If you're in a relationship with your best friend (which is the best kind, IMHO), it's easy to get to that super comfortable place where you can and do and say anything to each other. But should you? Are there things you should never say to your significant other, even when you're kidding? Playful banter is one thing, but once you've crossed the line of saying unkind words when you're joking, it's easier to say them when you're angry. And when you're angry, those words carry a whole other meaning with a new level of hurt — one that can damage more than just momentary feelings.
Relationships are built on healthy communication. Healthy communication is built on respect. A key element of respect is kindness. Creating a relationship where the communication is honest and open but also supportive and kind paves the road for deeper intimacy, according to Karen Lawson, MD, in an article for the University of Minnesota Center of Spirituality & Healing. It's just better for everyone involved if kinds words are used more than hurtful ones. Sure, it's easy to think of nice things to say to your partner, but what about those red flags? What should you never say to your partner, whether you say it in good times or bad?
1. "I Hate You"
Part of setting healthy boundaries in a relationship is setting up a line of respect. On one side of the line, you keep all the things that someone who loves and respects you doesn't get to say to you. I like to keep "I hate you" on the bad side of that line. It's just not something I'm comfortable with my partner saying to me, even if it's clearly a joke. Keep in mind, it's normal to occasionally feel like you hate your partner, according to relationship expert Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW, but in healthy relationships, those tough times usually pass.
2. Trigger Words
We all have a past and baggage and pet peeves. If your partner hates being called something or reminded of something hurtful, don't say it. This goes double for saying things to your partner that have to do with previous sexual assault or painful childhood stuff. There are no clear cut rules. Domestic Violence Prevention site Break The Cycle says that each partner gets to establish what names and jokes are OK. It's up to the other partner to respect those rules.
3. Threats Of Violence
This isn't cool. It's sometimes a fine line between threats of violence, even when you're just "kidding" and real, actual violence. Threats of violence don't do anything to help create a relationship built on respect, trust and intimacy. If you or your partner have problems controlling threats or anger, seek help. If not, find other ways to express yourself, such as using clear "I statements" to express your hurt. For example, instead of saying "I'm going to kill you" say "I do not like it when you do this and here's why..." Sure, it seems like common sense, but oftentimes anything seems to go when joking — that shouldn't be the case.
4. Mean Names
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. I learned that in kindergarten, and for the most part, it has served me well. This is the person you love. Name calling is just minor league stuff. Abuse victim and author Patricia Evans cited name calling as an act of war — a subtle way to eliminate someone's true identity. So think twice next time there's a mean name on the tip of your tongue.
5. "If You Really Loved Me..."
Much of the time, when this comes out of someone's mouth, it's followed by some kind of manipulation. "If you really loved me you would..." There are times when this is a legit thing to say. Like "if you really loved me, you would want what's best for me." Or "if you really loved me, you would respect about my needs as an individual." But if you're saying (or hearing) things like "if you really loved me, you'd stop being friends with people I hate," then this might be a read flag for controlling or manipulating behavior. Psychology Today communications expert Preston Ni M.S.B.A. advised learning how to say "no" in a respectful but assertive way in a relationship. If you can't say "no" to your partner out of fear or worry, it's a red flag of a manipulative relationship.
Even if you've been with your partner for years, there is never an OK time to say things that are hurtful, dangerous, or emotionally damaging. Sometimes it's easy to dismiss things as jokes, but loving your partner means respecting them, and not saying these things goes right along with that idea.
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