65 Things No Spouse Ever Wants to Hear, According to Relationship Pros
DON'T LET THESE PHRASES CAUSE A COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP.
When it comes to keeping a relationship on steady footing, there's a major difference between talking and actually communicating. In many cases, even the most loving couples can make fatal missteps when it comes to how they speak to each other, creating serious tension, resentments, or even the dissolution of their relationship if they're not careful. However, it's not just outright insults that can damage your marriage over time—even some of the seemingly innocuous things you say to your spouse could cause major problems down the line.
If you want to make sure you're keeping the lines of communication open and keeping your relationship healthy, read on to discover what relationship experts recommend you never say to your spouse.
When you accuse your partner of always doing a specific thing, be it leaving socks on the floor or never parking close enough to the curb, not only is your statement accusatory, but it also doesn't offer much in the way of feedback about how they can change things.
"It makes it hard for your partner to want to try to do something differently when they feel the times they do never go noticed," explains licensed mental health counselor CJ Everhart, MSEd, who notes that statements like this stem from needs that aren't being met, and could be better addressed by expressing what those needs are.
"I can't count on you."
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Sure, you may feel as though your partner's dropping the ball left and right, but telling them you can't count on them means there's a fundamental breakdown in your relationship.
"Using these words communicates to your partner that you're not able to see the good that they contribute to the relationship or a way out of conflict," explains couples therapist Heather Z. Lyons, PhD, owner of the Baltimore Therapy Group.
"I don't want to talk about it."
While this may be true when you're in a heightened emotional state, in most relationships, the only way out is through—and if you're not willing to talk to your partner about what's wrong, that means you're not willing to repair it, either.
"Tuning your partner out or shutting down the conversation might communicate to your spouse that they are not important to you," explains Lyons, who recommends setting aside a specific time to talk later if you're feeling this way.
"We've grown apart."
While your relationship dynamic may have changed over the years, unless you're ready to call it quits, you're better off avoiding this phrase.
"Growing apart is a choice," explains marriage and relationship coach Stacey Greene, who recommends finding a neutral third party, like a therapist or other mentor, to help you find ways to continue growing together as a couple.
"I don't love you."
It might be tempting to tell your partner this in the heat of the moment, but "after this is said, it is impossible to come back from," says therapist Rebecca Weiler, LMHC.
"Even if the spouse later says they were angry and they didn't mean it, the other person will always have doubt, and it impacts the bond and trust in a relationship." If you really do want to end your relationship, there are many ways to do so without making your partner question if what you had was real to begin with.
"You're a slob."
It may be frustrating to notice that your spouse never picks up after themselves or is wearing the same pair of sweatpants for the fifth day in a row, but calling them a slob will only hurt their feelings and do damage to your relationship.
"You should never make a complaint that involves a personal attack on someone's character," explains clinical psychologist Elie Cohen, PhD. Instead, Cohen suggests explaining the situation in objective terms and relating from a first-person perspective how it affects you, then suggesting an alternative that would work better.
"You can't be angry with me."
Telling your spouse what they can or can't be angry about is rarely successful—after all, what are the odds you can actually influence how they feel about what comes next?
"These words are pointless and when stated in an argument usually create more tension and frustration," says therapist Patricia O'Laughlin, MFT, who suggests discussing the reasons they might be angry instead of simply trying to dismiss them.
"I love this about my ex."
Your ex may have been wonderful, but comparing them to your current spouse will never yield positive results.
"While we may compare in our minds, especially when we are angry, letting your partner in on the details will just create defensiveness and insecurities," says O'Laughlin, who notes that saying something along these lines will typically cause more problems than solutions.
You got grounded when you said it to your parents, you got detention when you said it to your teachers, and you should never, ever tell your partner to shut up either.
"Both partners in a relationship have every right to state their piece," says O'Laughlin. "If you find yourself telling the person you love to 'shut up,' you have stopped communicating." Instead, she recommends taking a break from the conversation to cool off until you feel like you can discuss the issue at hand in a productive manner.
"So and so's spouse always does this."
