I went to a wedding this past Saturday at a Catholic church and as they were reading the 1st Corinthians about how “love is patient, love is kind..” and so on, it got me thinking about what love is and is not. And how sometimes we have trouble getting our love across in the way we want to.
In my relationship, I’m constantly making mistakes and expressing my love the wrong way. But the thing about mistakes is that there is a lesson we can learn from it. The important part is not to try to be perfect, but to make the time to reflect and figure out what we can do better next time. I’ve noticed lately that there are phrases that come up in mine or others’ conversations that are unhealthy. I’ve learned that there are better ways to communicate what we mean to say in these instances.
Here are five phrases that I believe don’t have a place in relationship, but are common problems amongst couples.
“Never” and “Always”
“You’re never home.”
“You always forget to write me back.”
“You never take out the trash.”
“You’re always on your phone.”
“You’re never around when I need you.”
Eek. This is something I’ve noticed that I do and I know how unhealthy it can be. It’s accusatory and it is often used as an exaggeration to make our point. It can typically come up when we have yet to resolve past issues and the tension has built up. I’ve found myself texting a “you always…” yesterday and stopped myself – went back and rewrote it in a better way. Nobody likes feeling the weight behind a word that intense. There are better, more efficient ways to communicate with our partner.
“Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.” – Wendell Johnson
“You complete me”
I used to think phrases like, “you complete me” and “you’re my everything,” were adorable until I realized what it truly meant to say that. When we say that someone completes us or that they are our other half (and mean it), what we’re really saying is that we aren’t full without them. Putting that kind of pressure on another human being is harsh. We’re all imperfect and have issues to deal with, but should we really allow another person to have the power over making us feel complete? I don’t think it has to be like that.
Each partner should bring 100% to the relationship. It should be more about want than about need. When we start to feel like we’re losing ourselves in the relationship, it’s time to start re-focusing on ourselves. We’re individuals and while we should become a team with our partner on some level, it’s important to be our own “other half.”
“I did ____, so it’s your turn”
Keeping score is not a good look. This is something I’ve been recognizing a lot in my love life lately. We feel like we’ve earned something when we do something nice for someone. But that’s not the way it should work. We should do things out of the goodness of our heart, not so that we can be paid back. The funny part is, when we do good deeds, it tends to come back to us naturally. It’s so much more rewarding to not expect (or worse, demand) reciprocation
Several months ago I was listening to Gretchen Rubin’s Podcast, Happier, and she answered a listener’s question about finding a balance in household chores. The guy wasn’t happy because his girlfriend refused to wash the dishes. He wanted to know what approach he should use to convince his girlfriend to start washing them. Rubin’s response? Well, maybe it doesn’t bother your girlfriend to see dirty dishes in the sink like it does for you. Sometimes, we have to pick our battles and make the decision to do it ourselves, because it bothers us more than it bothers them. Of course, we should be fair and work out trades for chores, but the point is, sometimes we have to take care of things ourselves.
We often see ourselves as being more generous than others. But we have to remind ourselves of the stuff that our partners do for us regularly that we might take for granted. If things don’t feel equal, have a sit-down conversation about how we’re feeling.
“Remember, you need to do ____, ____, and _____.”
Chatting our boo’s ear off about all the responsibilities he has to do will most likely make him feel obligated and annoyed. No one likes to be told what to do.
Nobody likes to nag and no one likes to hear it. But, the reason it happens is because we feel like something won’t get done unless we keep saying it.
But if we reframe it, it can make someone much happier to do things. We can use our feelings and put them to better use like, “I can’t wait until we do this ____.” Make our partner feel excited about future plans instead of feeling obligated.
Another option is to simply say, “I’m going to have John take care of this” or “I’m going to go by myself.” Not as a threat, but to get the task done without having to nag more about it. If they do want to be involved, they will let us know. We can’t always rely on someone else, sadly. (Group projects in college anyone?) We expect a lot from our partners, but we have to remember that we’re all human and not super-humans. We can have high expectations, but we have to be realistic.
“I know it doesn’t matter to you”
This tends to be a self-deprecating, defense mechanism. We are telling our partner that we don’t care about something before they have a chance to decide for themselves. This tactic doesn’t have a place in a relationship, because we’re insinuating that our partner doesn’t care about what we have to say about an interest of ours. It can come off as passive aggressive, whether we mean it to or not. It hinders the conversation by bringing in negative energy from the very start. The person listening automatically feels defensive. “Why don’t they think that I care?”
While we might not feel as though our partner has an interest in the subject, it’s important to go in without a perceived notion of what the other person thinks about it. It will be much easier to have a genuine conversation without an immediate judgement about the other person’s opinions and feelings.
Our words matter significantly and if we pay more attention to them, our relationships will get stronger.
What negative phrases have you found yourself saying lately?