Myth: My partner knows I love him or her without me having to say it.

Truth: My partner needs to feel my love through my words and actions.

It’s a given: connection and communication are the keys to a healthy marriage. Even the greatest relationships suffer when either fails. Both members of a couple must possess the courage to express what they want and who they really are. You need to be able to speak up for yourself and create an environment in which your partner can speak freely and honestly as well. If you don’t feel understood, you won’t feel loved, and the same goes for your partner. It’s that simple.

At the same time, you have to communicate with tact; there’s a reason people sometimes shoot the messenger. Bearers of bad news are often irritating. Read on to learn the top 9 things you should never say to your partner if you want to keep the peace!


9.  “What’s Your Problem?”

Never Say: “What’s your problem?” You’ll just come off as very cranky.

Do Say: “Is there something you want to discuss or change?”

A Good Response: “I want your help” or “I would like to tell you…” Use a neutral tone of voice to keep things calm.


8. “You Don’t Listen to Me!”

Never Say: “You don’t listen to me” or “You fly off the handle whenever I try to speak.” You are just fanning the flame.

Do Say: “I care about talking to you and appreciate that you will listen to me.”

A Good Response: “I want to hear what you have to say and will be calm.” Or, you can also ask to table the discussion until you are able to communicate better.


7. “Calm Down!”

Never Say: “Calm down.” This just guarantees your partner will become more upset.

Do Say: “Something must have happened, can you talk to me about it?”

A Good Response: “I don’t know that I can right now, but would you hold me, listen, or ____.”


6. “You Don’t Care About My Feelings.”

Never Say: “You don’t care about my feelings…” This just puts your mate on the defensive and they will be exonerating themselves instead of taking care of you.

Do Say: “I know you love me, but when you ____, I feel ___, and prefer that we could___. Is that okay with you?”

A Good Response: “I must not have shown you as well as I could, but I do care. Please give me another chance.”


5. “Use Your Brain.”

Never Say: “Use your brain” or “Be logical.” This is patronizing.

Do Say: “I’m not being clear. Please tell me what you did hear, and then I’ll explain it better.”

A Good Response: “I think you mean___” or “Tell me what I’ve missed.”


4. “You Are An Idiot.”

Never Say: “You are an idiot, or heartless, or a nag, etc.” Comments like this create distance. Character assassination is not good foreplay!

Do Say: “I appreciate your awareness, concern, and care for our relationship. Could we start over?”

A Good Response: When words fail, a logical, heartfelt, and succinct e-mail might be in order.


3. “Why Would You Do That?!”

Never Say: Anything in a lecturing, complaining, or whining tone. It’s pompous, manipulative, and demotivating.

Do Say: Hold hands, make eye contact, keep it in the now, and speak as though you are addressing a peer.

A Good Response: “What is it that I could do for you?” Act friendlier than you feel.


2. “You Always _______!”

Never Say: The words “always” or “never.” Even the worst of us get it right sometimes.

Do Say: “Would you do me a favor?” Then state your present complaint—no past, no future.

A Good Response: “That is something I can correct.” Do not defend yourself.


1. “I Can’t Talk to You About Anything!”

Never Say: “I can’t talk to you about anything important.” And don’t cry, sulk, or with- draw. It’s not fair.

Do Say: State what you want or need without making your mate feel bad for not having already delivered it.

A Good Response: “Whenever you are ready, I want to hear how to please you.”

Conveying your true feelings is an important action, but how your convey them is just as important. Make sure that when you communicate, you are not adding extra hurt or complications to the problem at hand. The point is to move forward.

In a perfect relationship world, there would be no fighting. But you don’t live in a perfect world, and people often feel misunderstood, neglected, insecure, and any number of other emotions that can lead to fights and disagreements. That doesn’t mean your relationship is headed for doom and gloom, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are any less connected. Fighting, or arguing, can even be healthy for a relationship if it’s done respectfully and you both come out of it with a better understanding of the other person when the conflict is resolved.

Click here for a complete list of all Dr. Janet Blair Page’s articles.
Dr. Janet Page is a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years in NYC and Atlanta, and taught for 22 years at Emory University. As the author of “Get Married This Year,” she speaks to audiences around the country about keeping love alive and finding your mate. Click here for more information on her “Get Married This Year” seminars.
  1. What can I say to a dear, close romantic friend of mine who is a trial attorney, sole practitioner. Always overworked, always late for appointments, over extended – he is 56 years of age and been practicing for nearly 30 years. So he won’t change his ways concerning his business. so what can I say when he constantly says he’s running late, he’s out of time, he’s rushed? I usually say, stop, listen to me… lets take a walk, a hike – he says he has no time. What can I say to a negative minded man whom I want to be positive with and uplifting and easy? Carolyn

  2. What you pointed out to be 9 cardinal errors in communication is right for sure. I totally agree. Still, some of the suggested ways of answering probably would drive me straight up the wall, if it was a controversial issue to start with. “What can I do for you?” or “Would you do me a favor and…” Communication is a minefield. If the partner gets the feeling he/she acts like an office clerk or Miss/Mister Prim.. So I think even more important than the stay-polite words I would say is the nonverbal. Be focused. If you can’t help being annoyed or exasperated, make a gesture that shows your partner that you love him/her – but are human with human feelings. And most importantly: step back. Don’t let the issue become too big. Walk the dog, look after the soup.. find something to laugh together, get/give/ask for/accept a cuddle or/and a kiss before putting the sore point to discussion again.

  3. To Carolyn:

    The problem with you man-friend is that Men are from Mars, Women from Venus and trial lawyers are from Mercury, going around the sun every three months and rotating on its axis every two months. They know where their next thought is, but the rest of the galaxy had better just keep up. With dozens of trials behind me from everything as minor as a “flashing” case to murder, it is hard to relate back to mere mortals especially when privilege mandates that we have to keep our mouths shut. It is just easier to say nothing than to wonder if we said too much to those we care about.

    What I always wanted my ex to do was work with me to relieve some pressure and so that she could appreciate the stress of having a piece of someone’s life in your hands. When she did that it was great. However, the stress is pretty overwhelming.

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