Note: This article was inspired byBrittany Wong, editor of the Huffington Post Divorce Section, who asked me to provide her some comments for the article she was writing. Check out my take on it below, and check out the result of her article here.
Common sense says that in a relationship with someone, the bar would be set to always be considerate and kind to one another, but we all know in far too many marriages that’s not the case. Every marriage therapist has experienced a cringe and wince factor when it comes to what couples say to each other, both in session and happenings reported when away from the therapist. I always tell clients there is no excuse or justification for hitting below the belt or offering unsolicited criticism, but does that stop them? No way.
The verbal crimes come from both genders, of course, but when it comes to what people say to their wives, here are some of the phrases that made me wince the most and should never be said:
- You’re getting to be just like (place name here). If the woman knows the person you are comparing her to is not a great lady or gentleman, this will send her hurt and anger meter into the stratosphere. Comparing her to anyone you don’t admire is always a bad idea.
- You’ll never be like (place name here). On the opposite end of the comparison coin, now the husband is telling her she doesn’t measure up to someone else. Always a bad idea, and people do it when talking about life’s most sensitive subjects like sex, character, integrity, physical looks, personality and skills and duties like cooking, cleaning, parenting,
- I never loved you. Disappointed and angry spouses love to rewrite history. They tend to view it through a lens that conveniently leaves out the good and amplifies the bad. Don’t believe it when your spouse tells you this … he’s just doing some creative editing of the past.
- I’m done. This one is said so much it has become the crying wolf phrase of many marriages. I tell clients these are very serious words and when you’re married they scare your spouse when said. So, never bandy about with with the idea you are leaving, unless you really are.
- You have destroyed our children. Hmmm, and you allowed it? Believe me, it takes two parents to properly screw up children, so if your kids are a mess, as in not growing up, thriving, becoming independent and/or getting into trouble, a big part of that rests on both of your shoulders. Look in the mirror, folks.
- You … never, should, ought to, or are (fill in blank here with something preachy or critical). So you know better than your spouse does what is in her best interest and what she should or shouldn’t be doing? It’s not so much in what you say as in how you present it, as in making it sound like you know better. No adult on the planet wants an unsolicited lecture about what is best for them, and they certainly don’t want to be told what they lack.
- You are frigid, so let’s get you some sex therapy. Guys, I’ve just got to tell you, in most cases there is nothing wrong with your woman sexually if she has formerly been responsive, and now she is not. It’s either something physiological like hormones or depression, or maybe you haven’t been very kind, cherishing and respectful to her lately.
- It’s my money, my business, my world, and if we get divorced I’ll leave you destitute, take the children, and you’ll be a homeless person. When marriages are on the rocks it pains me how one spouse will put the fear of God in the other about how a split will go down. “I will get it all, you will get nothing, and I will prove to the court you are a terrible person.” Why would anyone want to stay married to someone who would wish such an outcome?
OK, I could write these never-says for both genders all day long. There are so many, but you get the idea. If a relationship gets so bad that things like the above phrases are being tossed around, you either need to get serious help immediately or split up and then get help. There is no excuse for talking to any human being in these ways, and if you do it, something is terribly wrong with you. If you put up with it, you’re just as messed up.