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8 Things to Never Say to Your Partner,

Hadley Finch Intro: Therapists reveal 8 things to avoid

saying to your beloved, to support happy, sexy love

that lasts, courtesy of a guest post

By Jancee Dunn

Dec. 1, 2023

A friend of mine, a couples counselor, stopped by

to see me after a long week. She sank into my

couch, closed her eyes and said: “You know what

phrase I wish I could ban couples from saying?

‘I never said that.’”

It was a sentence, my friend told me, that she

heard almost every week. And once someone said it,

the whole session would usually devolve into an

argument about what the person did or did not say.

This made me wonder about other phrases therapists

wished couples would stop saying during conflicts.

Here are their candidates, why we should avoid

them and what to say instead.


“You always …” and “You never …” These

terms are often exaggerations, and they don’t

acknowledge any efforts your partner is trying to

make, said Kier Gaines, a licensed therapist who

works with individuals and couples in Washington,


And your partner might get defensive, he added:

“So you’re not even having a problem-solving

conversation anymore. You’re just going into

full-blown argument mode.”

Instead of delving into the past, make an effort

to stay in the present. “When you go back into

history, it turns the conversation into a

different thing,” Gaines said. Focus on the

problem at hand, he added. (You might say, I’m

noticing that you’re not helping to pick up

after the kids; here’s why it’s bothering me.)


“Yes, but …” Alexandra Solomon, a

psychologist at the Family Institute at

Northwestern University and the author of “Love

Every Day,” said she hears this phrase all the

time. One person will voice a concern, and the

other will agree — then add a caveat. (“You

were 10 minutes late,” one person might say. The

other might respond: “Yes, but you were late

last week.”)

Using the word “but” implies that “‘it was

kind of perfunctory for me to honor your concern,

but really, I don’t understand it or validate

it,’” Dr. Solomon said.

Instead of mounting a defense, she said, reflect

your partner’s words and feelings. Try saying

something like, “What I’m hearing from you is…


“You should be more like _____.” Comparing

your partner with someone else is “never, ever a

great strategy,” Gaines said.

“I see it a lot: ‘Well, Danny takes his wife

on a date three times a month,’” he continued.

“Danny is a different person. His partner is a

different person. You can only be who you are.”

Playing the comparison game can lead to jealousy,

Gaines said, and “breed a lot of issues with

self-image and self-confidence and self-esteem

within a relationship.”

“This was never an issue in my other

relationships.” This verbal bomb “really chips

away the trust and security that you have with

your partner,” said Wonbin Jung, a therapist in

Silicon Valley who specializes in treating

L.G.B.T.Q. couples. “The hidden message that I

hear as a therapist is, ‘The problem that we

have in this relationship is because of you.’”

Keep other people out of it, Gaines said, and

concentrate on talking about your own needs. This

can make you feel more vulnerable, but it’s much

more productive.


“You’re overreacting.” No one person is

“the actuary of emotional responses,” Dr.

Solomon said. One person does not get to determine

which reactions are appropriate, she said, adding

that this phrase is often used to bypass


Instead of judging, said Dr. Solomon, you can say,

“‘OK, I’m listening. Tell me more. Help me

understand what you’re having a hard time


“Calm down.” Urging your partner to take it

easy almost always has the opposite effect, Dr.

Jung said. “It’s like oil in a fire. So is,

‘You’re crazy.’”

If one partner is agitated, or both are, Dr. Jung

usually advises them to take a short break and

cool down.

Or, Dr. Jung said, you can ask your partner,

“What do you need right now?” (Maybe it’s to

be helped, heard or hugged.

“It’s not that big of a deal.” When you say

that one of your partner’s concerns is not

serious, it’s belittling and inaccurate, Gaines

said. “You can’t measure how something feels

to someone else,” he added. “You have no frame

of reference. You can’t make that call.”

Instead, Gaines said, respectfully acknowledge

that you have different perspectives. Then ask

your partner to help you understand why an issue

is important, and offer whatever support you can


Gaines told me that his wife, Noémie, is neat and

organized, while he is not. Once, he said, he left

a crusty bowl of oatmeal in her freshly cleaned

sink; she jokingly accused him of “trying to

destroy” her.

My husband and I have a similar dynamic. After I

heard Noémie’s line, I used it on my husband

when he left a pungent pile of his cycling gear on

the floor.

“You always make me laugh,” he said. (That’s

the good kind of “you always.”)


How will you use this news, to create a lasting love?

Hadley Finch

Claim a gift audiobook with secrets of happy sexy love that lasts

radio interviews with love experts. Visit. HappySexyLoveInRomanticRelationships.com

About Hadley Finch

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