Have you ever been in a conversation or argument with you partner or spouse before and you say something that you wish you hadn’t? I have. I’ve said things out loud and then immediately wished I could grab the words and sounds that came from my mouth and shove them back in there. It can be so easy to do in the current situation of our world, where it can be challenging to be a Supportive Partner During Covid-19. Unfortunately, words are like toothpaste – you cannot stick it back in the tube.
Healthy couples have productive conversations. It doesn’t mean that the conversations are easy or that those couples avoid conflict. But it does mean that they are mindful and aware of how their words impact their partner or spouse. Here are five statements that healthy couples avoid saying to one another:
Statement #1 That Healthy Couples Avoid Saying — Universal Statements:
Universal statements are over-generalizations that actually make it more difficult to get the desired change or result of the communicator. An argument that includes “You never____” or “You always do _____” are examples of the making universal or exaggerated statement. It leaves little room on behalf of the speaker for change to occur, and the hearer can usually refute such a statement rather easily. For example, “You never do the dishes.” The response could be, “Not true! I did the dishes last week after we had spaghetti!”
Statement #2 That Healthy Couples Avoid Saying — Complaint to Criticism:
This is one way to blame others for your own unhappiness about an activity or inactivity. For example, someone might say “I can’t eat spicy food because you don’t like it,” or “I don’t exercise because you don’t like run with me.” Rather than taking responsibility for one’s own happiness or enjoyment, the emphasis and blame is placed on the partner as a form of criticism. “I can’t have any fun because you don’t like to ____.”
Statement #3 That Healthy Couples Avoid Saying — Mind Reading Statements:
Happy couples tend not to participate in “Mind Reading,” or assuming they know what their partner is thinking or how they will react. This can look like, “I didn’t ask you because I knew you would just say ‘no.’” The best way to really know what your partner is thinking is to simply ask. Even if you think you know, it is best to leave space to be surprised. “I could tell by the look on your face that you didn’t like _____”
Statement #4 That Healthy Couples Avoid Saying — Positive Criticism:
Positive criticism is when one person will start with a positive comment, then finish it up with a critical statement. This could sound like, “I’m glad you want to spend time with me now. I just wish you would have started spending time with me three years ago.” Happy couples tend to simply appreciate what is taking place in the present and allow that appreciation to be communicated. Ending a statement with criticism often only makes a person feel hurt or guilty, making it challenging to foster love and trustworthiness in the relationship.
Statement #5 That Healthy Couples Avoid Saying — Throwing the Kitchen Sink:
Throwing the Kitchen Sink takes place when past arguments or complaints from the past are brought into a present conversation or argument. The complaints do not have to have anything to do with the current conversation and immediately puts one partner on the defensive. Very little positive communication can occur when one person is on the offensive and another is on the defensive. An example of this could be:
“We have got to stop spending more money than we are making.”
“Well, you’ve got to stop spending so much time on your phone – like you do every night when you get home.”
Couples who fight fail at communication. These five statements do not lead to the behavioral pattern that will leave consistent results. Couples who handle conflict well will use the communication techniques that were outlined in the blog post Five Tips for Couples to Improve Communication. Following those tips, while avoiding the statements in this post, will help you to make communication a strength of your relationship.
Jason Wilkinson helps couples learn the tools to make communication a strenghth through marriage counseling. Wellspace Counseling serves marriages and couples throughout Tualatin, Lake Oswego, and the Greater Portland Metro Area. To find more information about Wellspace Counseling, visit the at www.wellspacepdx.com.