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  • Writer's pictureJustin Bangert, MS, LMFT

Sure-Fire Ways to Start a Fight in Your Marriage...Using Four Words or Less

Updated: Mar 30, 2019

As a Christian marriage therapist, I’ve been working with couples for nearly a decade. Much of the work I do is focusing on helping couples to enhance their communication and to help them learn how to speak and receive the truth with love. I’d like to think of my role as a consultant and a choreographer, one in which I can offer key insights and specific communication tools that will shift the direction of their dialogue and move towards a more synchronized dance in their marriage. span>

However, as with any profession, being a therapist is also like having a front row seat into witnessing what doesn’t work in communication. I have found that there are several starting phrases of a conversation that will doom any chance of quality dialogue from the start. Also, often times it’s not what is said, but rather how it is said that can quickly deteriorate any connection or momentum from being built. So here is a collection of incredibly common phrases that are said between spouses which are the most likely to create a wedge straight down the “and they lived happily ever after” kind of feelings in marriage.

"Why can't you just....Why don't you just....I wish you would...You should know better...You always/You never....If only you were...(more like)....If only you weren't (such a)....You are such a.....Yeah but...But I didn't know...You just don't care....Why don't you listen....I already told you...You're just like your (mother,father,etc)...My (mom,dad,etc.) would never have....How many times (do I / will you)....It's not that difficult...Is it really that...(hard to)...How about you/we just....Can't you see that....And so on....and so on....and so on..."

If you’re honest, there is a great chance that you have said some of these yourself, I know I sure have, and I’m certain you will at least admit that you have heard these from others in your life. Unfortunately, what comes after these key phrases are somewhat irrelevant because the truth is that most likely the intended message the person wanted to share will never be heard from the listener in the way that will be loving and beneficial. Therapeutically, each of these sentence starters fall under the category of a “harsh startup”, which will be highly likely responded to by defensiveness, anger, dismissive and other unloving and unproductive retorts. Each of the above phrases represent categories of unhealthy and unfruitful communication styles including: o Negative interpretations o Catastrophying the situation o Negative assumptions o Denial of responsibility > o Unrealistic expectations o Comparisons to others o In-validations o “Stamping” or Defining the other o Attacks on the others character, integrity, intentions, etc. Unfortunately, the impact these phrases have in a marriage is huge because not only is the conversation going to head nowhere fast, but the sense of friendship, connection and enjoyment in the marriage quickly fades when there is a consistent pattern of unloving, distrusting, and invalidating rapport between spouses. Now as a Christian therapist, it wouldn’t be very loving of me to just “stir the pot” and give you a list of what doesn’t work. So, for positive alternatives to these types of statements, check out ”Part 2” in next week’s blog post titled: Ways to Begin Speaking and Receiving the Truth With Love in Your Marriage….Using Six Words or Less


P.S. If you just so happen to have personal experience saying or hearing any additional phrases that have a miserable track record in conversations, I would love to hear from you!

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