Fighting Fair

Trigger words to avoid and what to say instead

Fighting fair—not taking those cheap shots, avoiding name calling, and being sensitive to your partner’s vulnerable spots—is not just a matter of courtesy; it’s vital to your relationship, and to your health. “When a woman perceives her husband argues with warmth, she has a significantly decreased chance of heart disease,” says Nancy Dreyfus, a psychotherapist and the author of the new book, Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love. You’re also more likely to get a satisfying outcome. But how to avoid the common complaints and phrases that act like oil on a fire? Try these alternatives instead, says Dreyfus.

Trigger: “I always have to initiate sex...I hate it.”

Say instead: “When you really let me know you want to make love with me, it feels like I matter to you.”

Trigger: “How could you have embarrassed me publicly like that? What am I doing with such a jerk?”

Say instead: “When you don't think about the impact of your words on me—particularly publicly—a part of me just distances from you. And that feels lousy.”

Trigger: “Do you think I was the only one born with a parenting gene? You can help with the homework too, you know.”

Say instead: “I know it's not always comfortable helping our son with his homework. But it would be good for your relationship with him and take some of the burden off me. And you don't have to be perfect.”

Trigger: “You never listen.”

Say instead: “If you aren't in the space to listen, please tell me. It hurts when you pretend to be listening.”

Trigger: “All you want is sex. I can't stand it.”

Say instead: “I want to make love with you. When we're feeling connected, you don't have to ask.”

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