Say What? Statements that Destroy Relationships

Having an argument with a loved one is normal but requires an art to make your point without burning bridges. If you catch yourself saying the following, reconsider the impact your words may be making. It’s good to “make a statement” but you may not realize what your statements are really conveying.

“I told you so…”
Why we say it: The ego is the natural part of ourselves that sometimes forgets to fight fair. In its quest for self re-assurance, the ego is the subconscious culprit that prompts you to prioritize “you heard it here first” over conflict resolution.This statement validates your position of “rightness”. We are especially prone to say this if we are feeling invalidated in a relationship or feeling that others aren’t listening to us. This is a separate issue that can be dealt with effectively without the barbs that accompany “I told you so” and its derivatives.

What it conveys: “I’m smart, you aren’t.” Sure this isn’t what you mean to say, but chances are it is what your loved one will hear.
This statement brings disconnection, shame and resentment.
When emotions are calm, try to explain that you don’t feel listened to or validated. Chances are it isn’t the outcome that is really bothering you, but rather the fact that the other person has not given credibility to your point of view. In the end remind yourself that your loved one has their own lessons to learn which are not all about you.

“You’re just like your mother (father, my mother/father/ex etc.)”
Why we say it: In moments of stress and high emotions, it is easy to feel drawn back into roles played in past relationships that brought out the same difficulties. It isn’t the person acting or sounding like another as much as the dynamic recreating a past painful relationship dynamic. To blame the other person or their traits, then, is unfair and hurtful. Perhaps they remind you of someone else because you, too are acting in an old role, re-creating an old dynamic.

What it Conveys: “You are the cause of our problems/I don’t like your mother (father etc)/You are victimizing me/ I am good, you are bad”.

This messages reduces a person to a trait or series of noxious traits that furthermore suggest they are the cause of conflict. Making this a double whammy attack it also conveys a subtheme of not liking the person you are comparing your loved one to, which in the case of their family delivers an extra painful punch.

Next time you are tempted to deliver this nuclear bomb in the midst of a disagreement, challenge yourself to consider not who the other person reminds you of, but what the situation reminds you of. Then for the bonus challenge try expressing how you feel rather than accusing the other person of behaving in a way reminiscent of someone else. For example rather than “You’re just like your mother, always complaining about everything”, try “I feel overwhelmed and dejected when I hear you finding fault with so many situations”. The latter statement gives you ownership for your feelings and targets a behavior, not a person. The more specific the behavior, the better.

“I’m leaving” There are certain times this statement is appropriate. If you are leaving a relationship or seriously planning a separation or end to the relationship. However, using this phrase too frivolously is akin to blackmail.
Why we say it: In circumstances in which you are not seriously planning to end a relationship, this statement is usually the outpouring of anger, overwhelming frustration, or despair. Often we really mean “I don’t want this relationship to continue this way” when we say “I don’t want this relationship to continue/its over” or some variation on this ultimatum. There is an appropriate way to express such finite statements in terms of healthy boundaries for example if one partner is continually spiraling into behavior that is not acceptable, but to pull this card at the slightest disagreement is a serious breach of power in the relationship. It is like using the power of emotional connection to scare the other person into cooperation or submission and is very damaging to the relationship bond. Boundaries and bottom lines are healthy, but casual threats to end the relationship are not.

What it conveys: “I don’t have much invested/I have one foot out the door/one wrong move and the relationship is over.” No pressure! Statements like this increase anxiety and walls among partners rather than allowing them to communicate effectively and work through problems. Before making this statement, take time and space away, cool off, write in a journal, talk to a friend, exercise and then come to a conclusion that is not based in fear or anger. With the exception of situations in which safety or health are at risk, this is a statement that should not be made unless you are ready to commit with action.

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