This morning, my best friend and I got into a discussion about things you should never say in a relationship. We came to the conclusion that there are quite a few things that really should never be said to your partner, and that we could all stand to learn how to pause more often, before we say something potentially damaging. "There are many things that are hard to forget," she said, shaking her head. Even if someone says something seemingly benign — "I don't like those pants"; "Your hair looks weird like that" — it can get stuck in your head like an earworm.
We realized that are countless things you can't take back in a relationship, and we weren't even talking intentionally mean comments said in anger in the midst of a bad argument. These are the thoughtless, offhand remarks that might not seem like a big deal to the speaker in the moment, but that stick around and haunt the recipient for months or years to come. Whether you're in a relationship or just have ever been in a relationship, it's likely that you can think of a few such ghosts — the comments that lie around and resurface from time to time. Here are seven things that men have actually said to my friend or me that we've never forgotten — comments that can never be taken back — and why they're so hard to shake.
1. "I Don't Like Your Mom"
Anything targeted at the parents of your partner is a bad idea. Even if you really don't like someone's mom, this is one best kept to oneself. If someone does say this to you, it'll throw a wrench into your outlook of them right away. And it'll never go away.
2. "Your Hair Looks Like ..."
In my case, it was Einstein! He later took it back, or rather modified it, saying that it was totally a term of endearment and that furthermore, he likes Einstein's hair. It's cool! It did soften the blow, actually, but still. No one wants to be told their hair looks bad (or like Einstein's). End of story.
3. "You Look Bad/Funny/Weird In That Shirt"
Even if later this is amended with a "No, really, I like that shirt, I was just joking around," the receiver of this remark probably won't believe it. If I'm told that I look like a lumberjack in my shirt, I may shrug it off — "Whatever, man, I love this shirt" — but I won't forget you said it. As my friend so eloquently said this morning, "I don't care if you tell me you like them [later], I won't believe you."
4. "He/She Is Really Cute"
Of course there are going to be people to whom we're attracted even if we're in a relationship. Knowing who else your partner is attracted to may not be an issue for everyone, but if I know that my partner finds someone else adorable, I'm going to think about that every time we see that person. And of course, for all of these, the flip side is true: If I tell my partner that I find someone attractive, they'll remember it.
5. "You Talk Too Much"
This one, shockingly, isn't one of mine — my friend's post-college boyfriend said this to her. The nerve! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Many woman are, by nature, talkative. Certainly not all of them, of course. But if you hate the fact that your girlfriend is particularly loquacious, do yourself and everyone involved a favor and keep that fact on lockdown. You will do exactly no one a favor by disclosing it so bluntly.
6. "You're Too Loud"
Similar to the previous one, any comment about modifying someone's personality that's not phrased gently will feel like a personal attack. (Oh, and yes, this one's mine.) If I had a dollar for every time someone shushed me or told me to quiet down in my life, I'd be retired in Tahiti. (Wait, I just Googled Tahiti, and it is super gorgeous. I might get bored there, though. But seriously, so pretty.)
If you're dating someone who happens to get overexcited, please do not tell them to pipe down. There are definitely softer ways to phrase many of these critiques, and there's nothing wrong with sitting down with your partner and talking to them about something that bothers you using nonviolent communication or a similarly kind manner of speech. But don't just blurt out judgments.
7. "You Need Therapy"
Saying things like this, or "You're crazy," or that kind of thing — no. Just no. If your partner is having a hard time with work or is feeling depressed or whatever the case may be, it is a good idea for them to seek outside help. And maybe you can help them find a good therapist, and show that you care and want to support them. But a flippant remark like this, especially if apropos of something they say or do that you don't like, is a terrible idea.
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