In any relationship, communication is important. In a long-term romantic relationship like a marriage, good communication is essential – and the more effectively you and your partner communicate, the more likely that your relationship will last.
Of course, strong and open communication is not easy. One of the reasons we struggle so much with it is that it can be really uncomfortable, particularly if you are unhappy or unfulfilled and don’t want to disappoint your partner. But it’s natural for any intimate relationship to have ups and downs, and even the most dedicated partners will disagree every once in a while. The difference between the successful relationships and the ones that fail is that the people in the most successful ones know how to argue with their partner.
Intense arguments – where you both say things you regret – can harm a relationship fast. While everyone is different, there are some important words that should avoid be avoided in the heat of the moment. In particular, avoiding these two words will make it easier to disagree without long-term damage.
Two words can ruin your relationship
‘Always’ and ‘Never’
Notice the difference between these pairs of statements.
“You never take out the garbage!” or “I’d really like it if you would take out the garbage more often.” and “You never support me. You always leave it to me to make big decisions!” or “I don’t feel supported when we take big decisions. I’d really like it if you would be more involved.”
It’s clear the version that uses ‘always’ or ‘never’ is more inflammatory. Avoiding these words automatically shifts the focus onto the feelings of the person talking, rather than the behaviour of the person being spoken to; it removes the tone of blame.
‘Always’ and ‘never’ don’t allow for the fact that people take decisions about how to behave moment by moment and have the capacity to change them – those two words don’t leave any room for improvement.
When you say that someone is always in a bad mood, it can feel to them as though you’re saying they are moody. Instead of hearing “for the last few weeks, it seems as though you’ve been upset about something” they hear, “you’re not fun to be around.”
Try instead to be specific about instances that have upset you. Say “when I got home from work yesterday, I was tired but still worked really hard to make dinner and tidy the house. I was upset that you didn’t help,” rather than “you never help around the house!” When you use ‘always’ and ‘never,’ it’s impossible to be specific about the behaviour that has upset you, and it can feel instead that you’re attacking your partner’s character.
Two words that can ruin your relationship?
In avoiding these two words, it’s easier for your partner to understand that you love them, but their behaviour on certain occasions has upset you. Otherwise, it can sound as though you ‘always’ think they’re unhelpful, ungrateful or that you’re ‘always’ unhappy – and that’s rarely the case.
Arguments between partners are often highly emotionally charged, and we all have a tendency to become defensive. The accusatory tone associated with ‘always’ and ‘never’ is a recipe for an emotional, defensive reaction; a statement about how you yourself feel or about a specific action or occasion are far easier for your partner to accept.
It can be difficult to keep your cool when you argue with your partner, but this one simple change in the way you speak really can improve the way you communicate in tougher times.
Avoiding these two words will help
You to keep it specific and focussed on how you feel, and allow your partner to hear your point of view without automatically becoming defensive. If both you and your partner can master this way of disagreeing, it’s bound to have a hugely positive effect on your relationship.