The Meanest Thing You're Saying to Your Partner Without Realizing It

If you're guilty of saying this, you need to reevaluate how you're communicating.

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There are moments during an argument where you know that you're saying something hurtful to your partner. Blinded by the emotion of the fight, you spew mean comments back and forth to each other until, hopefully, the conflict is resolved. However, there is one mean phrase you're probably saying that you don't even realize is hurtful. If you use the phrase "I'd never do that to you," you're demonstrating a subtle form of contempt toward your partner, according to the Gottman Institute.

The Gottman Institute, a well-known research-based approach to relationships, says that the phrase "I would never do that to you," is a mean, inflammatory remark even if you do not intend it maliciously. The root of the issue with this phrase is that it shows contempt. You are comparing yourself to your partner and placing yourself on a higher plane than them, insinuating that whatever they did is beneath you.

Couple fighting man ignoring woman yelling at him
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"This comparison immediately sets you up as 'above' your partner—more 'adult,' more 'mature,' and just plain better," writes Ken Fremont-Smith, MAC, LMHC, for the Gottman Institute. Another version of this, Fremont-Smith says, is, "How would you like it if I did that to you?" This sentiment often coincides with some form of a lecture about whatever behavior your partner took part in that has upset you.

The contempt that comes with this phrase can make the dynamic of your relationship toxic. According to Fremont-Smith, John Gottman has long referred to contempt as "sulfuric acid for love." While you're likely unaware that you are slinging contempt towards your partner, it hurts them—and your relationship—nonetheless. Fremont-Smith believes that desperation is what drives contempt. If you are using any iteration of this hurtful phrase, you're likely defensively trying to stand up for yourself. However, there are much healthier ways to work through your problems with your partner.

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Fremont-Smith says the solution to these contempt-laden phrases is substituting them with a more straightforward, honest discussion. "The antidotes entail: a clear statement of what I am feeling ('I'm mad, sad, lonely, scared,…'), often combined with a request or a longing ('I'd like…') and, ideally, an invitation ('What do you think?' 'Can we talk about this?')," writes Fremont-Smith. Using this language in place of the accusatory phrase allows you to focus on what is really going on, so you and your partner can move on from there. And for more behaviors that can push partners away, This Is the No. 1 Turn-Off for Men, According to a Therapist.

Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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