You’re bound to say some tone-deaf things to your spouse every so often ― but there are some phrases you should absolutely never say.
We asked couple therapists to share the most annoying things men report hearing from their spouses. (Of course, it goes both ways ― click here for the annoying things husbands say to their wives.)
1. “Nevermind, I’ll just do it myself.”
Marriage pro tip: When you ask your spouse to call the plumber to fix the sink, give him a chance to do it. Rolling your eyes and saying, “nevermind, I’ll do it myself” may result in you getting your sink fixed sooner, but it’s also likely to rub your spouse the wrong way.
“Chances are, he wants to help you and make you happy,” said Anne Crowley, an Austin, Texas-based psychologist. “It’s a frustrating phrase for a husband to hear because it suggests you don’t think he’s capable of completing the task and don’t need him.”
2. “You should have known.”
“Women become upset when their husbands can’t read between the lines or read their minds but guys are notoriously poor mind readers,” he said. “Wives will save themselves a lot of grief if they can come to accept this and just ask for what they want.”
3. “Do you think she’s hot?”
Do you really want to know your husband’s thoughts about an attractive woman? Probably not ― plus, you’re putting your spouse in an uncomfortable, no-win situation, said Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men.
“Most men have already identified the pretty women in the room; if he‘s trying to respect you then he should be already trying not to look, so you pointing her out will only make him more self-conscious, uncomfortable and unsure of what to do to not upset you or hurt your feelings,” he said.
4. “We need to talk.”
No four words strike fear into a married man’s heart quite like “we need to talk.” Opt for something less ominous sounding the next time you bring up an issue, said Marcia Naomi Berger, a therapist and author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted.
“The phrase ‘we need to talk’ is often a signal that the wife has complaints or criticism about the husband,” she said. “He assumes he somehow failed you and withdraws, creating a disconnect, which is the exact opposite of what you were trying to accomplish.”
5. “Man up.”
Seriously? There’s no right or wrong way to be a man. For your spouse’s sake, let your gender expectations go and try to have a civil conversation.
“Telling your spouse to ‘man up’ is a brutal attack on his core identity,” Howes said. “It’s a statement loaded with contempt and shame and could create relationship damage that will be difficult to heal.”
6. “Pick up after yourself. I’m not your mother.”
There are better ways to encourage your spouse to put his dirty socks in the hamper than telling him you’re tired of feeling like his mom.
“Bringing up mom piles baggage onto what’s probably already a loaded situation,” Smith said. “Many men are sensitive about their relationship with their mother, so suggesting he still wants or needs his mom is not a way to encourage him to change behavior you don’t like.”
7. “You never, you should have, you ought to…”
Sorry, but chiding your spouse about how he never does the dishes (or takes out the trash or drives the kids to school) isn’t likely to inspire change, Berger said.
“Saying someone ‘never’ does something leaves no wiggle room for improvement ― it’s like casting a fault of his in stone,” she said. “It’s much better to say, ‘I’d appreciate it if you would empty the dishwasher tonight,’ for example. And when he does, thank him and you can expect more help in the future.”
8. “You’ve put on a few pounds lately, huh?”
Instead of pointing out changes in your spouse’s appearance, be supportive and tell him you’d love if he joined you at your cycle class sometime, said Becky Whetstone, a Little Rock, Arkansas-based therapist.
“Insinuating that his body is not like it once was will shrink his confidence ― and he’ll probably up his calorie intake just to spite you!”
9. “You’re going out with the guys again?”
Don’t look at Fantasy Football meet-ups and golf trips as threats to your marriage. It’s quite the opposite, actually; some time apart will likely do your relationship good, Howes said.
“Yes, sometimes a guy’s night is just an excuse to drink and fart but for many guys these are crucial times to connect, seek advice, get support and express some important emotions,” he said. “Wives who feel threatened by this or forbid their husband from attending may be cutting off a vital support system.”
The biggest bonus of guy time, according to Howes? “There’s a good chance he’ll actually be a better husband if he can compare notes with other husbands and dads.”
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