Sarah Johnson, a mother of four who runs an online skin care business with her husband, says that after 15 years of marriage she truly understands how negative statements can strongly affect him — and their marriage. “I have learned that my husband does indeed feed on every word I say,” Johnson says. “‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’ is the biggest lie. Just shutting up and offering more kind words and being a better listener have entirely turned our marriage around.”
Most of us don’t intend to be mean to our mates, but sometimes hurtful things slip out of our mouths. While we can’t take back things already said, we can choose to be a bit more mindful in future conversations and disagreements.
We asked experts to share some of the most damaging things you can say to your mate.
1. You’re not good enough. This is a surefire wound to pride and self-esteem. “Telling your spouse that they aren’t good enough, especially if they have been going through a dark time, is one of the most damaging things you could say in a relationship,” says Bailey Frumen, MSW, LCSW. “This is especially true of husbands, as the masculine ego is largely derived from a sense of achievement, accomplishment, and being able to provide for a family. By telling your husband that he is not good enough or his efforts aren’t good enough, you create damage to the element of respect that is both fundamental and essential in successful marriages.”
2. You are a bad provider. It is painful to hear you consider him a failure. “It is almost equivalent to him calling her a bad mother,” says Caroline Madden, MFT and affair recovery specialist. “Most men determine if they are a good father/husband using this checklist: Am I a good provider and Do I do more to help with the kids and household chores than my dad? If he checks those two boxes, he feels pretty good about himself.” Read more