Arguing is part of every healthy relationship. You and your partner won’t agree one hundred per cent of the time and sometimes one of you will say or do something that upsets the other. When this happens and you have a fair fight, you both voice your issues, listen to one another, talk, disagree, talk some more, and come away feeling closer.
But many of us don’t fight like that. We fight dirty. Psychologytoday.com says these five common phrases are hurting relationships more than we think.
People who fight dirty often do it because they’re afraid of fighting or they don’t want to take ownership of a fight. Instead of coming out and telling you they’re upset or angry, your partner will radiate negative energy that begs you to ask, “What’s wrong?” That’s when your partner says the first magic fighting word: Nothing.
Because it’s obvious that something is wrong, “nothing” really means: “Of course I’m upset, but I’m afraid of bringing up anything that may start a fight, so I’m going to provoke you into starting one for me.” Next time your partner says, “Nothing,” counter with: “That response is only going to get us into a fight. When you’re ready to talk about it, I’m here to listen.”
Let’s imagine that your partner has just thrown out the first fighting word, “Nothing,” and instead of countering with, “When you’re ready to talk about it, I’m here to listen,” you say, “I can tell something is wrong.” That’s when your partner drops the second fighting word: “Whatever.”
“Whatever” can cut to your core; it’s dismissive and minimises your feelings and concerns. Next time your partner says, “Whatever,” don’t take the bait and escalate the fight—which is often what a pa$$ive-aggressive partner wants. Instead, calmly tell them: “When you say that to me I feel like you’re not interested in how I feel or what I have to say and that makes me feel bad.”
If your partner doesn’t offer a sincere apology you’ve got to walk away and let them fume on his or her own. Otherwise, you’re just agreeing to fight on their terms.
‘Always’ and ‘Never’
“You’re never on time.” “I’m always cleaning up after you.” “I always go to your work parties; you never go to mine.”
‘Always’ and ‘never’ are rarely factual. When you use phrases that include ‘always’ or ‘never,’ you’re telling your partner that they can’t ever do something right and that you don’t believe they can change. This leads your partner to feel resigned and not try.
Remove ‘always’ and ‘never’ from your relationship vocabulary. Instead, keep the focus on the present situation, and be specific: “It upset me when you were late today.”
Let your partner know you have faith in them to change.
‘You’re just like your father/mother/sister/etc’
This is another example of something a pa$$ive-aggressive partner will say to bait you into starting the fight they’d like to have. Instead of, “I feel like you’re nagging me,” your partner will say, “You’re just like your mother.”
Try to take a deep breath and simply respond: “It really upsets me when you compare me to my mother.” Don’t escalate the fight; let them know they’ve hurt you.
‘You’re too sensitive’/’You take things too personally’
‘You’re too sensitive’ and ‘you take things too personally’ imply that it’s not ok to be sensitive or to feel slighted. They are fighting phrases, but they may also be cry-for-help phrases.