“Early in our marriage, Rachel and I noticed three phrases that, when used, always caused trouble. We decided to “ban” them from our house. We even wrote them on a piece of paper and put it on the fridge with an “X” through them. We decided to treat them as swear words (which we don’t allow in the house) and ban them from our communication.
The three toxic communication phrases:
- “You always . . .”
- “You never . . .”\
- “This is just like the time when . . .”
See if any of these statements sound familiar:
“You always forget things I tell you.”
“You never do what you say you’ll do.”
“This is just like the time when you yelled at me in front of the kids.”
I’ve noticed that these phrases are frequently present in homes that are in chaos. They are rare in homes that are at peace. Why are these phrases so toxic?
They are not true.
No one “always” does something. Even if a person does something frequently, that doesn’t qualify as “always.” The same is true of “never.” No matter how similar two instances are, they are not the same. Therefore, to say, “This is just like the time when . . . .” is not a true statement.
They are designed to hurt.
Anything said after these phrases isn’t designed to help or to benefit the other person. “You always disrespect me.” “You never take out the trash.” “This is just like the time when I asked you to do this and you forgot.” Communication like this is unproductive and causes the conversation to spiral downwards quickly.
They bring up the past.
These phrases bring instances of the past into the present. They communicate to your spouse, “Every mistake you’ve made is fair game.” Bringing up the past is rarely productive and destroys the grace that our homes should be based on. Successful spouses keep their focus on the present. Drawing parallels to the past and bringing up past mistakes and failures is a quick way to destroy the relationship between you and your spouse.”
-Eight Things I Wish I Knew Before I Said I Do, p 51-52
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