Everyone occasionally messes up and says things they don't mean. Maybe you snap when you're tired, or your partner becomes extra snarky whenever he or she is overwhelmed. It's totally normal, and usually OK — as long as you both apologize. But there are things your partner should never say to you (and vice versa), if you guys want a healthier relationship.
I'm talking about words and comments that aim to hurt, target a point of insecurity, or threaten your relationship. Unlike smaller daily indiscretions (like being cranky when you're tired), these harsh words are often difficult to forget. And some can even ring in your head for days (or weeks, or years).
Take name calling, for instance. As licensed marriage and family therapist Lisa Locke, M.S., points out, words can't be taken back. So if your partner drops a few choice phrases, it really can change your relationship forever.
If things have gotten to such a point, it's obviously more than OK to call it quits. But if you want to salvage your relationship — and make it healthy again — it's usually possible to turn things around. "If both partners gain awareness, have a desire to change, and practice something different, then healing can happen and the negative pattern can be broken," Locke says. Read on for a few comments that are never OK, as well as what to do when/if things get out of hand.
1. "You're so needy"
A healthy partnership consists of people who are able to stand on their own two feet. But being in a relationship also means offering each other support. So imagine how hurtful it would be if you went to get that support, and your partner called you "needy." Comments like these are not only cold, but they invalidate your feelings, therapist Lisa Bahar, LMFT, LPCC tells me. And clearly that's not OK.
2. "That's so stupid"
It's never acceptable for your partner to insult your intelligence, or to imply that something you like is "dumb." As relationship expert Noni Ayana M.Ed. tells me, when you're on the receiving end of such comments, it really can hurt your sense of self-worth. Plus, it's just downright rude.
3. "Are you really wearing that?"
Every couple is different, so if you and your partner enjoy exchanging compliments, or critiquing each other's looks, then have at it. But if comments about your appearance make you uncomfortable, let it be known they're totally off limits. After all, "body-shaming or anything bashing appearance can destroy confidence," says relationship expert April Davis. If you don't want to deal with that, then you shouldn't have to.
4. "You look fine"
Again, not saying you or your partner need to validate each other's fashion choices. But if you ask how something looks, nothing's colder than a casual "you look fine" reply. As relationship expert Samantha Daniels says, "... this is not a relationship-ending comment, [but] it is not a feel-good one either." It just sort of shows that your partner isn't listening, and that's not cool.
5. "That's it, we're breaking up"
Unless your partner really and truly means it, they should never throw a break up threat in your face. "It plants a seed of insecurity in the relationship instead of sending a signal to the partner that, no matter how difficult things are at the moment, the other is committed to staying and working on the relationship," says psychotherapist Kathy McCoy, Ph.D., in an email to Bustle.
6. "You're such a liar"
It's normal to yell about lying, especially in the heat of an argument. But it definitely shouldn't become a habit. "This implies you don't believe anything your partner says, and that you have issues with trusting yourself or others," says Ayana. Never a good thing when you're trying to have a healthy relationship.
7. "I'll tell you how you feel"
Your partner should never tell you how you feel — physically or emotionally. As author and relationship expert Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed. says, "It’s important for partners to never invalidate the feelings — physical, emotional, or the expression of feelings — of each other." It's a slippery slope that nobody needs to be on.
8. "It's all your fault"
It's not a great sign if your partner blames you for everything. Not only does it show a lack of accountability, Ayana tells me, but it's often a tactic abusive partners use so they can keep repeating their bad behaviors. If your partner constantly makes everything your fault, it may be time to reconsider your relationship.
9. "You're nothing like [insert ex's name]"
It's never ever OK for your partner to compare you to their ex — or anyone, for that matter. "Being compared to someone else leads to feelings of inadequacy and doubt about your own self-worth," Daniels says. "Your partner should keep quiet when it comes to things like this if he or she really cares about you."
10. "You're doing that wrong"
While it's fine for partners to point out each other's flaws — all in the name of growing together — it's not cool if your partner is critical at every turn. As licensed clinical psychologist Helen Odessky tells me, any words or comments that are overly critical should be off limits. Not just because they're hurtful, but because they don't bring anything good or helpful to the relationship.
11. "You suck at that"
If your partner calls you names — especially any that make you feel shamed — it can (obviously) start to affect your self-esteem, clinician and behavioral expert Rob Weiss tells me. And if it's really shaming, name calling can even pass over into the realm of emotional abuse.
While some mean/rude/hurtful comments from your SO are forgivable, others definitely aren't. If you feel like you're stuck in an emotional or verbally abusive relationship, there are things you can do to get help.
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