How to Remain Calm When Your Spouse Says Hurtful Things

7 New Year’s Ways to Improve Your Marriage,Couples Counseling NYC

How to Remain Calm When Your Spouse Says Hurtful Things

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Emotions can get the best of anyone, both good and bad emotions. It’s how you choose to deal with the emotions that make the difference. In relationships, especially with married couples, the old maxim “familiarity breeds contempt” couldn’t be more applicable. In a perfect world, you don’t want to say hurtful things to your partner. But love isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. When you live with someone long enough, miscommunications, disagreements, differences, and even fights could arise from time to time. Sometimes, people say things they don’t mean out of anger. So what do you do when your spouse says hurtful things in the middle of an argument? Here are some things you can do to keep the situations from going further south.

If you believe “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” then you’ve probably not experienced hearing really hurtful things from your partner. You’re lucky. You’re obviously doing something right. Whatever you are doing, keep doing it. Otherwise, keep reading and learn how to manage your emotions and how to react right when your spouse says hurtful things.

Understand that it’s anger

It can be difficult, if not devastating, to hear hurtful words from someone you love dearly. When playful banter shifts from lighthearted teasing to downright cruel, manipulative, and painful things, it is easy to match that emotion and be angry as well. But you will never have a fruitful conversation from that.

Anger is usually the reason why people say hurtful things. Before you dissect those verbal attacks, or analyze the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of the negative behavior, it is best to understand where those words are coming from. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they are the manifestations of an intense emotion – anger.

There are lots of factors that could contribute to this kind of emotion. Stress from work, frustrations in life, and even hunger could make people angry. When someone is already angry before getting into an argument, it is easy to lose control and say the meanest of things. Often, when someone says hurtful things during a big fight, he/she has been hiding and saving those words and needed a conflict to have the guts to say them.

Numerous studies show that expressing anger can cause deterioration in any relationship. A study published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality says expression of anger has a direct correlation to married couples’ sexual satisfaction. Needless to say, anger and harsh and hurtful words could easily impact your marriage.

Subsequently, a Japanese study on non-expression of anger is said to lead to dissatisfaction and deterioration of the relationship. While you are free to feel whatever you feel, the important thing is when expressing displeasure, to do it in a way that will not hurt your partner.

How to react when your spouse says hurtful things

Wait for the dust to settle

Hold your response and wait for the situation to die down. While it can be quite tempting to respond impulsively and try to win the argument, especially if you think you’ve been misinterpreted, or you feel you are right, it’s best to hold it and wait for the moment to cool down. Remember, your partner may have just gone through a moment of weakness, and it hurt you.

In arguments and fights, it is easy to respond out of anger and let emotions dictate your words and want to fight back. However, the most sensible thing you can do is to hold your response for a little bit (or for as long as needed). Instead of saying hurtful things back, try to let it go as much as you can.

Remember, in arguments with your life partner, it’s not about who wins or who losses. It’s not about getting even. Rather, it’s about having a meaningful conversation.

It’s okay to be upset

One of the mistakes most people make when their spouse says harsh words is to move on from the situation by forgiving and forgetting right away. While it’s understandable that you don’t want the situation to get worse, and you want to move on as soon as you can, this will only lead to resentment in the future. Resentment is a heavy emotion that will haunt and swallow you down the road.

Sooner or later, resentment can add up and soon explode.

 Being upset, however, doesn’t mean you should say something bad back and hurt your partner. You absolutely do not need to yell and scream to prove a point. It will take a while for you to get over your emotions, but you can always cry it out later and let go of the negative vibe that surrounds you and your partner.

Do not ignore your emotions. Rather, tell your partner that you are upset and want to have a talk. You can find a place where you won’t be interrupted.


Understand the reason behind the outburst

Again, hold off on your response and do not act immediately when your partner uses harsh and hurtful words against you.

If your partner often says hurtful things to you out of the blue, or if there is a pattern for such behavior, try to put yourself in their shoes by assessing the reason behind the negative emotion. Don’t take their words literally. In many cases, it is not about you, rather it’s their own frustrations that caused them to lash out. While this doesn’t give them an excuse, it pays to let them know you are there to listen and stay.

Getting to the root of your partner’s triggers is extremely important for resolving issues and putting an end to a vicious cycle like saying hurtful things to each other.

Forgive and forget 

For most people, forgiving is easy, but forgetting is a whole different thing. Obviously, keep your eyes wide open for red flags. If your spouse likes putting you down on a regular basis, or you constantly fight for the smallest of things, then he/she is probably being abusive. However, if that’s not the case, then your spouse deserves your forgiveness.

There’s a good chance your partner will be even more remorseful when he/she is communicating without the heavy negative emotions. Thus, to be able to fully move on – try to forgive as much as you can, and forget as much as possible.

ways to cope when spouse says hurtful things

Bottom line

When your spouse says hurtful things, you have the opportunity to become the bigger person and salvage your relationship from going south. Remember, your goal is not to win arguments, but to keep your marriage intact.


  • Travis Atkinson

    Travis Atkinson, L.C.S.W., is the Director and Creator of the Loving at Your Best Plan. He has extensive training in marriage and couples therapy, based on over 27 years in practice, earning certificates from top-rated couples therapy models, including: *Certified Advanced Schema Therapist, Supervisor and Trainer for Individuals and Couples *Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and Supervisor *Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapist *Certified Group Psychotherapist *Honorary Lifetime Member of the International Society of Schema Therapy Travis is a co-author of the latest schema mode therapy inventory, the SMI. He is also the co-author of two chapters in the recently published “Creative Methods in Schema Therapy: Advances and Innovation in Clinical Practice (Routledge, 2020) and author of “Schema Therapy for Couples: Healing Partners in a Relationship” in the Handbook of Schema Therapy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

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