3 Words that are toxic to relationships

Words are one of the tools of a relationship therapist’s work. Words can be kind, thoughtful, and lead to people feeling deeply understood. But there are certain words that I often hear at the start of couple counselling that while meant to bring someone’s partner closer actually push them away.

Watch out for these words and use them wisely in your relationships.

ALWAYS .. It’s easy to see our sweetie’s faults as a permanent part of them and also to focus on the behaviours that drive us crazy rather than the whole. Starting a sentence  ‘You always ..’ is a sure sign that you’re not seeing the big picture.

Take a step back if you hear your inner dialogue starting to go down this line and think about some of the good things he / she also ‘always’ does. If you decide you want to ask for a change you could start the conversation by letting her or him know how much you appreciate the other stuff.


SHOULD .. When I hear ‘You should ..’ from couples I sometimes ask ‘Why should he/she?’ Our ideas of what people ‘should’ do often lead to pain and lack of understanding between partners.

Take some time to ask yourself why you believe he or she ‘should’ do something, it may well come from ideas you’ve taken from family, culture or society without realising they’re not really yours. Ask yourself instead what COULD my partner do, and why would they want to?

Always and Should can both be used to blame our partners. If you’re tempted to use them it may be because you’re relying on your partner to fulfil too big a part of your needs.

Ask yourself if you have other sources of support outside your relationship, things like friends, family, hobbies, exercise, anything that strengthens you to be the best partner you can be. If you don’t it may be time to work on this, and if friends or family are absent or unhelpful to consider contacting a therapist to talk any personal stuff through without overloading your relationship.

I sometimes wince inside when couples acknowledge their partner’s point of view then add the word BUT. It’s important to stick up for yourself in your relationship of course, and also important to not fall into the trap of setting yourselves up in opposition by using ‘the B word’.

Try using AND instead. It’s easy for a conversation to get stuck if your But gives the impression you’re not giving  value to what your partner’s expressing.

These are my top 3 words to look out for .. Do you have others, and what did you do about them? I love reading your responses, private or public.

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