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 understanding, it's this...
The way you talk to each other.
It's not only the words you say, but it's the way you say 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 late.
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 ways.
Wouldn't you know that in Susie's first marriage, as well as in 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, her partner was wrong and the way she was looking at the situation was right.
When Otto brought it to her attention (after initially denying it), she discovered that she was starting what she considered to be a request with something like this...
"We need to do this..."
And her "request" wasn't coming off as a request but as an order and something that "should" be done. It's just like her mom was speaking through her and it wasn't even Susie doing the talking.
So now, whenever Susie has a request to make, she remembers to phrase it as a true request and not as a "should"--and not from habit.
Something like this...
"Would you be willing to help clean up the basement tomorrow morning with me?"
The two of us found that you can't build and keep an alive, passionate relationship that lasts if it's built on "shoulds."
Susie had to become conscious of what she truly valued (which is connection) and speak from that authentic place inside her rather from habit and old tapes.
She also had to learn to honor and understand Otto's ways of being and not put him down for being different from her.
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 love and connection instead of tearing the two of you apart without even realizing it.
Here are 3 toxic phrases for you to become aware of, even if they're just thoughts, and know that you can react in ways that create more love instead of tearing it down...
Toxic Phrases #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 satisfaction.
It's certainly implied that your loved one isn't good enough the way he or she is.
Before you use this phrase and jump in with your suggestion, you might stop yourself and use this phrase from our "Magic Relationship Words"...
"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"--but it's also easy to stop when you remember how this habit can drive a wedge between you and others.
Toxic Phrases #2: You never... or You always...
When you use global phrases like "you never" or "you always," the other person usually does these two things...
Pulls away from you and automatically gets defensive.
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 housework"...
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, use an idea from our "Stop Talking on Eggshells" program and make a powerful, specific request like--"I need some help with the housework. Would you be willing to talk about how we can share the responsibility of keeping the house clean?"
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 Phrases #3: 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 end.
Here are some examples of what "I can't" might mean...
*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 adopt an attitude and use words that invite openness and cooperation instead of closing to one another.
You can make some big changes in your relationship if you pay attention to the words you use and your thoughts behind those words.
If you could use some help making more loving choices in your words, check out "Magic Relationship Words"...