Even if you see a glaring disparity between your relationship and your friends' relationships—especially in terms of what their spouses do for them—it's never wise to try to make that comparison to your spouse.
"This statement makes the other one feel like they are not enough for their spouse and it is judgmental," explains licensed therapist Jaime Bronstein, who notes that there are kind ways to request something of your spouse—and this definitely isn't one of them.
"You shouldn't feel that way."
No matter how much you believe your spouse's feelings are wrong, it's simply disrespectful to tell your spouse that they shouldn't feel a certain way.
"When you say that to someone it makes them second guess themselves, and it's disempowering," explains Bronstein.
"You shouldn't eat that."
It's one thing to suggest that you and your spouse eat healthier or hit the gym together. It's another thing altogether to critique what your spouse has just ordered or is about to eat. Unless eating a certain food would trigger a medical issue for them, it's not your place to tell them what to put in their mouth: Your partner is an adult and can make their own decisions.
"This statement screams that you're trying to control your spouse, and some might feel offended as if their spouse thinks they are fat," explains Bronstein.
"I want you to make more money."
Even if you're barely scraping by, telling your spouse that they're not doing their part financially—especially when they're trying to do so—will only lead to resentments and relationship problems later on.
"This message can be interpreted as, 'You're not good enough for me,'" says Bronstein, who suggests providing advice for how your spouse could change their career path if they're not satisfied. "Money in general is a very touchy subject and should always be discussed with loving intentions," she adds.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
In addition to seeming controlling, this phrase can even come across as threatening, depending on the context in which it's said.
"Just because you wouldn't do something doesn't mean that your spouse shouldn't do it," says Bronstein. "It's subconsciously saying to your spouse that you don't trust their decision-making ability."
"Get over it."
This dismissive and mean-spirited phrase is unlikely to yield the results you want—but pretty likely to be the catalyst for a big fight. "Everyone is unique and takes their own time to get through something," explains Bronstein. Each spouse should respect the other's style of moving through an emotional situation. No matter how unreasonable you think your spouse is being, find a kinder way to acknowledge their emotions.
"I don't care."
Even if you're not particularly passionate about something your spouse is saying, telling them that you don't care is both hurtful and dismissive.
"'I don't care' only shuts down communication and creates a feeling of being unimportant," explains psychotherapist and certified relationship coach Babita Spinelli, founder of Opening the Doors Psychotherapy. "A spouse will feel like their needs are not cared about."
If you're actually delivering a sincere apology, it shouldn't come with a "but" on the end.
"Apologies to create meaning need to be owned fully without the extras," explains Spinelli. "'But' or 'however' after an apology can feel like an excuse to a spouse."
"We need to talk."
Even if you really do need to talk, this isn't a great way to start things off. "It always means that there is going to be a difficult conversation, and it's probably not going to go well," says licensed psychotherapist and author Jill Murray, PhD. "The fear of the unknown and the accompanying dread make it worse."
"In the midst of something tense, the word 'relax' from your spouse only ramps things up," says Mitzi Bockmann, a certified life coach. Heed her advice and avoid this directive at all costs.
"I know I said I would do it, but…"
It can be tempting to say you're going to do something you know you aren't, just to end a conversation about it. But that's not an effective strategy in the long run. As many partners to procrastinators know all too well, "not getting things done that they say they are going to get done is worse than saying they can't do it," says Bockmann.
"You're just like my ex."
Comparing your spouse to a past lover can be hurtful, even if they're not usually competitive or jealous. "Most times in life, comparisons are unhelpful to us psychologically," explains cognitive behavioral therapist Alex Hedger, clinical director of Dynamic You Therapy Clinics. "Comparing a partner to a previous partner often causes fear and resentment. It can also prevent the partner who is making the comparison from experiencing their current relationship fully and healthily."
"We need some space."
Sometimes this sentence can be heard as "I'm getting ready to end our relationship"—so be sure to make it a conversation instead of declarative statement.
"While [time apart] can often be a useful strategy in a relationship, it's important for both partners to understand why some time apart could be useful," says Hedger. "Unless both fully understand the rationale and the possible benefits that could come from downtime, then it can seem like a threatening thing to hear in a relationship."
