Relationships are complicated. There are days when you can’t imagine life without one another – and days when you see yourself inside a random conflict. On those good days, loving or funny interactions are common. On bad days, interactions may include some really toxic phrases that can really damage a relationship. To keep things healthy, you should know things your partner should never say to you.
There will always be ups and downs. But on those days when you don’t even want to look at each other, you should know when the things you say or hear become toxic.
Words in relationships matter, any relationship expert will tell you. Especially if they are truly hurtful and damning. They may be forgiven, but won’t be forgotten, and the hurt can stick around for a long time.
Most of these toxic phrases are attacks or aggressive statements, and many relate to personality traits and intrinsic faults rather than behavior. Here is a “rundown” of such toxic types of statements and “attacks” – things your partner should never say to you.
The Gottman Institute founders Dr. John and Julie Gottman point that a guaranteed relationship destroyer is contempt. This is defined as attacking a partner’s sense of self by insults or abuse (emotional or physical harm).
Telling someone to grow up is just an attempt to assert moral superiority over a partner. It’s an agist statement that that implies that the person being addressed is behaving immaturely because of their age. This way, your partner doesn’t recognise your feelings and disregards your concerns because believes they’re not mature, which is a red flag in healthy communication.
Another way to demonstrate contempt is by assaulting your mental state and ability to judge reality clearly. These toxic statements are often used to deflect from their own behaviors and to gaslight you. Remember: you may be mistaken, but that doesn’t make you a crazy person.
While this may not be contempt per se, it is still a character assault, often known as an ad hominem attack – nothing more than an attempt to purposefully hurt the other person.
The offending party is not interested in a calm discussion about specific things you do that make them feel you are too needy. The Gottman Institute describes such a statement as criticism and a character attack.
This is nothing more than a scary threat intended to strike fear into a partner’s mind. In fact, it’s a fake break up, but each time that phrase is uttered over time is a guaranteed relationship destroyer. To constantly threaten to leave eventually falls on deaf ears, and the receiver of such threats may very well just emotionally retreat and fail to respond at all. Any chance for healthy give and take is pretty much gone.
This is just another example of contempt – an unleashing of negative feelings that are meant to be hurtful and mean. While it doesn’t involve physical harm, telling someone that they are not worthy of love and respect is abusive, no matter how angry their partner is with them at the moment.
Among the biggest things your partner should never say to you is this phrase. First, it plays on the other person’s vulnerabilities if they have any insecurities at all.
“Comparisons inaccurately measure worth and insinuate that one is better than the other.”
Dr. Bethany Cook, psychologist and relationship expert
So, your significant other (SO) is telling you that you are not as good as this other person. And if your partner may also say something like, “This girl really looked amazing tonight,” this is an implied comparison – and the combo spells bad news.
Dr. Gottman in “Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse” introduces the term ‘stonewalling’, meaning “withdrawing to avoid conflict.” This willingness to convey disapproval is one of the things your partner should never say to you. It is dismissive and tells you that your concerns and/or issues are not worth discussing. And when a partner does stonewall you, they are actually engaging in negative communication.
The other side of this coin is that an SO’s reason for stonewalling is the perceived contempt that you have for them. Check yourself and see if you are making any of the toxic statements we discuss. These are things you should never say to your partner either.
Never be afraid to tell your side of the story
— Toxic Relationships (@relationabuse) April 27, 2016
Here are some other stonewalling statements – things your partner should never say to you:
This should never be said to stay-at-home parents. What it says is that unless you are making money, you are not as important as the person who is. A major rule for a healthy relationship is that both partners are equal, and both contribute to that partnership in their individual roles. This is a recognizable form of devaluing someone. It’s just bad behavior and sounds toxic as hell.
If you are still reading this article, you should be able to recognize this statement as one of contempt. It is a very bold way of insulting or abusing an SO and attempting to devalue them. And add “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard” to this list as well.
This is the type of statement where criticism meets salt-in-wound meanness. It’s specifically designed to hurt and justify their critical comments by pointing out things that went wrong for you in the past, indicating that you were responsible for them.
