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When Words Wound: Solving Conflict Without Hurting Your Partner

When Words Wound
Arguments are inevitable in any relationship. It is perfectly normal to have disagreements from time to time, and sometimes it can be an emotional or hot button issue for one or both of you. How you deal with and react to conflict matters most. Reasoning with one another in a constructive way will prevent the damage that negative words and actions can create.

Solving Conflicts Constructively

It can be difficult to maintain effective communication, especially if you and/or your partner are angry or emotional. It is important to prevent yourself from saying something that may hurt your partner in the heat of the moment. The following tips will help you identify an appropriate plan of action when having an argument with your spouse.

Solve conflict in a more productive and less hurtful way by using “I-Statements” such as “I feel angry when…” or “I feel hurt when…” instead of ”You-statements” such as “You always…” or “You never…” This will allow the conversation to move forward in a positive way. Your partner will feel more empathy for your side of the argument instead of feeling defensive. Give your partner time to voice his or her point-of-view and truly listen to what your partner is telling you. Once you have each expressed your thoughts on the situation, it’s time to move forward. Offer suggestions for how the issue might be resolved (for example, “I would feel good if you would call me when you are late leaving work”).

Red Flags for Verbal Abuse

No matter how angry you or your partner get, some behaviors are simply unacceptable. If you and/or your partner are exhibiting any of the following red flags, you may be in a verbally abusive situation.

Verbally abusive people often:

  • Call their partner names or put them down
  • Yell, scream or curse at their partner
  • Intimidate their partner with threats, even jokingly
  • Dismiss their partner’s feelings as groundless, stupid or insignificant
  • Blame their partner for their bad reaction (e.g., “If you hadn’t been so stupid, I wouldn’t have lost my temper”)
  • Manipulate their partner into doing things that make the partner uncomfortable

If you are the victim of verbal abuse, understand that no type of abuse is justified, and it is not your fault. If you find yourself in an escalated situation, avoid further conflict or interaction. Counseling may be helpful, either as a couple or individually. If you ever feel unsafe, contact National Domestic Violence Hotline at


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