Painful, insulting words leave scars that can destroy a connection.
Painful, insulting, or invalidating words leave invisible scars but can destroy any relationship over time. When intimate partners fight, they often are focused on output, and just not connecting to the way the other partner is experiencing the tirade. Too often, those damaging interactions go unresolved, slowly eroding trust.
If partners, after a negative interaction, feel true remorse for what they’ve said, they may be able to undo some of the damage. But, no matter how much they may feel sorry for having said what they said, the repetition of the same hurtful, insulting, or damaging words will eventually make it impossible for the couple to regenerate comfort and trust.
Caveat: Many people are not aware of a basic truth, which is that no one responds in a negative dispute only at the age they currently are. Heavy emotionally painful disagreements often result in a partner regressing to an earlier age, leaving them unable to respond maturely under fire. That is especially true if either partner was talked to that way as a child and feels retraumatized by the words hurled at them. As a result, both partners may be unable to stay centered and clear while feeling attacked.
It is critical that any couple that wants to build secure and deepening love must erase mean attacks from their verbal usage forever. Even occasional use will leave lasting and cumulative negative impressions.
I’ve sorted these dangerous verbal saboteurs into seven categories. You may have actually used them when angry or needing to lash out. It is rare that anyone escapes being guilty of their usage at some point in time. But hopefully, in the extreme examples highlighted below, you will be able to see more clearly how much damage they actually do, and make a sacred pact with your partner to eliminate intentionally or inadvertently using them.
Following are the seven categories of speaking that must be eliminated forever.
1. Erasing and Gaslighting
Being seen, heard, acknowledged, and taken seriously are needs that begin early in life and are instrumental in making people feel that they matter. When a person is on the other end of a partner who not only doesn’t listen but invalidates every attempt that person makes to be known, it will ultimately cause fear and self-doubt in the partner who is being erased.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I never said that to you. You just make things up.”
“Why do you keep thinking I’m trying to hurt you? I’ve never done anything to make you feel that way. It’s all in your head, like always.”
Telling a person that they did something wrong that they should be embarrassed about or that they are stupid or behaving in an unacceptable manner tells that person that they cannot do anything right and need to be “fixed.”
“How many times do I have to tell you and you still keep doing it? What is wrong with you?”
“You’re acting like a spoiled child.”
“Another stupid decision. What is wrong with you?”
Have you ever been on the other end of someone telling you that what you have to offer is irrelevant? And when you attempt to defend yourself, they double down and make you feel that you can never be good enough no matter what you do?
“You’ll just never get it, so just stop trying.”
“Why do I ever trust you to do things the right way when you always let me down?”
“You aren’t as smart as you think.”
Manipulations are strategies meant to control the other partner’s behavior. Often a manipulating partner will bring in the opinions of others who agree with them to emphasize that they are right, or threaten exposure that will embarrass or humiliate.
“How do you think other people would feel about you if they knew you could act this way?”
“If you don’t shape up here, I’m not going to stick around.”
“You wouldn’t get yourself in so much trouble if you’d just listen to me.”
“Sure I’ll help you but it’ll cost you. Better not to do this again.”
5. Hitting Below the Belt
Couples that have been together for a while are likely to have shared personal stories they have not told others. They are supposed to be sacred and not used to win an argument or make another feel exposed.
“Your mother did this exact crazy thing to your father. No wonder he left her.”
“You think you’re so hot, but I’ve had better.”
“You’ll do anything just to be wanted because you were dumped as a kid, right?”
“Don’t keep acting so innocent. I know what you’ve done in the past.”
Whether empty or sincere, using threats to get another to bend to your will is a certain destroyer of any intimacy in a relationship. They only work when the other person is truly terrified that the threats will actually manifest. The person using threats to control is doing whatever they can to stay in power.
“I don’t know why I stay in this relationship. I get nothing out of it.”
“You keep acting this way and you’ll never see me again.”
“How about I just tell people who you really are? I could sabotage every relationship that matters to you if I want to.”
“Keep doing that and you’re never going to get what you want from me.”
7. Character Assassinations
You can tell someone that they make mistakes or that you don’t like what they are doing. It’s another thing to tell them that they are basically flawed and therefore can never be acceptable. Wiping out the core of another’s being can destroy their feelings of worth.
“What’s wrong with you? Can you get it that you’re just plain stupid?”
“Just admit it: You get off on hurting people.”
“You’ve always been immature. That’s not ever going to change.”