Other equivalent phrase statements include those like, “No wonder you lost your job.” And these are also meant to indicate their moral superiority.
Here’s the thing: “never” is a forbidden word. And the second forbidden word is “always.” These are gross exaggerations and, again, such statements are made to criticize. If there are specific issues, then those should be brought up calmly and individually by a partner. Such exaggerations speak to not just their behavior but to a deeper-seated need to be superior. A simple example is, “You never want to do what I want to do.” And these statements deny a person’s efforts to have actually done such things.
Wow. This statement can be a very bad sign that a partner is holding contempt for you, possibly a result of some long-simmering feelings that they have decided not to communicate to you. It can also be a dismissive phrase to cover for their own bad behavior and lack of feelings of emotional intimacy for you.
Relationships do evolve and both you and your partner have changed. But when this statement is meant to say that there is something wrong with you, it’s contempt.
This is a perfect example of criticism but much more. If your partner is employed regularly, they may think they have the right to demand behaviors of you because they are “superior” in this partnership. Certainly, they are not a nurturing partner who is able to see the other person’s efforts in other tasks. The phrase, “just like always” covers that.
When a partner ignores an SO’s request and that SO becomes upset about it, this can be a completely insensitive response. Sensitivity is actually a good trait to have and is completely normal. It means you are not just aware of your feelings but can see the other’s position and feelings too. To diminish your sensitivity is to also diminish you.
I'm happy I met you, I'm sorry you met me.
— Words (@itswords_) February 21, 2022
This statement usually comes during a negative interaction when couples are not able to manage differences. Obviously, as relationship experts point out, this is a massive exaggeration and an attempt to cause pain.
It is something not meant but stings, nevertheless. The real problem is that the partner who spews this statement lacks the ability to argue maturely – not a positive trait for sure. To increase the ability to have positive interactions even during disagreements, family counseling might be recommended
This is nothing more than rubbing someone’s face in a past mistake. And it does nothing to keep a disagreement on topic. It’s simply a need to embarrass or humiliate.
If this statement is made in the middle of a heated argument, it can sting – especially if you have undergone the past trauma of an earlier breakup or divorce. It may be taken back at a later time, but the word is out there, and is this how every argument will end from now on? The above phrase shows a lack of trust. Your partner knows better.
A person’s life may have been difficult because of their parents. But bringing up things in the other person’s life that may have been painful is not playing fair.
Both of you are adults now and responsible for your own actions. Inserting ancient history into the conversation has no place, especially if it is painful. And it can be harmful to the mental health of a partner.
This is another “Oh wow, did you really say that” moment. If two people have enjoyed an active and satisfying sex life, this one hits below the belt.
It’s the least constructive thing that could be said during an argument, is meant to injure self-esteem, and will be hard to take back. Even if taken back, trust is diminished. No partner should ever say this.
Talk about trivializing your feelings. And by saying this, they are really trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility for what they have done to make you angry. This is totally dismissive and can screw up the normal give and take of a good relationship.
Really? This totally dismisses the effort you have put into making this a positive real-life relationship. You could try to enumerate all of the things you have done for them, but, in this state of mind, they will not hear you. In fact, they may even bring up past mistakes you have made.
Better to ignore this statement and walk away for the time being. They can’t bitch at a wall. This is one of the key things you should never spit out. Be a silent partner now.
At first glance, this type of sweeping romantic statement sounds beautiful and impressive. But hold on. Saying this shows an unhealthy understanding of what you really have together.
What you really have are ups and downs that you are both willing to go through because you have a deep desire to be together and complete each other.
All of the above statements are problems. They should never be said no matter how hot an argument or disagreement becomes.
If you and your partner are in a dating relationship and this is going on, going to a dating expert will probably be necessary. They need to learn to communicate in more reasonable ways. And if you are guilty of any, you need to work on that relationship and practice what to say to your partner too.
No relationship is perfect but being a thoughtful and caring partner is a major part of its success.