Relationships aren't all happy and sweet moments all the time, as you likely already know. Sometimes there are disagreements, sometimes there's out-right fighting, or sometimes you say or do things that you later regret. You're human and imperfect, so it's only natural that sometimes, well, sometimes your relationship doesn't fit that happily-ever-after fairytale kind of narrative. Since you're not going to always agree, knowing how to handle those disagreements whenever they arise is an important life skill. The types of comments that make disagreements turn into fights in relationships are things that, of course, you'll likely want to avoid as much as possible so as to prevent things from getting worse. But it can also be useful to understand why they're bad and what they might be making your partner think so that, if you do accidentally or intentionally blurt one out during an argument, you can understand both why it made things worse as well as what, exactly, you might want to apologize for.
While you may mean well and have only the best of intentions when you say some of what you say in the midst of an argument or disagreement, it doesn't always come off that way to someone else. Disagreeing — and even fighting — is part of any realistic (and even healthy) relationship, so knowing how to do so without making your partner feel insignificant, unimportant, or otherwise disregarded is an important skill to have.
1. "Calm Down."
If you've ever gotten into an argument or disagreement with anyone, ever, you probably are well-aware that telling the other person to calm down is rarely a good move. It only serves to escalate the argument and turn it into a bigger issue. In an interview with Prevention, Monica O'Neal, PsyD, a Harvard clinical psychologist and relationship expert, said that when you tell someone to calm down, you're really telling them that you can't or won't deal with them when they're upset. Sure, it can be frustrating when someone is getting worked up and you're not exactly sure what's happened to make them so upset, but staying calm yourself and letting them feel what they're feeling can go a long way in making the situation better, not worse.
2. "That's Absurd."
While you might think that what they're saying to you is way off-base and more than a bit of a stretch, you shouldn't tell them that it's ridiculous or absurd. Dr. David M. Allen, the author of How Dysfunctional Families Spur Mental Disorders: A Balanced Approach to Resolve Problems and Reconcile Relationships told Greatist that it's important that you avoid invalidating or dismissing their feelings altogether. Not only will that make them feel like they're not getting anywhere or that they're not that important, but, as Allen said, there's often at least a little bit of truth to what they're saying, even if it seems outlandish and you don't want to believe it.
3. "I Don't Have Time For This."
Everyone is busy and lots of people don't like dealing with conflict, but you shouldn't brush off your partner's concerns by saying that you don't have time to deal with them. Gabrielle Parkinson, an executive coach, told Redbook that this statement makes your partner feel like you don't see them as being as important as whatever else you want to be doing during that time. No one ever wants to feel like that.
4. "It's No Big Deal, You're Overreacting."
Again, dismissing your partner's worries or issues as insignificant or unnecessary is not the way to deescalate an argument. It'll only make things worse. Stacey Greene, a relationship expert and the author of Stronger Than Broken, told Redbook in the aforementioned article that a comment like this, meant to sort of quickly smooth things over, can send a signal to your partner that their feelings don't matter, that they're wrong for feeling the way they do. That won't ultimately make anything better.
5. "You Always Do..."
While it can be easy to fall into a pattern of "ugh, you always do" this or "you never do" that, that's not going to help matters at all when you're dealing with a disagreement between you and your partner. In an interview with Greatist for the previously-mentioned article, Jennifer Samp, Ph.D., a communications studies professor at the University of Georgia, said that responding to their concerns with empathy, rather than accusatory "you always" or "you never" statements can help make the situation better instead of making matters worse.
6. "It's Fine."
Again, if you've ever had a fight with anyone, you probably know that "it's fine" typically doesn't mean that it is, actually, fine. Saying that everything is OK is one way of trying to shut down the argument. If you do successfully shut down the argument, nothing's resolved, which means it might turn into something way larger later on. Not only that, but, as O'Neal told Prevention in the aforementioned article, you need to be able to feel safe enough to express those angry emotions — it can help foster greater emotional intimacy between the two of you.
7. "I Get It."
You might think that telling your partner that you understand how they feel is a good thing to say while you're fighting, it might not be the slam dunk you think it is. In an interview with Reader's Digest, FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss said that instead of saying that you know how they feel or understand what they're saying, which can send the message that you want them to stop talking, you should instead listen and then paraphrase what they said and parrot it back to them to show you've got it. Then, if you got something wrong, they'll be able to correct you and you can make sure that you both understand what's really going on before moving forward.
8. "I Can't Believe We're Talking About This Again."
It can be frustrating when it seems as though a disagreement that you've had in the past is becoming part of one you're currently having, but it's not unusual. Also, you shouldn't say some sort of variation of "I can't believe we're talking about this again," because clearly, if someone has brought it back up, there's something unresolved there and saying that you can't believe it's once again the topic of conversation is just going to upset them. In an interview with Greatist for the previously-mentioned piece, Allen said that the tone of what you're saying can sometimes matter even more than the words themselves, so the way you sound when you respond to their unresolved feelings can be just as important as what you say.
9. "You Should Do This Instead."
If you're disagreeing about the next steps that you or your partner should take in a given situation, it can be easy to try to just tell them what to do, especially if you feel certain that that's the right thing. However, as Reader's Digest noted in the aforementioned article, telling your partner what to do takes away the power that they feel they have over the situation. Even though no one is forcing them to follow your advice, it can send the message that you don't think they're capable of handling things themselves. Trying to make the situation about them and asking how you can help them sort out their internal conflict might help reassure them that they still have ownership over their own experiences.
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