All relationships have their ups and downs. What is important to remember, is to be empathic to one another, so that you can communicate and solve problems. Otherwise, you create injuries that may last for the duration of your relationship. The old adage, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you,” is absolutely not true, for the sting of words can fester for a lifetime.

Here are six things that you should never say to your spouse:

1. Never threaten divorce. Never tell your partner you’re leaving, unless you really mean it. The fear of abandonment is deep-rooted in each of us, and can be traced back to early childhood, when mom and dad were, for whatever reason, absent. When you tell your spouse, lover or partner, that you are leaving, you threaten him at his very core. His inner dialogue confronts the idea, possibly for the first time, that you could actually live without him. This realization tears at the very fabric of your marriage vows and the idea that your commitment to one another, no matter what, is constant and forever. The threat of divorce can seed those first roots of distrust and rejection, sowing the loss of intimacy.

2. Never use the phrase “don’t start.” It is a common way to shut down mutuality and, more importantly, it is condescending. It shares the limelight with other phrases such as, “cool it,” or “keep calm.” Phrases such as these dominate and demean your partner. A better way to address escalating discussions is to simply ask, “What can I do to make things better?” This recognizes your mate as a grownup, both valued and validated.

3. Never say “You’re just like your mother…” or father, sister, or brother. This is like name-calling. It objectifies your partner and makes him feel helpless. An accusation is impossible to confront without being defensive. Objectifying your partner bruises his sense of self and prohibits any possible empathy or resolution.

4. Never say “I don’t respect you anymore.” This is a real conversation stopper and it is so hurtful to one’s inner core that it leaves your mate powerless. Deflating one’s persona can only lead to withdrawal. It is right up there with betraying a confidence shared in a moment of intimacy or weakness, and is translated to the other as betrayal.

5. Never say, “Do it because I said so.” This phrase trivializes your spouse and reduces him to a juvenile status. Phrases such as this that make your loved one feel inferior are toxic to your relationship, as they close down any possibility of real problem-solving, which by its very definition must be mutual.

6. Never say, “You always do… whatever.” This is a good way to put your mate on the defensive, and, excuse the pun, it is a gross generalization. Accusations are hyper-critical, and indicate scorekeeping, causing inflation. Toxic language can only create space and distance between you and your mate.

In the end, language that bruises the tender part of your feelings from the person you love the most, can create an atmosphere of hopelessness, and loss of resolution. When partners see no potential for change in the future of their relationship, and when communication is shut down by phrases such as these, it can easily be the beginning of the end.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.