You feel as if you could kill, but there are still things that should never be said to your partner, unless your suitcase is packed and you've signed a lease elsewhere.
It is 11 pm and your husband should have been home three hours ago. You are waiting up, having already phoned all the hospitals in the area. He tiptoes in at midnight, the worse for wear. He says he didn't phone because he didn't want to wake you.
Or you've planned a romantic weekend getaway and half an hour before you are due to leave, your wife's boss phones to ask whether she can come in on Saturday. She doesn't say no.
Or you looked after the kids most of the week and did the lion's share of the housework. You leave your husband in charge for one evening and you return to chaos – toys on the lounge floor, bits of food everywhere and the children asleep – in the clothes they wore all day.
All three of these scenarios provide a backdrop to a very large row. And with reason. But there are some things that you should never say, unless you plan on ending this relationship. These are things said to hurt deliberately and not because they form part of any logical argument. These are also things people remember long after the argument, or even the incident leading to the argument, is something of the past.
I should have listened to my mother when she warned me about you
This is a deadly one. It conveys that you are sorry you ever got involved with this person and it also destroys any type of relationship they could have had with their mother-in-law. It pushes you into opposing camps and can do nothing except inflame tempers even further. There is no real constructive purpose to saying this, except to inflict hurt. There is no comeback to this.
I really think you need to see a doctor/psychologist/psychiatrist
Whether this is true or not, no-one is going to turn around in the middle of an argument and say, "You are quite right. I am not acting like a mentally healthy human being. I will go and seek help immediately." Instead, by not going, another way to punish you has been found.
I know Danny is a problem child – he takes after you
This statement is destructive – not only does it convey that the one partner thinks the other one is hopeless, but blames him/her for the behaviour of the child, for which they are surely jointly responsible. This is the sort of statement you should make if you want people to gang up on you.
How can you expect me to love you with all that weight you have picked up?
No-one just picks up weight for no reason. There is most often a very definite reason for it. A crash diet to keep you happy will not have lasting effects. On the contrary. Harping on how unattractive you find your partner will make them feel even more rejected, more lonely, more misunderstood and unloved, and will make that tub of ice cream seem so much more irresistible and consoling. Get the picture? There are other ways of approaching this delicate matter – and this isn't it.
You never do anything to help around the house
It is always dangerous to use words like 'never' in an argument. Your argument is nullified if someone can remember a single occasion when they did make an effort. When you accuse someone of something, it is always tempting for them to become just that, seeing as they are being accused of it already. Like the man whose wife constantly accuses him of having affairs, who might actually start looking around – she gave him the idea!
I don't trust you
This is also one of those deadly ones that cannot be retracted. This should never be said, unless you are prepared to face the possible end of a relationship. The same goes for name-calling. People who resort to this feel very insecure in themselves and are taking it out on their partners.
You are so stingy
Saying this will not make someone more generous. Even if the person is really stingy, it is much better that you encourage generous behaviour than criticise stingy behaviour. Someone who is stingy, is often financially careful, which means that you will never lack for life essentials. That is something to be grateful for. But there are people who use money to control others. This is a matter for a relationship therapist to sort out.
I hate you
This is something you can never retract. It is a barb that will embed itself in the memory of the other person for ever and they will always haul it out to punish you at some later time.
It's you making me behave in this way
Oh heavens – who still falls for this one? People can irritate or anger you, but you still choose your own behaviour. The problem with this statement is that it can very easily be thrown back into your face.
(Susan Erasmus, updated March 2011)
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