20 Things Men Shouldn't Say: Words and Phrases That Trigger Women

Updated on March 28, 2018
letstalkabouteduc profile image

Through talking with girlfriends, co-workers, aunts, and nieces, I discovered we get triggered by the same words and phrases men use.

Avoid These Words That Trigger A Woman's Insecurities

Let there be no doubt, guys. There are certain things you say that trigger us. They tap into hurts from childhood, struggles with our fathers, pain from past romantic relationships, and deep-seated insecurities about ourselves. If you're a decent guy, you get jolted by our charged response, wondering what you said wrong and wanting to make it right. If you're a bad guy, you say them (consciously or unconsciously), to hurt us, get a rise out of us, make us look unhinged, and feel in control. In my half century of life, I've dealt with guys from both camps, including a nurturing husband who'd never say or do anything to hurt me and a verbally abusive father who called me fat and stupid and gutted my self-esteem. With that history in mind, here are 20 things I believe men should never say to their wives or girlfriends:

Men may not understand why these words are hurtful to women. They just need to know they are!
Men may not understand why these words are hurtful to women. They just need to know they are! | Source

1. Shhh!

I joke with my husband and teenage sons that I'm 99.9% sure I'd get found not guilty by reason of insanity if I killed someone who had shushed me. My father would do it to me as a child and now I have a visceral reaction upon hearing that sound. I feel the outrage of the shy and quiet girl I was, getting silenced by her cruel and overbearing father. I know I'm not the only woman out there who got hushed as a child and remains damaged because of it. Don't say it, guys!

2. Calm down!

There are no two words as condescending to a woman as these. When a man uses them, he's adding kerosene to an already raging fire. Whether she's right or not, a woman wants to believe she's staying in control even when emotional. Saying calm down points out she's failing and makes her feel self-conscious and enraged. She wants a man to see her as passionate, not unhinged. Many females interpret calm down as a way for guys to put themselves in a superior position: wise and rational.

3. Are you having your period?

When my father asked me this when I was a teenager, the answer was almost always a resounding yes, but there was no way in hell I'd admit it. Guys, if your wife or girlfriend is overly emotional because of her menstrual cycle, how about showing some extra compassion and support instead of asking this snarky question? She'll love you for it!

4. You look so tired.

My sweet (but sometimes clueless) husband would say that to me often when I had a toddler and a baby. I wanted to say, “Guess what, Einstein, I am tired so why don't you pitch in a bit more so I can get some sleep! Saying I look awful doesn't help!"

5. Smile!

No woman on the face of this planet would presume to tell a man to smile. But guys —even total strangers—don't hesitate to tell a woman (especially a young, pretty one) to do so. Listen, guys, no female owes you a smile like a puppy owes you a wag of its tail. Give me a break!

Where did men get the idea they could go up to women and tell them to smile? Stop it!
Where did men get the idea they could go up to women and tell them to smile? Stop it! | Source

6. Let me educate you on this matter.

This patronizing phrase has become popular of late. I suggest it's not wise to use on anyone, but especially a woman. As soon as she hears it, she shuts off to anything that follows. She doesn't want to get placed in a subordinate role: teacher to student. She doesn't want to get "schooled" by anyone, especially her husband or boyfriend.

7. The silent treatment

Giving your wife or girlfriend the silent treatment is a red flag, indicating hostility and immaturity. It shows you're not ready for relationship, and no woman should tolerate it.

8. Listen...

Listen is a common way that politicians and news pundits begin their remarks. However, when my husband starting using it with me, I got offended and asked him to stop. I was already listening and didn't appreciate getting ordered to do so. I didn't like getting told my role in the conversation was strictly as a listener and not a contributor. While it may work on television, it's off-putting in personal relationships.

9. You shouldn't feel that way.

Some men don't decipher the difference between: I feel...I think...I believe...but women most definitely do. When I was growing up, my father would discount my emotions, saying: “You shouldn't feel that way.” That frustrated me to no end because I couldn't control my emotions any more than I could control the weather. When he dismissed them, I felt dismissed. We all have a right to our feelings. If we don't acknowledge them and get them acknowledged, we may develop serious health problems such as depression, anxiety, overeating, and self-medicating.

10. You're too sensitive

I'd hear this all the time from a former boyfriend and eventually realized he disliked one of my most commendable traits. Being sensitive is a positive thing, meaning “having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of other's feelings.” Writers, painters, and poets are all sensitive souls. Being thin-skinned is a totally different matter. That's when a woman takes everything personally, gets her feelings hurt all the time, and has you walking on eggshells. Run, don't walk, from a thin-skinned woman!

11. You have "daddy issues."

Don't go there, guys, unless you're a licensed therapist. A woman doesn't need your two cents on this touchy matter. My father was a jerk and I have problems because of it. But there's no quick fix for years of cruelty from a parent. Instead of diagnosing me, why don't you show me that not all men are bad?

While it's true a father has a huge impact on his daughter (positive or negative), we don't need a guy to point this out to us.
While it's true a father has a huge impact on his daughter (positive or negative), we don't need a guy to point this out to us. | Source

12. Why do you ALWAYS do this or that?

None of us always do anything and, when you suggest we do, you create a breakdown in communication because we get defensive. Don't stockpile grievances and dump them on your partner at one time: “You always leave a mess in the kitchen... You always spend too much on clothes... You always are too tired for sex.” Be a grownup and discuss things as they happen.

13. This game is SUPER important.

I grew up in a household of sports fanatics so I heard this a lot. When the Oakland Raiders would lose a game, my father would stay in a foul mood for the rest of the day. Look, if you love sports, fine. Enjoy! But don't make it into something it's not. In the grand scheme of life, it's largely irrelevant— entertaining but not earth-shattering. Accept that or you look like a shmuck.

