1. “I want a divorce” —In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say things you don’t mean, but this statement can’t be taken back easily-no matter how many times you apologize or swear you didn’t mean it. Statements like “I’m done with this” or “I’m leaving” lead to insecurity. This should only be said if you’re ready to sign the papers. So if it slips, apologize and explain that it will never happen again, but know it might be awhile before your partner fully trusts you. And it also may be time for you to do some soul-searching. If you truly blurted it out in a fit of rage, it could be helpful to work through your anger with a professional. But if you said it because it’s on your mind, that’s a much deeper issue.
2. “I’m not mad”–So why are you rolling your eyes, slamming doors, and grunting one-word responses to his questions? Because you don’t want to be mad, which isn’t quite the same thing as not being mad. Shutting down and trying to ignore emotions is a common reaction to conflict. If you find yourself tongue-tied, it’s fine to take a break and talk when you’ve cooled down-even if it’s just to let him know how confused you feel.
3. “You’re just like your father”–Chances are, you’re not saying this because they both make amazing pancakes-you’re saying it to hurt him and you know it. But this is a low blow. First, by comparing him to his dad, you’re expressing that you’re no longer seeing him for him. Everyone wants to be seen as an individual. Second, he has tried hard to avoid whatever trait you’re bringing up, which will put him on the defensive.
4. “You’re such a jerk/coward/expletive of choice”–Name-calling triggers the same thing as him with someone else-you’re telling him that you no longer see him as an individual. Not only that, but name-calling is a sign that your emotions are coloring the situation to the point where nothing constructive will happen. Fighting while you’re in that state is like fighting while you’re drunk, or on an hour of sleep-it won’t make anything better. Instead, give yourself time to calm down by telling your man you’ll be back in an hour. And come home when you say you will-if you don’t, they’ll be more mad.
5. “Look, now the baby is upset, too”–Once the crying starts, it looks like you’ve got the guilt card on lock-but experts warn it’s dirty, even if it makes you seem like the winner. One person cannot have an argument. If the baby’s crying, it’s a sign both of you are getting upset. Call a truce, calm down the baby-and yourself-and then start talking through things. If your kids are older, don’t claim you’re not fighting if it’s clear that you are. Instead, let them know you both lost your tempers, but that you still love each other, and you will work it out, because you always do in the end.
6. “You did the same thing last time”–Little disagreements become big ones when we bring them up over and over again. When you’ve forgiven someone for something, that means that you can’t use it as ammunition in a current disagreement. If you find you’re continually circling around the same tiny arguments, it could be a sign you should do something different. If he always forgets to wipe the counters, he’s not doing it because he wants a fight-he may not see the mess you do. Take over counter duty and trade him a chore he won’t skip.
7. “You’re always late”—Getting upset because he got home half an hour past the time you were supposed to meet for dinner makes it even more likely it will happen the next time. Instead of accusing him-or making it sound like he’ll never change-let him know why it’s important that he be on time. Then, try to enjoy the evening. Later, you can work together to figure out how to avoid lateness being an issue in the future.
8. “Why are you mad?”– He grunts one-word answers when you ask how his day was, and from the angry way he looks for a snack, it seems like he’s ready to have a serious fight with the fridge. But the more you push, the more likely you’ll find yourself in a fight that wasn’t there to begin with. People lash out at those they’re closest to, and sometimes their moods have nothing to do with our behavior. That’s not to say you should just let him take out his bad mood on you-and if he’s like this often, you need to have a serious talk about how he handles his anger. If he’s in the occasional bad mood when he gets home from work, or after his team loses a big game, it’s fine to give him space. If he seems fine a few hours later, drop the subject-once he’s over it, there’s no reason you should hang on.
9. “You need to talk to me right now”—If you’re both in different spots and you feel like a fight is brewing, the best thing you can do is hold your thoughts-at least until you can talk face-to-face. For one, neither of you has a sense of what else is competing for the other’s attention. Agreeing not to fight over email or text is best because then you can work out what you want to say when you get face-to-face.
10. “This is all your fault–Instead of placing the blame on him, figure out first what you can do to solve the problem, then explain how his behavior made you feel. Saying something like, “I felt like you weren’t listening to me, and it was easier to go along with your idea, but I wish I’d spoken up,” shows you accept your responsibility in the situation, and also builds a constructive conversation about how to avoid the issues in the future.