"You're being ridiculous."
"Being heard, empathized with, and 'validated' are crucial to a healthy relationship," Hedger says. "Statements like 'you're being ridiculous' demonstrate that someone is either struggling to or unwilling to empathize. This often leads to a position of confrontation with the other partner feeling that they have to justify their thoughts or feelings."
Hedger suggests sticking to "I" statements as opposed to "you" ones in moments of conflict. For example, "I don't understand why you feel that way" would be a good substitute here.
"You remind me of my mother/father."
This might sound like a compliment in your head, but chances are that's not how your spouse will hear it. "Comparisons to any family member can completely kill the mood," says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, a therapist based in New York.
"If you don't like it, leave."
Nobody likes an ultimatum, so unless you're really ready to say so long to your spouse, this phrase should never pass your lips. "This all-or-nothing approach to relationships is a manipulative conversation-killer, as it leaves you with no reasonable way to respond," says Jess O'Reilly, PhD, the resident sexologist at Astroglide. It's best to avoid this kind of demand at all costs.
"I want a divorce."
Threatening divorce just to incite a reaction is even worse than the aforementioned ultimatum. "So often, couples run into temporary moments of discomfort in their marriages, and instead of having logical conversations about how to make the relationship better, they go straight for the D-word," notes Allison Maxim, lead attorney at Maxim Law. "This is not only unhealthy rhetoric, but making these comments could leave your spouse feeling unsafe and insecure."
"You're so dramatic."
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What reads as drama to you might just be your partner's very real—and earnest—way of expressing their feelings. If you feel like your spouse is blowing things out of proportion, you can express that without resorting to this also-offensive D-word.
"You're not listening to me."
Making an accusation won't get you very far. The better approach is to check in with your spouse and ask what's distracting them. "Instead of assuming they didn't hear you, you can nicely ask if they are listening," says Rori Sassoon, matchmaker and CEO of Platinum Poire.
"Unless this is said playfully and in the bedroom, this phrase will likely not go over smoothly," Sassoon says. If you want your spouse to do something, don't order them or threaten them—just ask nicely.
"Nothing is worse than the 'I'm fine,'" says Michelle Frankel, the founder of NYCity Matchmaking. She notes that these two words can come across as you not trusting your partner to help when you're feeling emotional. If you're not actually fine, then say so.
"This is your fault."
Placing all of the blame on someone else isn't the way to work through problems. "It is extremely important for couples to solve problems as a team, rather than hold one partner responsible," says Frankel.
"Why don't you ever…?"
"No matter what the end of this question is, it is already overflowing with negative connotations and shame before the subject is even delivered," notes Britanny Burr, love and relationship expert for Psych N Sex. "Asking someone why they don't do something that you would like them to do is not going to make them want to do it—it is merely shaming them and making them feel poorly about something they may not have known you wanted."
So instead of saying, "Why don't you ever take me out to dinner anymore?" try going with, "Wouldn't it be fun to go out for dinner sometime this week?"
"That's not my job."
There are plenty of chores people don't like doing, whether it's changing diapers or cleaning the oven. However, in a marriage, claiming that something "isn't your job" makes it seem as though that vision of equitable work you both imagined when you tied the knot has somehow flown out the window.
"You never help around the house."
Even if you don't feel like your spouse matches your efforts in terms of housework, odds are they do some things to help out—and recognizing that will get you further than playing the blame game.
The best way to ask your spouse to do more is to acknowledge what they've already done, praise them for it, and after doing that, simply ask them to handle specific tasks as they come up.
"Why don't we have sex like we used to?"
A sexless marriage is absolutely worth addressing, but this phrasing is likely to put your spouse on the defensive. Besides, having unrealistic expectations about sex is not going to get you anywhere.
"It is absolutely possible for long-term couples to have an exciting sex life, but it is unlikely it will ever be like it was at the beginning," notes somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist Holly Richmond, PhD. "Be open to moving passionately into the future, not trying to recreate the past."
"Wait, what did you say?"
If your spouse has to repeat what they said because you weren't listening, don't be surprised when they're more than a little annoyed about it. "It can be very hurtful," says licensed psychologist Wyatt Fisher, PsyD, founder of a couples retreat in Boulder, Colorado.
