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Compliment your spouse consistently. Tell him or her, "I love you," all you want. But our experts say you must avoid saying these 10 things in order to keep your marriage intact.
1. "You always forget about me."
Warns Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, "generalizing with these kinds of statements will make your partner angry and defensive." Even if you're pointing out perceived character flaws with the best intentions, it's better to stay mum, says Greer. As she explains, "no one wants to be pigeon-holed for doing something wrong all the time."
2. "Fix this, or I'm filing for divorce."
Says Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage, it's never OK to toss around the D word in anger. "While you may be hurt or angry, threatening to end the relationship is a genie you can't put back in the bottle," she explains. "If it is the first time, it will permanently shift the relationship and increase any feelings of insecurity your partner has. If it is a threat you have used before, your spouse may be tired of feeling threatened and take you up on it."
3. "You're selfish."
You may think your spouse only thinks of him or herself, but Greer advises against using this sentence as a way of blaming them. "Instead," she says, "tell them what you're looking for and what you need from them." For example, if you feel as if your spouse never thinks of you because he or she won't call to let you know he or she is late, it's better to say, "I'd really appreciate if you called me on your way home from work!"
4. "You never ..."
Says Doares, "Don't say always or never as part of a complaint." Why? Because, "putting things in terms of all-or-nothing will either make your partner defensive or feel like they can never win." While saying this for the first time could lead to a fight, Doares says that repeatedly saying "never" could cause your partner to "eventually feel a sense of hopelessness that leads to resentment."
5. "You're lazy."
While it's easy to toss out just what your partner does wrong, says Greer, "don't discuss your spouse's behavior in a critical, judgmental way." Instead, she says, "tell them where you want them to be more involved and helpful." By using constructive words, you'll find that your partner is much more receptive to what you have to say.
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6. "You're stupid."
Sure, it wasn't your partner's brightest idea to ask your not pregnant co-worker just how far along she is at your holiday party. But he or she likely didn't bungle the big event on purpose. So, says Greer, "don't name call or insult their character or integrity." It's just hurtful, and won't prevent a similar situation in the future.
7. "You're not like my ex."
If you say this in a good way — think: your ex used to fight dirty, and your spouse always uses constructive criticism — then proceed. Otherwise, says Doares, "being compared to someone else makes assumptions about your partner's intent that hasn't been verified. If they don't like the person you are comparing them to, it will also leave them feeling raw and vulnerable. These type of statements minimizes your partner as their own person and frequently leads to distance between the two of you."
8. "You're so sloppy."
Experts say choreplay is the best foreplay. So if you're not getting enough dish-cleaning action, it's understandable you could be upset. But, says Greer, "rather than saying this, tell him or her how you'd like his or her behavior to change. That way, you avoid condemning his or her character."
9. "Your feelings are wrong."
Even if you think your spouse is being too sensitive, "don't tell them their feelings are wrong or stupid," warns Doares. "You may not feel the same way about something that your spouse does, but that doesn't make their feelings wrong." While being confronted by feelings you don't understand can be difficult, "this phrasing is dismissive of who they are and what is important to them," Doares explains. "You gain your comfort at the cost of them losing theirs."
10. "You're [insert mean name]."
Name-calling is so high school. "Attacking your spouse's character instead of addressing their specific behavior is hurtful and unproductive," says Doares. It is also a sign of contempt. Once contempt enters your marriage, the chance of divorce goes through the roof. Being repeatedly called names undermines your partner's sense of safety in your marriage and that will eventually kill their love."