Psychologist on relationships: why these sentences should ring alarm bells

Communication is not always easy, but psychologist Dr. Cortney S. Warren makes clear statements that mean something like: “Your relationship is at risk.”

“Communication is the be-all and end-all” – a really well-used sentence that is absolutely correct. But even this leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Anyone who says it to the partner could use it as a hint with the fence post or as a statement of a perceived fact, perhaps even as a sarcastic remark. In short: communication may be the be-all and end-all, i.e. the “alpha” and the “omega”, the beginning and end of all things – for example a relationship.

But communication is simply also very complex and multi-layered, we are always communicating, even if we sit silently in the corner with our arms crossed (implying something like: “I really don’t want to be here right now.”)

In relationship science, the quality of communication is also understood as an indication of the level of satisfaction in a relationship. In fact, one shows study a strong connection between negatively perceived communication and relationship dissatisfaction. Another one too study comes to the conclusion that an established level of communication makes it more likely that a marriage will go well – if, on the other hand, communication deteriorates, the couple “inevitably falls into decline,” according to the investigation.

In an article on CNBC, Harvard psychologist Dr. Cortney S. Warren shares her experiences from sessions with patients who are in a relationship crisis. She has seen couples break up quickly, especially when they speak to each other with “contempt.”

Such a type of communication is particularly dangerous because “it not only attacks a person’s character, but one also assumes a position of superiority over them,” says the scientist. She gives examples of toxic statements that don’t bode well for the relationship, some of which we’ll take a closer look at.

3 Toxic Talking Points That Can Bring a Relationship to an End

1. Statements that suggest you are better than your partner

Anyone who gives the partner the feeling of being less valuable than oneself will ensure that the partner distances themselves emotionally in case of doubt. Something like this can start “gently” with statements like: “This area is my strength.” But such an attitude can very quickly develop into toxic statements after you don’t really act on an equal footing with the other person like, “You’re lucky I’m even with you.”

2. Statements that badmouth the partner

“You can’t do that.”, “You’re not skilled/ smart/ strong enough for that.”, “You’re a bad father.” – just a few examples of sentences that ultimately only aim at one thing: to emphasize the insecurities of the other person and to use them against them. As a person in a relationship, we usually know about the issues that our actual favorite person is struggling with. Accusing them of exactly these (supposed) shortcomings destroys – sometimes permanently – trust in one another.

3. Statements denying the partner’s emotions and perceptions

“You’re overreacting.”, “You’re crazy.”, “You’re imagining it.” – all of these are sentences that manipulate the partner. Also known as “gaslighting”, the other person is denied their own perception. In the worst case, this is intentional behavior towards the relationship person, at least the emotions, thoughts and/or the opinion of the partner are not taken seriously.

How we can treat each other instead

Of course, it’s not always easy to communicate with each other in a way that makes all sides feel comfortable, understood, and seen. Especially in arguments, we tend to react impulsively and sometimes say things that we don’t mean seriously or that we quickly regret. What we can do is try the best we can in each situation – and apologize when we don’t, which is absolutely fine.

Instead of making the other person feel inferior (which often stems from our own low self-esteem), we can try to address the real problem. Psychologist Warren suggests statements like: “I’m having a problem seeing us as equal partners in this relationship right now and I need to work on it.”

Instead of badmouthing the partner, we can offer our help if we find that a person who is actually important to us is struggling with something. And in order to have a healthy and happy, long-term relationship, all parties must feel seen and taken seriously in it – even if we cannot necessarily empathize with or even understand every emotion of our counterpart, these emotions, thoughts and perceptions are there and have that too right to their space.

Sources used:,,


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Peggy McColl

Mentor l NY Times Bestselling Author. Hi, I'm Peggy McColl, and I'm here to deliver a positive message to you!

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