"You can't understand what I'm going through."
If you want a healthy marriage, it's worth letting your partner know how you're feeling and how they can help instead of shutting them out.
This is especially true when it comes to pregnancy and early parenting, explains Justin Lioi, LCSW, a men's mental health and relationship expert in New York. "Of course they can't, and they know it. But they want to find a way in," he says of male partners.
"You looked so good back then."
The emphasis on the past makes this compliment a backhanded one. While you may simply be saying this to be kind, don't be surprised if your partner takes it to mean you wish they still looked like they did decades ago.
"You never let me do what I want."
In a partnership, it's important to consider the needs of your spouse, and sometimes, that means suggesting that you buy a safe, reliable car instead of a convertible, or that you set aside money for your future instead of going on an expensive vacation. While it may seem like your partner is trying to hold you back, it's important to realize they're acting responsibly for the good of your marriage and your family, not trying to punish you. Otherwise, you could end up hearing this phrase…
"We're out of money."
"When married couples find themselves in this situation, it is because neither of them can get on a financial plan that they both can agree on," says personal finance expert Nolan Martin. "Typically, one of them is the spender and one of them is the saver. In many cases, they find difficulty in reaching common ground to prevent not having enough dollars to make it through the month."
"You should know how I'm feeling."
No matter how well your spouse knows you, they probably can't guess your exact emotions. "Humans aren't natural mind readers," notes David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert. As Bennett explains, most people can't actually tell what someone is feeling if they're not told, even if that person is their spouse.
"Don't take this personally."
It's virtually impossible not to take your spouse's words and actions personally, so suggesting they try not to is not helpful in any way. "We have a right to feel what we feel, and to work through those emotions with our partners," notes Jodi J. De Luca, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Colorado. "To be denied this right is to invalidate a very intimate part of who we are, and often results in psychologically unsafe relationships."
"You need to…"
Your spouse is their own person—they don't need to do something just because it's what you think they should do. Talking to your spouse like you're their teacher or parent isn't likely to yield the changes you were hoping for, anyway.
"How much have you had to drink?"
Unless your spouse has a habit of over-imbibing or is trying to do something dangerous, like getting behind the wheel, odds are all this question will do is get their guard up.
If your spouse had a couple drinks, took a cab home, and is now trying to explain what they think the hidden meaning behind Finding Nemo is while reminding you how cute you are, let them do so without an interrogation.
Just because you can't think of ways to entertain yourself doesn't mean that's your spouse's problem. While life may get a little less exciting as you get older, it's unfair to blame that on your partner—it's not their job to make sure everyone's having fun all the time.
This one just isn't going to get you anywhere. Have you ever felt motivated to rush after hearing this phrase?
"I'm not attracted to you right now."
Is it OK for your attraction to your partner to wax and wane? Of course—and it's always your prerogative to say no to being intimate, too. That said, telling your partner point-blank that you're not attracted to them only achieves one thing: making them feel bad without getting to the root of why your attraction to them is diminishing.
"Stop looking at your phone."
Sure, you may want your spouse to pay more attention to you and less time on Facebook and Instagram. But it's better to work through some compromises at another time than to admonish your partner like they're a child.
"Stop nagging me."
Often what's interpreted as "nagging" is simply asking for help.
To the person allegedly doing the nagging, hearing this can be particularly aggravating—especially when their spouse is simply reminding them to do something they promised they would.
"Why on earth did your mom…?"
Yes, sometimes you need to vent in this clash of familial titans, but putting your spouse between you and their parent will rarely end well. In these conflicts, your spouse can't win—there will be trouble on the home front if they take their parent's side, and a lot of cold shoulders during the holidays if they take yours.
"I hate your family."
This sentence—an even more extreme version of familial dissidence—can cut your spouse like a knife. If you have particular problems with members of your partner's family, discuss those instead of condemning the whole group. For instance, you could say, "It didn't feel very respectful when your mother went against our wishes about feeding the baby," or, "It hurts my feelings when your brother calls me by that nickname."
