16 phrases you should never say to an emotionally wounded partner

Never hit somebody when they’re down. It’s one of the first rules of martial arts and good sportsmanship in general.

The same goes for relationships that are having a rough patch, when you’re dealing with a partner who’s emotionally wounded in a difficult way.

In such situations it’s crucial to be especially sensitive and ensure you don’t go too far with what you say.

These are the red flag statements to avoid saying to a partner who’s going through a hard time. 

1) “Don’t overreact” 

While their reaction may look like an overreaction to you or may even be an objective overreaction, this statement isn’t going to help.

If they’re not overreacting they’re going to get defensive, especially since what’s important to you isn’t necessarily the same to them. 

They have a right to react how they are, and being too direct in trying to calm them down can cause a lot of conflict. 

2) “Like I said…”

This type of statement can come across as condescending and can deepen their feelings of inadequacy.

When your partner is struggling they are often in a state of confusion and emotional turmoil. 

Being hard on your partner for not hearing or understanding what you said is not a great choice in this instance. 

As Professor Leon Seltzer, PhD. advises:

“In such delicate situations any criticism—on either of your parts—can be hazardous to the relationship. So carefully endeavor to avoid such evaluative speech.”

3) “Snap out of it.”

No matter what your partner is going through, this phrase isn’t going to help them. 

It can often be seen as a form of gaslighting. 

This minimizes the pain they’re experiencing and shows a lack of empathy.

As psychologist Randi Gunther, PhD. writes:

“Unfortunately, as relationships mature, partners too often forget how angry or hurtful words can damage their intimacy.”

4) “You’re too sensitive.” 

Even if your partner is being too sensitive in your view, this isn’t really your call to make. 

When you say this it can make them feel like their emotions are not valid or important.

While you may not understand what they’re feeling or how they’ve been emotionally wounded, it’s best to be as patient and empathetic as possible. 

This also gives you the chance to increase your own emotional maturity in the process. 

As Seltzer says:

“We’re all just as sensitive as we are. Given our particular biological blueprint, and the sum total of our past experiences, our present sensitivity has to be what it is.”

5) “It’s not a big deal.”

It may not be a big deal to you, but whatever your friend is going through it’s clearly a big deal to them. 

Even if it seems trivial to you, it might be significant to them, and dismissing it can worsen their emotional state.

That’s why it’s best to refrain from framing their issues as small, even if they seem small to you. 

As relationship psychologist Lisa Bobby notes:

“When you love somebody and are connected with them your job is to make space for the fact that they are different and just because your partner is experiencing something you’re not doesn’t mean they are wrong.”

6) “I can’t handle this right now.”

This may be true, but it’s a very hurtful thing to say, especially to a person who’s struggling emotionally.

This can make them feel like a burden and exacerbate their feelings of worthlessness.

If the relationship has reached a really downgraded stage, it’s crucial to try to work on it rather than becoming hopeless and dismissive.

“They began as devoted friends and lovers, going out of their ways to be considerate, but lose that capacity to put each other first,” notes Gunther.

7) “You just want attention.” 

This is a phrase that shouldn’t be said to an emotionally struggling partner. 

Even if there is an attention-seeking aspect to their behavior or codependent and toxic elements, there are more tactful ways to say the same thing. 

This just undermines their feelings and can make them feel ashamed for seeking support.

8) “You’re just imagining it.”

This statement may be meant in a well-intentioned way to get your partner to calm down and not worry as much about something. 

However, it can unfortunately be taken as a form of gaslighting. 

This is partly because phrases like this are used so often in a suppressive context, and also because it isn’t your place to necessarily offer a verdict on your partner’s fears or doubts.

9) “Stop crying.” 

People who lack self worth often display these behaviors in a relationship 16 phrases you should never say to an emotionally wounded partner

It’s hard to see somebody we care about crying. 

But asking your partner to stop crying (even in a caring way) tends to achieve the exact opposite. 

Even if they do physically stop crying, the safety of knowing they can express what they really feel in front of you will be enormously eroded. 

This statement also makes them feel guilty for not being able to control their emotions.

As Seltzer notes:

“By reacting to crying by telling a partner to stop, you’re essentially sending the message, whether in a critical or compassionate tone, that she (or he) shouldn’t feel this way—certainly not with this much intensity.”

10) “You’re being unreasonable.”

Your partner may be acting quite unreasonable, at least by your own standards or what you (or they) would accept you acting like. 

But saying this is likely to set them into an even more defensive, hurt posture and make them feel judged and misunderstood, worsening their emotional state.

Instead, speak starting from “I” statements rather than focusing on what they are doing or being in your view.

As psychologist Cortney Warren advises:

“Speak from your experience. Instead of focusing on your partner and pointing out their faults or flaws, talk about your feelings, perceptions and observations.”

11) “What do you want from me, anyway?”

This phrase is likely to set off an emotionally wounded partner in a difficult way.

They will feel guilty for showing that they are not doing well in front of you and run back to their shell. 

It’s the opposite of the kind of thing to say to somebody who is struggling and who you hope will feel safe enough to open up to you

12) “Stop being such a drama queen.” 

This belittles the wounded partner’s feelings and can make them feel ashamed for expressing themselves.

Even if they are acting like a drama queen, you should try to resist the urge to point this out:

Do your best to facilitate a space of listening and being there for them that isn’t judgmental.

“If you’re able to avoid the counter-productive reactions I’ve described, then going forward you can be instrumental in co-creating a much safer, more secure and trusting, relationship,” advises Seltzer.

13) “You brought this on yourself.”

Let’s face it:

In some circumstances this is exactly true. 

People bring things on themselves all the time, whether it’s undertaking a risky and reckless business venture or irresponsible personal choice.

But this isn’t a smart phrase to say to an emotionally wounded partner. 

This blames them for their emotional state and can deepen their feelings of guilt.

14) “Why don’t you just…”

This phrase may be meant well, but unfortunately it can come across as overly flippant:

The idea that your emotionally wounded partner should “just” do something and offering such prescriptive advice is often a bad idea. 

Many of those people I know who are the best listeners don’t even give advice:

They just provide space to be heard. 

15) “You’re just like X…”

Even though they may be meant as a kind of “wake up call,” negative comparisons to other people can be hurtful and deepen their feelings of inadequacy.

This is especially true with an emotionally wounded partner who is already in a rough state in terms of their self-esteem or self-conception. 

They are struggling to find their way and feel OK about themselves: mentioning how they are similar to somebody else who is not ideal is hurtful and wrong.

16) “I’m tired of dealing with your sh*t.”

It’s quite possible to reach the end of your rope, especially with an emotionally struggling partner who’s taking it out on you. 

But this statement is something to be avoided, as it’s likely to lead to a significant argument or fight.

If these fights aren’t resolved afterwards they will ultimately kill the love bond between the two of you.

As Gunther points out:

“Those partners who frequently fight in hostile and uncaring ways but do not learn and evolve will eventually destroy their love, whether they stay together or end their relationship.”

Even if you’re tired, it’s important to build emotional patience and better emotional management, especially when dealing with a partner who’s quite upset.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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