Has anyone ever asked you to not take something personally? It’s easier said than done, right? Words can build you up, but they can also rip you apart. As human beings we are wired to thrive from social encounters – especially the ones that we are closest to. Our social make up is the reason why words can hurt your feelings, just as quick (sometimes quicker) than positive affirmations.

In every relationship, there are dangerous trigger phrases that have the power to ruin a relationship. In case you don’t know what a trigger phrase is or that’s a new term for you, let’s do a quick overview.

A trigger phrase is a sentence that causes your brain to perceive that someone or something, important to you, is going to be taken away. Usually a trigger phrase causes hurtful feelings and can potentially create an emotional breakdown. If a trigger phrase is said repeatedly, to an individual, there is a strong chance that the individual will be damaged, and their future relationships could suffer. Think of a trigger phrase as the opposite of an affirmation. While an affirmation is designed to build someone up, a trigger phrase is created to take someone down. However, not all trigger phrases are premeditated with malicious intent. We’re all human and we make mistakes. In the heat of an argument, it’s common to speak out of turn and not think before saying something.

Regardless of intent, it’s difficult to take something back and blame anger. Here are some of the most dangerous trigger phrases that you should avoid saying because they’ll ruin your relationship:

“I’m sorry, BUT…”

Great job on the first two words. I’m sorry is a very powerful phrase. However, when you add but the authenticity of your apology basically blows up and becomes nonexistent. Never use the word “but” in an apology. The word but creates an excuse for your actions – which is not okay.

Think before you apologize. It’s better to have an awkward moment of silence, while you compile your thoughts versus later trying to dig yourself out of the “I’m sorry” ditch. Assess your part in the disagreement and look for ways you could improve. Try saying, “I’m sorry for my actions. I know I was wrong.” Then ask, “What can I do next time to make the situation/circumstances better?” Aim to always be genuine with your apologies and remember we all mistakes – that’s how we learn to be better people.

“I’m over it.”

Author Emily Freeman discusses the innate need we as a culture have to name things in her book The Next Right Thing. Freeman says the simple act of naming something can bring forth life and healing to the same extent that not naming things can do the opposite.

When an individual tells their partner that they are over it, they are not naming what they are over. Instead that person is relying on the other person to know what they’re referring to. Or the person is just speaking out of turn and frustration. It can mean many things – your relationship as a whole, the argument at hand, another person, an experience, or just a bad day.

Be specific without being spiteful. Explain what is frustrating you and don’t use the phrase, “I’m over it.” Saying those mean words leaves a cloud of ambiguity for your partner to contemplate. They’ll be left wondering: “Is he/she over me?” “Is he/she over our relationship?” “Does he/she still love me?”

“You always/never…”

The words always and never can be quite dramatic. The two words can minimize the effort a person is putting into a relationship and create feelings of guilt, helplessness, under-appreciation or frustration. Implying that your partner always or never does something can make them feel inadequate. If those words are repeated continuously, walls may be built up and animosity could form.

Instead of being accusatory with the words always and never, try exuding appreciation. Start a sentence off with, “I appreciate it when…” Remember verbally beating your partner up is not going to change things; however, if you build them up and tell them what they’re doing right then they will be more inclined to see things in a different lens.

“Calm down.”

This phrase has a few different iterations. Calm down can also be: “Don’t be so sensitive.” “You’re overreacting.”

When you say calm down or any similar phrases, you’re basically insinuating to your partner that their feelings are invalid. Even if your partner is overreacting, calling them out isn’t always the answer. You should always strive to validate your partner’s feelings because there is no right or wrong way to feel (especially during a disagreement). You will never fully understand the way another person’s brain processes information or experiences emotion; therefore, it’s unfair to tell your partner to calm down.

Instead of discrediting your partner’s feelings try mirroring their emotions by asking why they feel so strongly about the issue at hand. Ask them about their concerns and try to get a better understanding of where they’re coming from. You should always be willing to listen and offer a suggestion on how you can move forward.

“You were supposed to…”

Forgiveness is a crucial part of every relationship because we’re all human and we make mistakes. When it comes to the relationship with your significant other, forgiveness is even more important. Reminding your partner about the things they forgot to do or didn’t do is not constructive. Avoid telling your partner that they were supposed to do something because it will come off as nagging or bullying.

Communicate with intention and offer grace. If the situation is important, then approach your partner and explain why that task was so important. Perhaps you now missed a deadline or needed that task to be done in order to move forward. Explain your reasoning because it will sound less accusatory.

Words are powerful. Strive to use them wisely. Remember that trigger phrases can create barriers and unnecessary tension in your relationship. Be open with your communication and always ask your partner how they’re feeling. Not only will they appreciate your intent, but your relationship will thrive from your conscious efforts.

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