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4 Phrases You Should Never Say to Your Partner During an Argument

Margaret is a mental health advocate and has studied psychology. She aspires to help people live better lives.


What you say in a relationship matters because words have incredible power. They can hurt, heal, encourage, or destroy. They basically can make or break a relationship.

Sometimes, when you’re in a middle of an argument with your partner you might say some things out of anger or frustration that later you’re gonna regret.

And although it’s understandable – we’re only human and we make mistakes – there are some phrases you should consciously (make an effort to) avoid saying to your partner.

What follows is a breakdown of four phrases you should never say to your partner during an argument, why those phrases are unhealthy, and some healthier alternatives you can use.

1. ‘‘Why Do You Never/Always… ?’’

“Never” and “Always” are absolutes that should be avoided in an argument with pretty much anyone, let alone your partner.

We could say that these words are even toxic, because:

  • they are rarely true
  • they are usually said out of anger
  • they are accusatory and critical

I mean, maybe your partner indeed often arrives late to your dates, but are they really never on time? They mind tend to forget to take out the trash, but do they really always forget it? And, just because they forgot to pick that thing you had said you wanted from the food store, does that mean they never think of you?

Also, by using these two words when arguing with your partner, you discourage them from trying to do better next time. As marriage and family therapist Andrea Brandt explains in her article:

“Always” and “never” are rarely factual. When you use phrases that include “always” or “never,” you’re telling a partner that they can’t ever do something right and that you don’t believe they can change. This leads your partner to feel resigned and not try.”

What You Can Say Instead

Stick to the facts and be specific. For example, instead of saying “You never offer to help me with the household chores”, try something like “You upset me yesterday when I did all the household chores and didn’t offer to help me.”

2. "If You Really Loved Me, You’d Do It.’’

We’ve all been there. You ask your partner for something and they give you a big “no” for an answer. But you want that something very much. You can’t help but ask them a second time.

The answer remains the same. A big, clear, loud NO. So, you go right ahead and say it: “if you really loved me, you’d do it.”

Even though that phrase might not seem like a big deal at first, it is actually:

  • a power play
  • a form of emotional blackmail
  • a disrespectful, guilt-tripping behavior

You’re trying, at least subconsciously, to manipulate your partner into doing what you want, because…you want to have things go your way. Well, the truth is, we can’t have everything go our way, and our partners can’t always give us what we want.

What You Can Say Instead

You could further discuss it and ask your partner why they don’t want to give you or do what you want, by saying something along the lines of “I don’t understand why you don’t want to do this. Can you please explain it to me?”.

If you discuss it and they still refuse, respect their decision. After all, learning to compromise is one of the most important relationship skills.

3. “My Ex Did *That* Better.”

You should never, ever, compare your partner to one of your exes. It’s one of the most annoying, disrespectful, and hurtful things you can do to them.

Comparing your partner to an ex is also the easiest way to lose them. It will create hurt and insecurity between you and make your partner feel bitter, angry, and not good enough for you.

And, if we’re being honest, what’s the point in telling your partner that your ex cooked better, helped you more, or was more patient/thoughtful? Why even mention your ex in any of your conversations/arguments with your current partner?

You probably either a) want to hurt your partner, because you’re angry and frustrated or b) you still aren’t over your ex. As you can understand, both of these scenarios are unhealthy and damaging to your relationship.

What You Can Say Instead

Be honest and express your feelings, without mentioning your ex or any other kind of person in general. Relationship comparisons always end up badly.

Try simply saying “I didn’t like that thing/that kind of behavior and I think we should talk about it.”


4. “You Have to Do This.”

Recently, one of my friends told me how her boyfriend “didn’t pay enough attention to his appearance” and that he “needed to make some urgent changes to the way he dressed”.

I asked her why she thought he had to make these changes, and she replied with: “What do you mean? He just has to.” I didn’t press the matter further, but it was evident that my friend simply didn’t like the way her boyfriend dressed, and she wanted him to pay more attention to his appearance.

The thing is, “he just has to” was a very problematic phrase. Our partners don’t “have to do” anything unless they want to do it.

Making demands and saying to them that they “have to do something” without presenting them with the right arguments to justify why they need to do it, or why you want them to, is a form of controlling behavior that will likely make them feel controlled and inferior.

What You Can Say Instead

Use this simple phrase: “I’d like you to/I think that you should do *insert a thing* because…”

Some examples: “ I’d like you to help me more with the household chores because it’s exhausting to do them all by myself.”

“I think you should try to quit smoking because it has taken a toll on your health.”

“I’d like you to try to be more patient during our arguments because you tend to get too angry and hurt my feelings.”

The Bottom Line

The truth is that no one is perfect and that our partners should accept and love us with all of our flaws and weaknesses.

That, however, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make an effort to become, with time, better partners – and better people in general.

That’s why you should consciously pay more attention to what you say to your partner, especially during an argument when you’re angry and can't fully control yourself.

Start by avoiding the above-analyzed phrases, and minimize the damage caused to your relationship by conflict.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Margaret Pan