Experts reveal the one word you should never use when fighting with your partner

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Kayleigh Dray

It’s no secret that certain phrases can trigger conflict in relationships, with many pointing out that the worst offender is “I’m sorry if…”.

Unsurprisingly, using the “if” component is problematic in an argument, as it dismisses your partner’s grievances out of turn – and implies that your apology isn’t all that genuine.

However it seems as if there’s a seemingly innocuous word which could prove to be even more toxic than “if” or any four-letter insult – especially if you hurl it at your partner during the heat of the moment.

Yup, you guessed it; it’s “should”. As in, “you should have thought about that in the first place”, or “you should know that already”.

Writing in Psychology Today, Jeffrey Bernstein explained: “We tend to “should” all over our partners. Even if we think we’re only doing so in the privacy of our own minds, it can come out in our tone or actions.

“Thinking should about someone you love, or being on the receiving end of a ‘should,’ creates negative energy and, over time, can be toxic for any relationship, especially a loving one.”

Couple arguing on sofa

Some words can prove toxic to relationships - especially if used during an argument.

He added that we shouldn’t even use the word in the privacy of our own minds during an argument, as it can create negative energy over time – and causes your relationship to become a toxic one.

So how should we work to combat the classic “shoulda coulda woulda” situation?

With a little clever rephrasing, that’s how.

“Instead of  ‘you should know how I feel,’ try [thinking and] saying ‘I would like you to please hear me out on this’,” he said.

“Instead of ‘you shouldn’t bring that up,’ try [thinking and] saying ‘I would like to consider what you are saying. Please let me sit with it for a little while before I respond.’”

Which sounds simple enough on paper, but we imagine may prove to be a little tricky when you’re arguing about why your partner failed to take the bins out – as requested.

“You should have done it when I told you to,” would have to become a slightly less strict-sounding “I would like you to please listen to my diatribe on why good bin etiquette is so very, very important to me.”

However, there’s no denying that taking the time to notice your toxic thoughts – and address them accordingly – would prove positive to your relationship.

If you need a little more help, check out the five words and phrases that trigger conflict in relationships, and trap us in a repetitive cycle which damages our intimacy levels and understanding of one another.

Images: iStock, Universal Pictures' The Break-Up

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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