Partners don’t (or shouldn’t) want to hurt each other, no matter how heated an argument may get. That’s easier said than done, however, and in the heat of the moment while your brain is clouded with emotions, you might find yourself saying something you don’t mean. Not only can this hurt your partner, but it can also end the relationship.

You don’t even have to insult them or say anything mean, it can be in the tone or language used and still have an equally detrimental effect, which is why we all hate them so much. Here we will cover some of the things you should never say and offer some guidance to help you think clearly and, most importantly, empathetically, during a fight.

“Well, what about…”

This is perhaps the most common deflection tactic you see in arguments, and it’s somewhat understandable. When an error or misjudgment of yours is pointed out, it’s natural to go on the defensive and try to point out the hypocrisy of the statement instead of internalizing what has been said. It can very quickly de-rail the conversation into a game of point scoring.

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Whataboutisms are barely acceptable for augments on the internet, never mind with your partner. In your heightened state of emotion, you’re likely to bring up personal failings or come across as though you hold all these things over their head. Both of these are going to cause upset, and you’re just inviting the same back.

Anything passive aggressive

Nothing makes an argument explode quite like a thinly veiled attack. Not many people respond to passive-aggressive behavior even at their best, and during a fight, it only serves to invoke anger from your partner. It’s just a very weak and annoying style of communication, testing people’s reactions and then relying on plausible deniability to backtrack from the confrontation.

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In an argument, it’s almost always better to just say how you feel. You’re allowed to have thoughts and feelings, and you’re allowed to communicate those to your partner without the games. Anything that can communicate multiple meanings, like a joke or sarcastic comment, is going to cause more issues. Focus on clarity.

Avoid absolutes

Very few things in this world are absolute, especially as filtered through our tiny minds and bias-prone perceptions. Things like “never”, “always” or “every time” all imply something absolute, and your partner is going to correctly push back on them. Mention how they never help around the house, and you’ll get the timestamps for the vacuum logs.

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Neither of you will be correct in where you’re approaching the argument, so when you start trying to tie down definitions to reach something objective, you’ve already lost. There is no true objectivity that, once reached, will end the fight, so searching for it is just a distraction from the emotional, semantic issues before you.

“You’re being hysterical”

Any combination of words that, in practice, mean “stop being emotional”, is going to be met with scorn and further argument. It skips over the fundamental detail that we are all emotional creatures, who experience life and our feelings in completely unique ways. We also hate being told we’re experiencing those feelings wrong.

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Excessive emotion can make it hard for an argument to progress, but the answer to that is not to blame your partner’s regulation. You could instead suggest a time-out, where you can both gather your thoughts and return to the issue with level heads. Anything that doesn’t level an accusation at your partner’s emotional state is desirable.