3 Phrases You Should Never Say To Your Partner

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In relationships, certain things are off limits, but it can be hard to give definitive examples because every relationship is different and contains different boundaries. While one couple may never, ever want to bring up a certain subject, it could be common conversation in the home next door. It’s important to not judge other couples for the lines they draw. We all have varying levels of tolerance for specific things, and that’s okay!

It’s equally as important to never cross those lines within your own relationship too, of course. The last thing you’d (hopefully) ever want to do is upset your significant other because you pushed their buttons too hard. Those lines might look a little something like the examples listed below.

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A Sentence’s Impact

Words are a powerful thing. The pen is mightier than the sword and all that, right? A simple vocal inflection or the slightest bit of context can warp a well-meaning statement into something vicious, leading a casual debate down the path to full-blown arguments.

A couple standing in front of a grey and white striped wall, holding hands but looking away from one another.
Unsplash / Andrik Langfield
Unsplash / Andrik Langfield

It’s important to know what statements (though they may be meant innocently) can cause more problems in a relationship than they solve, and what tones to avoid if you don’t want your partner to lose faith in you.

Helpful Perspectives

Thankfully, someone is here to help with just that.

A couple sitting together on a couch, speaking to a counselor.
Pexels / Timur Weber
Pexels / Timur Weber

Couples therapist Genesis Games, LMHC, has spoken to hundreds of thousands of couples and, along the way, has learned how words can build a relationship up and knock it down in the same breath.

“My job is to help people in a relationship get reconnected with each other,” she says. “A big part of that reconnection is learning to communicate vulnerably and have these very open and real conversations.”

She identified the top three comments or statements that will cause a major rift in your relationship, classifying them as things she would never, ever say to her partner.

“Calm Down.”

Anybody whose ever been told to “calm down” knows that it never, ever helps. If anything, it only increases frustration and anger in a given situation. Even though we’re all aware of this, it remains an instinctual statement that escapes our mouths without thinking.

A woman with tape over her mouth in an 'x' shape also holding a finger in front of her lips.
Pexels / Kat Smith
Pexels / Kat Smith

As Games put it: “It can be an automatic response in someone who doesn’t know how to handle a partner’s emotions, or how to provide the support that they need at that moment.”

“Saying ‘calm down’ doesn’t allow the other person to expand on what’s wrong or to explain why the situation at hand is upsetting them so much.”

The Root Of The Issue

Instead of asking that someone calm down when a heated moment arises, Games suggests that you ask your partner questions about their feelings. “When in doubt, lean into curiosity,” she says. “Ask, ‘What’s going on? Why is this so important to you?’ Or, ‘What about this is making you upset? I’d like to better understand.’”

A couple in the middle of a heated discussion.
Pexels / Diva Plavalaguna
Pexels / Diva Plavalaguna

If you already understand why they’re so upset, instead of suggesting they calm down, be the peaceful presence that helps them get there on their own. Be a supportive, loving partner and let them vent their frustrations without feeling like you have to shut down the discussion to ‘protect’ their feelings. Learn what they need in moments like this and provide that for them.

“You’re Acting Like Your Mom/Dad.”

Statements in which one person compares their partner to their parent are usually said with anger, annoyance, or any other number of negative connotations. It’s rarely ever used as a compliment.

A greyscale image of a couple, standing a few feet away, each of their faces cut off by the photo.
Pexels / Rene Asmussen
Pexels / Rene Asmussen

Games agrees, saying, “It’s almost always a low-key insult that they know, deep down, is going to hurt the other person.”

A comparison to one’s parent suggests a learned behavior that they have yet to grow out of, which is a profound insult that can bring attention to long-held insecurities about their upbringing. That may sound awfully deep, but that’s because it is.


Traits inherited from your parents, be they negative or positive, are the hardest to shake, so when someone brings that up as an insult, it’s likely something they’ve harbored a negative opinion about for some time.

A woman seated next to her older mother, showing her something on her phone.
Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio
Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio

To avoid snapping and saying something hurtful like this, Games suggests stopping the conversation entirely and returning once you’ve both had a chance to calm down.

If you really feel the need to tell them about the trait they share with their parent, do so later and not in the middle of an argument. Present it calmly, neutrally, and express why you think it’s important that they take notice of the behavior.

Avoid Saying Anything With Contempt

To speak with contempt is to immediately think of the person you’re speaking to as lower than you, less deserving of respect, and less worthy of having their feelings acknowledged. This one is less about what you say and more about how you say it. Tone can sometimes mean everything, after all.

A couple looking tense, looking into a small burning campfire.
Unsplash / Courtney Clayton
Unsplash / Courtney Clayton

“I describe contempt as anything that feels like you’re bullying the other person,” says Games. “And that’s what you definitely do not want to say in a relationship.”

Games also believes that contempt runs very deep in what it signifies. “It’s basically letting the other person know that they’re lesser than you and you’re superior, or that they should just feel so lucky that they have you around.”

The Worst Of The Worst

That sort of sentiment in a relationship is a death sentence. No one wants to stay with a partner that leaves them feeling awful at the end of the day. In fact, studies show that contempt within arguments is the number-one predictor of divorce in married couples.

A couple seated on a couch together, each taking off their wedding rings.
Pexels / cottonbro studio
Pexels / cottonbro studio

So, what should you do if you feel close to hurling contempt when speaking to your partner? Similar to the second point, it’s best to end that conversation then and there. Take a breather, sort out your feelings, identify why you wanted to speak in that way, then come back when you’re in a better headspace.

Games suggests practicing gratitude to drive out contempt. “Consider how you might show more gratitude for your partner on a day-to-day basis, or challenge yourself to catch your partner doing good things and verbally applaud them for it—as in, ‘Wow, I really like how you handled that conversation with the neighbor,’ or ‘Thank you for grabbing the mail; I really appreciate it.'”

Rocky Histories

Relationships are a tricky thing, and maintaining a healthy one can be a lot of work for some people who were raised or conditioned to think about love differently than the rest of the world. Though it is unjust, some people are taught that love accompanies feelings like pain or anger, when that should never be the case.

An older couple holding hands.
Pexels / Gary Barnes
Pexels / Gary Barnes

So while statements like the ones above may seem obvious to you, consider those who aren’t so lucky, and need all the help they can get when laying the parameters for a healthy partnership.

Become Better Together

With all that said, the trait people need to remember to practice most is respect for your partner. There’s no foolproof way to avoid tension or arguments in a relationship, so the next best thing is learning how to best cope with the feelings as they arise and avoid causing any further damage.

A couple hugging, slightly blurred in the foreground, the water behind them.
Unsplash / Kaleb Tapp
Unsplash / Kaleb Tapp

You’re not a bad partner for needing reminders like this. Relationships are all about learning, growing stronger over time, and promising each other that you’ll be the best you can be. Lessons like this help with that.

In any relationship, always take stock of your feelings and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?

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Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]