Saving the Unspeakable

...are there things you should never say to your partner in a fight?

by Kellie Whitehead


The knot in your throat.

Or even your stomach.

It’s been brewing, the conversation has to be had, and it’s certainly begun.

It’s the answer, you want to get it out, to say it out loud.

But you stop, you can’t.. Or you feel you shouldn’t.

Are there things you really should not say to your partner in a fight or an argument?


I think we can all agree that some form of confrontation is healthy in a relationship. We know that constant fights and arguing isn’t, but amongst long term partnerships, the key to healthy living is in the communication. Communication that is not always sweet nothings, platitudes, or of the ‘what’s for dinner’ ilk.


We know that the build up, or repression of negative feelings and emotions, worries or doubts causes problems far beyond what those necessary conversations actually mean. Hard conversations are both necessary and inevitable. The emotional fallout of not having them is often worse than any opportunity to confront issues that you are most fearful of.


Any couples who tell you that they ‘don’t fight’ are either not telling the truth, or simply don’t know how to communicate difficult issues, so they simply don’t. Let me get one thing straight here. I despise raised voices and arguing, it is the last thing I will ever look for, relationships, professional life, with the kids, anywhere. The phrase ‘ looking for an argument’ never applies to me. And yes, It’s only now I follow my own advice. For years I too avoided anything difficult. I hated confrontation, so I never put myself into the face of it. I still never, ever ‘look for an argument’ but I’ll certainly participate in one if needed.


In relationships, being ‘shut down’ before you’ve had a chance to say your piece, isn’t ‘not fighting’ - it’s being silenced essentially. And too much fighting or arguing? No expert is going to tell you that that’s a positive either. How much can you say in an argument with your partner before you really are crossing the bridge too far?


Some people throw things as a matter of course. Usually those who struggle to find the right words. Some say so many words it becomes cliche and they lose their resonance and even the argument itself. “I hate you!” “I’m leaving” “I want a divorce” even… “You ALWAYS do that” “This is TYPICAL of you” and “I KNEW you’d say that!” - cheap deflections all, usually.


When we know somebody inside out, we lash out verbally, and almost feel comfortable in being mean. We also know exactly what buttons to press to get a heated reaction, and opt for childish door slamming, stomping or insults that we know will provoke a reaction. No doubt all parties have heard it all before.


When something is impulsive, it doesn’t make it acceptable. Comparison to an unfavourable family member or person for example, hurtful the first time? Maybe, boring the fifth? Certainly. Cheap shots are just that, and to be honest are as disrespectful as something you haven’t been called before.

Maybe we need to ‘blow up’ before the real conversations can happen? Like the fights in movies, usually women and mortal enemies, Dynasty style - hair pulling, rolling, food involved even, who catch each other's eyes and realise how ridiculous they are and collapse into fits of laughter, ready to be best friends of course, with knowing looks throughout the rest of the film.

Why can’t we just have the conversations though?, and cut the nastiness and drama?


Cortisol, adrenaline, pumped up blood pressure all play a part in our partnership explosions. But as things escalate, it gives us the perfect opportunity to say those things we genuinely may regret. And we all have them. Things we should *never say* to an individual. Either petty or major, we have them. From behaviour, to appearance, to insulting friends or family - everyone of us have argument boundaries that must not be crossed, and we know each other well enough to know why. Which is exactly why there is always something we should keep quiet about.


Familiarity shouldn’t breed contempt, not with those we truly do love or care for. Constant insults or comparisons may be shrugged off, but they sting, and again, we all know when we’ve gone too far. ‘I didn’t mean it’ stops resonating and becomes, well, meaningless. Or indeed, meaning “I actually do mean it, and the more I say it, the better it makes ME feel- regardless of YOUR feelings”


They say it’s all in the making up, but if you do go too far, how do you fix it?


Fights are personal. Literally and figuratively. How you raise grievances with your partner, how often, and whether you, or they, erupt or withdraw, will be entirely down to you as a couple. The making up part too. Either way, in context, there is always something happening underneath that needs to be talked about. Taking a hot moment to be more mindful about your relationship overall, and dedicating time to your communication patterns, or lack of, is a really important thing to do. There are stumbling blocks everywhere, all the time, but we can avoid the potholes or the volcanic eruptions, and walk a path of kindness, maturity and empathy as adults.

Probably - but please pick that wet towel up first.