8 Things You Should Never Say to Your Partner, According to Therapists

A friend of mine, a couples counselor, stopped by to see me after a long week. She sank into my couch, closed her eyes and said: “You know what phrase I wish I could ban couples from saying? ‘I never said that.’”It was a sentence, my friend told me, that she heard almost every week. And once someone said it, the whole session would usually devolve into an argument about what the person did or did not say.This made me wonder about other phrases therapists wished couples would stop saying during conflicts.Here are their candidates, why we should avoid them and what to say instead.Generalizations“You always …” and “You never …” These terms are often exaggerations, and they don’t acknowledge any efforts your partner is trying to make, said Kier Gaines, a licensed therapist who works with individuals and couples in Washington, D.C. And your partner might get defensive, he added: “So you’re not even having a problem-solving conversation anymore. You’re just going into full-blown argument mode.”Instead of delving into the past, make an effort to stay in the present. “When you go back into history, it turns the conversation into a different thing,” Gaines said. Focus on the problem at hand, he added. (You might say, I’m noticing that you’re not helping to pick up after the kids; here’s why it’s bothering me.)Deflections“Yes, but …” Alexandra Solomon, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University and the author of “Love Every Day,” said she hears this phrase all the time. One person will voice a concern, and the other will agree — then add a caveat. (“You were 10 minutes late,” one person might say. The other might respond: “Yes, but you were late last week.”)Using the word “but” implies that “‘it was kind of perfunctory for me to honor your concern, but really, I don’t understand it or validate it,’” Dr. Solomon said.Instead of mounting a defense, she said, reflect your partner’s words and feelings. Try saying something like, “What I’m hearing from you is …”