5 Most Toxic Phrases (for couples and their
When it comes to relationships, if there's one
issue that stands out as a major problem and one
that can be changed with a little attitude
adjustment, it's this...
The way you talk to each other.
It's not only the words you say, but it's the
way you sa them and your intention behind those
words that make all the difference in the world
whether you create connection or disconnection with
the other person.
The funny thing is that a lot of the way we talk
to one another seems to be automatic and we don't
really think about it--maybe until it's too
In times of stress, we find ourselves repeating
words or phrases that were said to us by those we
loved, even though those words didn't feel good
when we heard them.
Susie remembers that even though she and her mom
had a great relationship and there was lots of love
between them, her mom was full of "shoulds" of how
Susie needed to act in certain situations--and
Susie wasn't always happy about acting in those
Wouldn't you know that in Susie's first
marriage, as well as this marriage with Otto, she
carried the "shoulds" into them. Even if she
wouldn't say anything, her attitude and demeanor
said they needed to do something other than what
they were doing. In other words, they were wrong
and she was right.
The two of us found out that you can't build the
alive, passionate relationship that lasts if it's
built on "shoulds."
Susie had to become conscious of her thoughts
and what she truly valued rather than what her mom
valued and speak from that authentic place inside
her. She also had to learn to honor and understand
Otto's ways of being and not put him down for being
different from her ways.
Now of course, you can come up with toxic
phrases that can wreck your relationship without
learning them from someone else.
The point is to become conscious of what you're
saying to those you love and make sure that you're
building connection instead of tearing the two of
Here are 5 toxic phrases for you to become aware
of, even if they're just thoughts, and change them
to more empowering ones that create more
Toxic Phrase #1: You should...
Even though you may not mean it this way, when
you use this phrase, you imply that the other
person isn't capable of living their life and
making healthy decisions, especially to your
It's certainly implied that your loved one isn't
good enough the way he or she is.
"Help me to understand how you're feeling (or
what you're thinking)"
Then when you understand the situation or
problem from your loved one's point of view, ask if
he or she wants a suggestion.
We know that it's very easy to slip into the
habit of "you should"-- (Susie still finds herself
saying it) but it's also easy to stop when you
remember how this can drive a wedge between you and
Toxic Phrase #2: You never... or You
When you use global phrases like "you never" or
"you always," the other person usually does these
Pulls away from you and automatically gets
Defensiveness can come out as aggression--coming
back at you with anger or it can come out as
withdrawal--either physically or emotionally
withdrawing and sometimes both.
When you look deeply at the issues that spark
the "you never..." and "you always..." comments, if
you look hard enough, you'll find exceptions.
You'll find places where the other person acted
in the opposite way that you're so globally
accusing him or her of doing.
For instance, if you say something like this,
"You never help with the kids," if you look at his
or her actions outside of your irritation and
finger-pointing, you'll see that there were
instances of help given.
Instead of using this blaming phrase, make a
powerful, specific request like--"I need some help
with the kids. Would you be willing to do something
like give them a bath on Tuesday evenings?"
Not difficult and invites a "yes" or "no"
answer, as well as provides an opening to discuss
what might work for both of you.
Toxic Phrase #3: It's all your fault...
It's just human nature to blame the other person
when things go wrong. Even if you don't use those
words, you can withdraw, close yourself up and not
let the other person in for days or even years when
you think that it's all his or her fault.
No matter how "enlightened" we are, for most of
us, our initial reaction is to poke around until we
find where the other person went wrong.
The problem with "It's all your fault" is that
it never is. There's always something that we can
see if we look that would not be considered the
other person's fault.
When you think it's someone else's fault, even
though you don't realize it, you're thinking, as
the dictionary says, that it's a "weakness in
Not a way to keep the lines of communication
Take "fault" out of your vocabulary and look for
Toxic Phrase #4: It's all my fault...
Just as toxic to relationships as blaming
someone else is to always blame yourself--no matter
It's maddening to see someone you love
constantly becoming a victim and saying "I'm
sorry"--but then nothing else happens after
When you (or anyone) use this phrase, it can be
an underhanded way of escaping from looking for a
solution and learning from whatever happened so
that it isn't repeated.
If you or someone you love is consciously or
unconsciously using this phrase when things go
wrong, you can stop the action and say something
"Instead of looking for fault, let's talk about
how we can do this differently the next time so
it's a win/win for both of us."
If you're a person who takes more than your
share of responsibility for what you perceive is
wrong, stop and ask yourself if this is bringing
the two of you closer or is it taking you further
You may be taking all the blame because you
don't want to destroy the peace that you have in
your relationship because if you actually say
what's true for you, the other person will react
maybe with upset or violence.
If this is the case with you, start finding
ways--small ways-- for you to be truthful--and if
you're in a potentially violent situation, don't
stand for it, get out.
The point is that if you find that you're often
using this phrase or your partner is, see the red
flags that are warning you to make some changes in
Toxic Phrase #5: I can't...
Of all the phrases we've mentioned, "I can't"
can be the most defeating.
When you say "I can't," you're implying that
you're giving up, defeated and you're at a dead
Here are some examples of what "I can't" might
*I can't stand it when you...
*I can't take it any longer...
*I can't control you (or myself)...
The problem with "I can't" is that there's no
opening for something better to happen. This phrase
stops any positive suggestion or action.
Instead of "I can't," you can tell the other
person how you're feeling using words like
"frustrated" or "afraid"--and talk about what you
want. Also listen to what the other person wants
and see if anywhere in there is a match for the two
of you to find a way to be together.
Remember you always have choice. And one of
those choices is to use words that invite openness
and cooperation instead of closing to one
You can make some big changes in your
relationship if you pay attention to the words you
use and your thoughts behind those words.
Our best to you,
& Otto Collins
Other Relationship Issues,
and Otto Collins are spiritual and life partners
who are committed to helping others create
outstanding relationships of all kinds. They
regularly write, speak and conduct workshops and
seminars on love, relationships and personal and
spiritual growth to audiences all across the USA.
They are the creators of the "Relationship Toolkit"
which has helped people in over a dozen countries
improve their relationships. It includes a video
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and Relationship Success
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by visiting their web site at www.collinspartners.com
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