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No one likes to be on the receiving end of a put-down, least of all from the person we love most. Unfortunately, even the happiest of marriages can be marred by occasional hurtful words. When marriages start to fail, all pillars of an individual’s well-being start to crumble, and toxic words become one of the most destructive forces. 1
There are certain phrases that can instantly ignite a marital spat, or make your spouse feel inferior, unappreciated, and unloved. If you find yourself becoming angry or defensive during arguments with your spouse, it may be worth considering whether any of the following phrases are part of your repertoire.
1. “You’re overreacting.”
Never tell a woman she’s overreacting. It invalidates her feelings and makes her feel like she’s not being heard. This is one of the quickest ways to turn a small argument into a full-blown fight. Also, avoid phrases like “calm down” or “relax.”
Instead, try to understand where she’s coming from and why she feels the way she does. Empathy plays a major role in the outcomes of close relationships, especially among adults, so the next time your wife comes to you with a problem, try saying something like, “I understand why you’re upset. Can you tell me more about what happened?” 2 You can also follow it with an affirmative statement that you’ll both figure it out together.
By showing empathy and trying to understand her perspective, you’ll defuse the situation and be better equipped to find a resolution that works for both of you.
2. “You’re being irrational.”
This statement is similar to “you’re overreacting” in that it invalidates her feelings. Remember that life is full of gray areas, and there is rarely such thing as an irrational emotion. If your wife is feeling something, chances are there’s a valid reason for it, even if you don’t understand it.
So instead of telling her she’s irrational, try to understand her feelings and where they’re coming from. Create a responsive atmosphere in your relationship wherein understanding, validation, and caring are the norm. 3 This will encourage her to come to you with her problems instead of bottling them up, which can lead to resentment down the road. When you constantly cultivate a space where both of you are responsive to each other’s needs, it’ll be easier to weather the storms that inevitably come with married life and enhance your relationship quality. 4
3. “Are you on your period?”
This is a classic example of gaslighting, which is when someone tries to make you question your perception, memory, or even sanity. 5 In this case, the husband is trying to make his wife question her own emotions by suggesting that they’re caused by hormonal changes.
This kind of behavior is sexist and dismissive. If your wife is questioning her own emotions and reality, she’s less likely to stand up for herself or to assert her needs. So instead of gaslighting your wife, try to be supportive and understanding.
4. “You’re just like your mother/sister/best friend.”
This statement is a form of emotional manipulation, as it tries to make the wife feel guilty or ashamed for having certain qualities. It’s also a way of invalidating her feelings by suggesting that they’re due to her being like her mother, sister, or best friend.
This is a low blow, and it’s sure to hurt your wife’s feelings. It’s also likely to make her defensive and less likely to want to listen to what you have to say. Instead of making this kind of comparison, try to focus on the qualities you love about your wife. This will help her feel appreciated and loved instead of feeling like she’s being criticized.
5. “I don’t care.”
This statement is hurtful because it suggests that your wife’s feelings and needs are unimportant to you. It can make her feel like she’s not a priority in your life, which can be damaging to the relationship.
Care is an important factor in healthy relationships, so it’s important to care about your wife’s feelings and needs, even if you don’t always agree with her. 6 This shows that you respect and value her, which is essential for a healthy relationship.
Want to have a happy marriage? Learn how you can be the best husband using these 10 simple tips.
6. “I don’t have time for this right now.”
Life is busy, and it’s normal to feel like you don’t have time for everything. However, this statement usually comes across as dismissive and uncaring. Most of the time, it is a lazy excuse to avoid an emotional conversation. It sends the message that your wife’s feelings are not important to you.
Instead of saying this, try to find the time when you can have a calm and honest conversation with your wife. Couples who dedicate time to communicating with each other report greater satisfaction and experience greater closeness with their partner. 7 So set aside some time to talk with your wife, and let her know that you care about what she has to say. If you can’t find the time, try to be more responsive when she does try to talk to you.
7. “We’ll talk about it later.”
This statement is often used to avoid conflict or to postpone dealing with a difficult issue. It can leave your wife feeling frustrated, unheard, and unimportant. Instead of using this phrase, try to be more present and engage in the conversation.
If you really don’t have the time or energy to talk about something right then, you can say something like, “I know this is important to you, and I want to give it my full attention. Let’s schedule a time to talk about it later.” This will show your wife that you value her and respect her feelings.
8. Saying nothing at all
Sometimes, the most hurtful thing a husband can do is say nothing at all. When your wife is trying to connect with you and you just sit there in silence, it feels like you’re shutting her out. Communication and conflict resolution can have significant effects on a couple’s well-being, so being present and engaging in conversations with your wife is important. 6
If you’re not sure what to say, try asking her how her day was or expressing interest in something she’s passionate about. Just showing that you care about what’s going on in her life can make a world of difference.
9. “You’ve let yourself go.”
This statement is a form of body-shaming, and it’s sure to hurt your wife’s feelings. Conversations about body and weight happen in almost 65 percent of relationships, and there is evidence that these discussions can be harmful to all parties involved. 8 This comment is no different as it can make your wife feel self-conscious and insecure about her appearance. It also sends the message that you’re more interested in how she looks than who she is as a person.