"I hate your friends."
Again, even if you're not crazy about your spouse's friends (or perhaps just one friend in particular), it's best to not flat-out say that you hate them. It can be hard to make friends as an adult, so driving a wedge between your spouse and their peers can easily make your spouse feel isolated. As long as those friends are not disrespectful or dangerous, it's better not to mention it.
"It must be nice having someone else take care of the bills."
If you're the primary breadwinner in your relationship, that doesn't mean your partner isn't contributing. Acting as though you pulling in a higher salary means your spouse is essentially on a permanent vacation is not only patronizing, but also diminishes all the work they do, whether that's a lower-paying job or taking care of your kids full-time.
"Do you think they're more attractive than me?"
There's no way that an answer to this question is going to end up being the one you want. If your spouse says yes, they're in for a fight. If they say no, they open themselves up to a million questions about whether or not they're telling the truth.
Trust that your spouse finds you attractive, and if it seems like they've stopped, that's worthy of greater discussion than an off-hand comment about someone else's looks.
"I hate to keep harping, but…"
If you know your spouse isn't getting around to something you need them to do, bringing it up over and over—and framing those requests as "harping"—is not the best way to get it done.
Instead, make it clear that you're serious about the issue at hand, and remind your spouse how it makes you feel when they don't listen to those requests.
"You talk too much."
Dismissing your spouse as a chatterbox when they're animated about something is a backhanded way of breaking down communication, an essential component of your relationship. It's completely reasonable to expect to say your piece, but it's never a good idea to tell your spouse that they have to zip it for you do to so.
"I can't stand driving with you."
Telling your spouse how to drive or ridiculing them behind the wheel feels like a public flog. If they've done an OK job up to this point and they drive this route 82 times a week, they probably don't need your human GPS impression in their ear.
"Is that what you're wearing?"
If it's on your partner's body, then go ahead and assume that's what they've decided to wear, even if it's not your cup of tea. This mean-spirited phrase will not only make your spouse second-guess their outfit choice—it'll likely deliver a hit to their confidence, too.
Trust us, no matter how many times the question is posed, the right answer is always, "No, you look great!"
"You did it first."
If your partner is expressing a grievance, it's not the time for a childish back-and-forth about who started it. Whether they're having a hard time dealing with your messiness or they feel like you should be more attuned to their emotional needs, telling them that they do the same thing to you is immature and hurtful.
"You're just better with the kids than I am."
Even if you feel that it's true on some level, this is just a cop-out. In a two-parent home, you and your spouse both need to be wrangling the kids—not just one of you.
"They want their spouses to step up and help with the kids, not solely rely on them to do everything," points out Vikki Ziegler, celebrity divorce attorney and author of The Pre-Marital Planner.
"What are you thinking about?"
This question may seem relatively harmless in the middle of a deep conversation or argument. But coming up with the right answer is easier said than done. Do you really want to know that your significant other is thinking about their fantasy football team, what that passive-aggressive email from their boss meant, or what their ex is up to? If the answer is no, then don't ask this question.
"I have an STD."
This is a particularly touchy topic because it often means there's something extramarital going on—and if not, it's an unwelcome reminder of past relationships. "It's scary to learn that you may contract something from your loved one who had unprotected sex in the past," Ziegler notes. That said, "getting tested and being proactive can help a spouse protect themselves."
"Pick up the phone when I call."
Common courtesy does, in fact, dictate for people to do so, but sometimes, your spouse has other commitments that can't be avoided—even if they just texted 13 seconds earlier. Don't take it as avoidance, but as a sign they're trying to manage the best they can.
"In a minute."
"This is code for 'maybe,' 'sometime,' or 'probably never,'" says Gina Gardiner, a relationship expert and author. (And heads up: Your spouse already realizes this.)
There's nothing worse than the silent treatment. "In my experience, when there is a lack of engagement, no response to questions, or no empathy expressed when they are upset, it is incredibly hurtful and damaging," Gardiner says. "It destroys [your partner's] confidence and sense of self-worth."
So even if you're not sure what to say, know that saying something is better than saying nothing at all.
Additional reporting by Sarah Crow.