14. Any racist remark

If you make a racist comment, any woman worth her salt is out of there like a cheetah after a gazelle. We don't need that hate in our lives and we're offended you'd think we'd stand for it. Crawl back under your rock!

15. Gossip and make catty remarks.

We women get enough of that crap from our girlfriends. We want a man with more character. Real women admire men who elevate the conversations to topics that are significant, not petty and personal.

16. Don't get angry!

We all feel angry at times and need to express it in healthy ways. For decades, women have gotten the message that anger is unattractive and unfeminine. Therefore, we've suppressed this “ugly” emotion, causing us undue grief. Therapists say unvoiced anger causes depression, anxiety, overeating, and over-medicating.

17. I'll call you.

Guys, don't give a woman false hope and have her sit by the phone. That's far more hurtful than telling her politely after a date, “I had a good time and it was nice to have met you.” Saying you'll call when you have no intention of doing so is cowardly.

18. You're just like your mom.

A former boyfriend of mine said that to me once, and it took five years of therapy to recover. Look, guys, most women don't like being compared to someone older than they are even when it's meant as a compliment. Comparing a woman to her mother is a sure-fire way to squelch her sex drive. Just saying.

19. Ridiculing other women.

When I was in my early 20s, I had a boyfriend who loved to ridicule other women – their hairstyles, their clothes, their voices. I admit now with great shame that I would laugh at his comments and feel superior to those gals. But when we broke up, I was on the receiving end of his mocking and learned my lesson.

20. My life was crap before I met you.

A woman wants to know a man can handle his life whether she's in it or not. She doesn't want to feel responsible for the happiness of another. She doesn't want to feel captive in a relationship, fearing her partner will fall apart if she leaves.

This Book Helped Me Improve My Communication Skills in Love and in Business

Fitly Spoken: Developing Effective Communication and Social Skills
Fitly Spoken: Developing Effective Communication and Social Skills

Whether you're talking to a date, spouse, boss, or child, who doesn't want tools for more effective communication? I sure did. I was speaking with lots of people each day at home and at work but wasn't connecting with them in meaningful ways and was often getting misunderstood. I needed concrete examples on how to make my words count. This book provided that. It's a keeper as I often refer to it when I need a tune-up for my communication skills.


Questions & Answers

    © 2016 McKenna Meyers


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      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        4 months ago from Bend, OR

        That's a good one, A nony mouse. Words can be so intoxicating, and it's easy to fall for a guy who speaks them well. It takes time and experience to learn that loquacious men often have little to offer and the quiet, reserved ones have a lot.

      • profile image

        A nony mouse 

        4 months ago

        More irritating still, men whose actions do not stand up to their fine words.

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        9 months ago from Bend, OR

        "Power" is an interesting term to use when discussing a romantic partnership. I think most couples in love see themselves giving away power to one another, not fighting to keep it.. You want to become vulnerable in a way you can't in all other relationships. You want to open up and be honest, not jockey for who's in control. I've been married for over 20 years and not for one second have I wondered who has more power in our coupling, my husband or me. We are one another's refuge from an often times hostile world and we work together to give one another what we need. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        21 months ago from Bend, OR

        You're right, j. Most guys do try hard. I'm married to one. I try to keep it balanced. Read my article "5 things Women Do That Really Turn Off Men."

      • profile image

        21 months ago

        My wife is guilty of the majority of these on a regular basis. How about 'what not to say in a relationship' instead of yet another 'look how stupid men are and how much better women are' article. Some of us really try hard doncherknow.

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        21 months ago from Bend, OR

        If that's the case, Bill, your wife is a lucky woman! Congratulations on a perfect score.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        21 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I had to go over the entire list with me in mind and I can safely say I scored a 100% in the good way. LOL Thank God!

        Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

      • letstalkabouteduc profile imageAUTHOR

        McKenna Meyers 

        21 months ago from Bend, OR

        Great comments, dashingscorpio. I must confess I've used the "silent treatment" with my husband on occasion but only for a short amount of time -- 1/2 day at the most. Sometimes I just need to keep my mouth shut to figure out what's really going on with me. I'm usually upset with something other than what's made me mad at that moment. However, I've heard therapists say the "silent treatment" is a form of abuse and is often used by narcissists.

      • dashingscorpio profile image


        21 months ago

        Very interesting!

        No matter what when someone becomes angry they're going to say inappropriate things that hurt their mate whether it's intentional or not.

        Anger is the Mask that Hurt wears....

        In some instances both genders have been known to give each other false hopes. Some guys will say "I'll call you" while having no intention to do so and some women will give a guy their phone number while having no intention to answer when he calls.

        "How long will it take for this guy to finally get the hint!?" LOL!

        The reality is it's human nature to look for a polite way to reject someone or to avoid direct rejection. "White lies" are also common to avoid hurting others.

        Some of the other "offensive statements" are relative to the individual.

        If you think your mother is the greatest woman on earth having someone tell you that you're just like her isn't going to be taken as an insult.

        "Why do you always do that?" is another common one that both genders are fond of using to point out perceived negative habits.

        The "Silent treatment" is a sign of immaturity but it also is much safer than having someone explode and physically attack you or the household.

        If someone uses the "silent treatment" it's probably best to move on from that relationship. God only knows what wheels are turning in their mind!

        People tend to use tactics that "work" for them.

        If you don't like what is being said the best thing you can do is not give them the reaction they want. Having said that when someone blows a fuse they're liable to say anything! That goes for all of us!


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