Instead of focusing on the physical, try to focus on the qualities you love about your wife. This will help her feel appreciated and loved instead of feeling like she’s being criticized. After all, long-lasting marriages are not sustained because of physical attractiveness, but by intimacy, trust, and commitment. 9
10. “Just shut up!”
This phrase is hurtful, disrespectful, and downright rude. It’s the quickest way to shut down a conversation and make your wife feel like she doesn’t matter. If you’re feeling angry or frustrated, it’s important to take a step back and calm down before you say anything.
Lashing out like this will only make the situation worse and will damage your relationship. If you need some time to cool off, let your wife know and explain that you’ll continue the conversation when you’re both feeling better.
If you’re finding it difficult to cool down even after some time has passed, it might be helpful to talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you deal your anger in a healthy way. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can effectively manage your anger-related feelings and behaviors, reducing your likelihood to lash out at your wife. 10
11. “Taking care of the kids and the house is not a job.”
This statement is not only hurtful, but it’s also untrue. Being a stay-at-home parent is one of the most important and challenging jobs out there. It’s a full-time job that comes with very little rest or downtime. Both men and women with children at home often report lower levels of psychological well-being than those without children, reflecting how emotionally and financially draining parenting and managing a household can be. 11
If your wife is a stay-at-home parent, make sure to show your appreciation for all that she does. Help out around the house when you can and give her some time to herself when possible. Most importantly, don’t undermine her by telling her that what she’s doing is not important work.
12. “Don’t take it personally.”
When your wife is hurt by something you’ve said or done, it’s important to validate her feelings. Telling her not to take it personally is a way of invalidating her feelings and telling her that she’s overreacting. This will only make her feel worse.
Instead of telling your wife not to take something personally, try to understand why she’s hurt and what you can do to make things better. This will show her that you care about her feelings and want to help make things right.
13. “I’m the man of this house.”
This statement is simply a very dated and archaic way of thinking. Gender roles have come a long way in recent years, but some people still uphold the traditional view that the man is the head of the household. Stay-at-home fathers often report struggling with their masculine ideals to be financial providers of the family, and this can happen as well in households where the wife is perceived to have the upper hand. 12
This way of thinking can be damaging to your relationship as it can make your wife feel like she’s not an equal partner. Instead of viewing your wife as someone who is beneath you, try to see her as your equal. This will help create a more balanced and healthy relationship.
The next time you’re tempted to say something hurtful to your wife, think about how it will make her feel. If it’s not something you would want to be said to you, it’s probably best to keep it to yourself. Just remember, a little bit of kindness can go a long way.
Also, suppose you’re having trouble controlling your anger or communicating effectively. In that case, it might be a good idea to seek professional help. A couples therapist can help you and your wife identify the root of your communication problems and find healthy ways to resolve them, especially if you’re both experiencing individual and relational distress. 13
Do you need more help? Head over to our marriage advice guide.
Secrets to a healthy relationship: Books every couple should read
It's no secret that a healthy relationship is key in a long-lasting and fulfilling relationship. This list of books about healthy relationships will help you learn how to communicate better, resolve conflict, and deepen your connection. From classic self-help books to more modern reads, these titles will give you the tools you need to build a strong and healthy relationship.
- Boundaries in Dating: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Relationships
- Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of Every Healthy Relationship
- Love More, Fight Less: Communication Skills Every Couple Needs: A Relationship Workbook for Couples
- Infidelity Recovery Workbook for Couples: Tools and Exercises to Rebuild Your Relationship
- Healthy Me, Healthy Us: Your Relationships Are Only as Strong as You Are
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 10(2), 227–237. doi.org ↩︎
Canevello, A., & Crocker, J. (2010). Creating good relationships: responsiveness, relationship quality, and interpersonal goals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 99(1), 78–106. doi.org ↩︎
Johnson, V. E., Nadal, K. L., Sissoko, D., & King, R. (2021). “It’s Not in Your Head”: Gaslighting, ‘Splaining, Victim Blaming, and Other Harmful Reactions to Microaggressions. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 16(5), 1024–1036. doi.org ↩︎
Gómez-López, M., Viejo, C., & Ortega-Ruiz, R. (2019). Well-Being and Romantic Relationships: A Systematic Review in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(13), 2415. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎
Hogan, J. N., Crenshaw, A. O., Baucom, K., & Baucom, B. (2021). Time Spent Together in Intimate Relationships: Implications for Relationship Functioning. Contemporary family therapy, 43(3), 226–233. doi.org ↩︎
Berge, J. M., Pratt, K., & Miller, L. (2016). Weight conversations in romantic relationships: What do they sound like and how do partners respond?. Families, systems & health : the journal of collaborative family healthcare, 34(3), 213–220. doi.org ↩︎
Henwood, K. S., Chou, S., & Browne, K. D. (2015). A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effectiveness of CBT informed anger management. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 25, 280–292. ↩︎
Meier, A., Musick, K., Flood, S., & Dunifon, R. (2016). Mothering Experiences: How Single Parenthood and Employment Structure the Emotional Valence of Parenting. Demography, 53(3), 649–674. doi.org ↩︎