When it comes to having a happy and stable relationship, it’s natural to go through ups and downs sometimes. But no matter how much you might be fighting with each other, there are certain things you should never say to your partner. More specifically, there are 3 things you should never say to your partner.
If you want to grow vegetables, the soil in your garden needs a healthy ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.* Your romantic relationship also has a formula for success. Research by Dr. John Gottman has found that we need a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions with our intimate partners in order for love to thrive.
Folks in the field of interpersonal neurobiology say that this finding makes perfect sense. Dr. Rick Hanson, for example, says that the default setting in our brains goes like this: our brains are Velcro for that which is negative and Teflon for that which is positive.
In other words, one little snide comment will stick in our brains (and gets replayed over and over), while compliments and kind gestures tend to “count’ less. I know this tendency of ours confers an evolutionary advantage by keeping us on our toes for all of the dangers that proved deadly to our ancestors, but in modern life, this tendency is basically a major pain in the ass.
It plays out in my life all of the time, as I’m sure it does in yours. For example, when I am lecturing to a room full of people, rather than focusing on the many who are smiling, nodding, and taking notes, I get all weirdly focused on the one dude snoozing in the back row. Sigh. Our brains are Velcro for negativity and Teflon for positivity.
So what does that mean for our love lives? It means that we need to be proactive about building a thick cushion of warmth and support so that we can weather the inevitable rough moments when they happen.
It means that we need to always be looking for ways to do more of the good and less of the bad. And it means that we need to be really mindful of what we say and do if we want to create the conditions in which love can flourish.
Toward that end, let’s look at 3 things that you should never say to your partner. First a caveat: I am leaving out obvious stuff like name-calling, lying, threatening, and giving ultimatums.
These three are more moderate and less dramatic, but they are problematic nonetheless… and I have heard them lots of times in my therapy office!
3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Partner
1. “If you loved me, you would….”
What you are saying when you say this is that you really really want your partner to say or do something. The problem is that your partner can easily say back to you, “Well, if you loved me, you wouldn’t ask me to…”
It is far more “intimacy-inviting” (as I call it in my book) to say instead, “I am having such a hard time understanding what is keeping you from doing X. The story I am telling myself is that you must not love me very much.”
2. “Why isn’t it like it used to be between us?”
When people say this, they are fighting against the reality that love changes over time. The way you feel in Year 1 of your relationship is not the same as the way you feel in year 7. Wishing the relationship was the way it used to be, keeps you stuck in a fairy tale. Instead, ask for what you want, right here right now.
“I want us to go out on dates like we used to do” or “I would love for you to give me a massage like you used to do.” More vulnerable? Yes! More likely to get you what you want! Hell yes!