution-minded and you’re clearer on the situation as a whole, approach your partner with open, transparent communication and a collaborative stance so you can find a solution that makes both of you happier.

3. & 4. “Why are you so (annoying, lazy, ungrateful, selfish)?” / “Why aren’t you (better, kinder)?”

When you’re upset, don’t personally attack your partner. It’s just not helpful. You’re with them, the whole package of them. They’re with you, the whole package of you. If you’re together, then you’re a match on some level.

If you want the quality of your relationship to improve, it starts with how you communicate. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication, says that the most helpful way to communicate with your partner is to honestly express and empathetically receive.

Honestly express how you are and what you would like, without using blame, criticism, or demands. When your partner speaks to you, focus on empathetically receiving how they are and what they would like, without hearing blame, criticism, or demands.

This kind of communication is based on openness, honesty, and understanding, which nurtures the relationship. You can learn more about Rosenberg’s simple four-step Nonviolent Communication process here.

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5. “Why can’t you just relax?”

If your partner is in a fight or flight response, they can’t “just relax” on command. If they’re stressed, something is bothering them. Otherwise, they would be relaxed.

There are a myriad of reasons why your partner might be upset, and even though you would naturally want them to be more relaxed, saying that curtly in the heat of the moment is unlikely to get the result you’re going for.

The best way to help them become more relaxed is to seek to understand. You must first understand something before you can go about changing it. Sometimes understanding is all that is needed.

When you are open, curious, and gentle about what is actually going on for your partner, that is a clarifying and helpful step. Once you are talking together in that kind of supportive atmosphere, you’re setting yourselves up for success.

6. “Are you breaking up with me?”

Using this question in everyday conflicts is an unnecessary and emotionally destructive threat.

As Eben Pagan & Annie Lalla said at Burning Man’s Camp Mystic in 2014, oftentimes people ask that question not to gain genuine clarity but to escalate the conversation by introducing the threatening possibility of break-up themselves.

if you actually want to break up right there, then you can say so and follow through with it. Otherwise, ask genuinely clarifying questions of the other person. If it feels too heated right then, take a step back, reevaluate as objectively as possible, and discuss the matter again once the atmosphere has calmed.

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If you really are afraid your partner is breaking up with you, you can say simply, “Honey, I’m afraid. Let’s take a few minutes and come back once I’ve calmed down.” Once you’ve calmed down a bit, you can ask, “What are you feeling right now?” or, “What do you want?” or, “What do you want in our relationship?”

When you ask those questions in a non-threatening way, you give your partner space to think constructively about the answers. The one time, if ever, that your partner actually does want to break up, they will say so. Otherwise, asking these clarifying questions openly and gently strengthens the intimacy in your relationship.

7. “Are you sure you want to be with me?”

While it is important for the health of a relationship for each partner to praise and cherish the other, each partner is responsible for their own basic level of self-respect and self-confidence.

As relationship coach Jordan Gray says, expressing interest in your partner as a person and on a day-to-day level and affirming that you find them attractive is key to a satisfying relationship.

At the same time, Dr. David Scharchauthor of Passionate Marriage, points out that it’s hard to be sexually attracted to someone you constantly have to prop up. If you need constant validation on a basic level, then before long, it will be difficult for your partner to admire or respect you.

The solution is to make sure that you would want to be with you, and that you already enjoy being yourself. When you feel great in your own skin, it’s much easier for you to have the clarity of mind to actually assess whether the person you’re with is a great match for you and genuinely appreciates you.

8. & 9. “Can I trust you?” / “Are you telling me the truth?”

Asking this question point blank is never a good idea. For one thing, it puts your partner on the defensive immediately. For another thing, you can never trust the answer you’re getting.

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This is because if you’re not fundamentally sure you can trust someone, then asking them whether or not you can trust them will only drive you crazier.

When it comes to people getting jealous and possessive in relationships, Mark Manson, author of Models, says,  “It’s really simple: either you trust your partner or you don’t. If you trust your partner, then shut your mouth. If you don’t trust your partner, do everyone a favor and dump them.

“‘Well, what if I trust them but they lie to me anyway?’ Then trust that one day you will find out. Dishonest people cannot hide their dishonesty forever. Eventually it will surface and be obvious. And on that day, dump them.” Kind of harsh, but definitely straightforward.

10. “If you knew it would make me uncomfortable, then why did you bring it up?”

A quality relationship does not settle for the pseudo-comfort of avoidance. It thrives on the genuine comfort of two people who are transparent with each other and themselves for the purpose of deepening intimacy and fulfillment.

In order for your relationship to thrive, you have to be willing to talk about difficult and uncomfortable things and comfort yourself when the topic at hand feels confronting.

As Dr. David Schnarch suggests, in order for an emotionally committed relationship to be fulfilling, we have to be willing and able to soothe ourselves independently within the relationship. 

It is challenging to self-soothe and self-confront at once. That is for sure. It means coming to terms with the parts of us that we may not like to see so much, like our own fears, anxieties, and insecurities.

It is as rewarding as it is difficult, though.

Taking a look at what’s really going on inside with openness and curiosity means an ever-improving relationship and an ever-improving life.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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