17 Phrases That Will Start a Fight

by Alisa on September 3, 2011

1. Are we really going to….

2. First of all…

3. I already told you …

4. What is WRONG with you?

5. You always do this!

6. Why do you always have to be so…?

7. Why can’t you ever be more….?

8. You’re such a ….

9. No offense but….

10. You’re not going to like what I have to say, but…

11. Oh, so it’s like that, is it?

12. That does it!

13. I tried not to say anything about this, but…

14. Oh just lighten the [insert expletive here] up already.

15. There you go again.

16. It’s just like you to…

17. You would be like that, wouldn’t you?

What phrases put you on the defense in your marriage and other relationships? What phrases do you use that tend to put other people on the defense? Are there any phrases here that you don’t agree will lead to a fight? Why? Which of the above phrases really set you off? Why is that? Do some of these phrases work as long as the tone of voice is in check? What do you think?

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A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexandra September 3, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Since I started reading your blog, I’m much more conscious/careful of what I say to my husband. You’re right. Words can hurt. No one wants to hurt the person he/she loves.

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Wilbur September 3, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Even the tone of voice will not help some of these, most of these. Another one I would add would be “You are just like your . . . . “

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randomman September 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

i was about to write this one myself

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Treven September 3, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Ha! I say, “First of all, …” ALL THE TIME!! Thanks for pointing that out!
The perhaps seemingly unlikely fight starter my husband says all the time is: “Can I share something with you?” It’s always followed by a story in which he seemingly humbly reveals a way that he was once a total jerk. The story is blatantly calculated to tell me I’m being a total jerk because I always happen to be acting exactly the way his character is in this story that’s ALLEDGEDLY about HIM being a jerk!

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selah September 4, 2011 at 5:38 am

Between my husband and I, I think we cover all of these at one time or another. And you’re right, they almost always either start or aggravate a fight. Whether they’re being said as bait or as an honest (if very jerk-ish) way of getting a response or change, they never help. I’ll have to try and remember these and stop myself from using them.

But what if your spouse says them all the time? What would be the proper response? How should someone keep their cool and avoid responding in the usual way that snowballs into the aforementioned fight? (I ask, but I’m pretty sure at least part of this has been covered by a past post. I just can’t remember which one!)

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Alisa September 4, 2011 at 9:21 am

@Selah– I’m not sure if I’ve covered that or not, but I think I’ll write a whole post about it so others can benefit. It’s important stuff. Thanks for asking!

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Pat September 4, 2011 at 6:14 am

“You shouldn’t be so…” in my case usually the word is “stressed”.

Between menopause, not having my own income, and living with a 2+ pack-a-day smoker who’s struggling to breath, I don’t think it’s too out of line for me to be stressed at least once a month, whether I need to be or not…

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Sarah September 4, 2011 at 9:57 am

For me, the two phrases are: “Here we go again…” and “You need to lose the attitude.” The second is the worse for me because it’s normally him with the attitude and when I respond, it gets pointed that I’m the one with the attitude. Very frustrating. The last time this phrase was uttered was Friday night over who was going to bake cookies for our family cookout tomorrow. Very stupid, but upsetting none the less.

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Sarah Liz September 5, 2011 at 2:43 am

Oh my goodness, yes. I was going to say these phrases will start a fight in most ANY relationship, not just marriage. Wow. I’m so guilty of a few of these. My most famous are “First of all,” and “You’re not going to like what I have to say, but…”

Honestly, sometimes, things DO need to be said. The question is, how the heck do you go about doing that? If you start out by assuming the person isn’t going to like what you’re saying, they’ll automatically assume you’re right in that statement and put a wall up. But, if you don’t say anything at all, than you run the risk of bottling it up and then having it explode later on.

I have found the “sandwich” method quite helpful. Putting a positive spin on things, a positive statement and then a not so positive one, followed by another positive statement. And usually, this works. But, are there any other methods that anyone can think of that might work as well?

Great list, Alisa! Thanks for sharing. Definitely thought-provoking.

Many Blessings,
-Sarah Liz :)

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Joanne September 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

How about:

If you would only…..
Are you listening to me?
When will it ever be enough…
You need to take a step back….

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Gay Edelman September 7, 2011 at 5:43 am

I also think of what my energy or demeanor should be. I have a friend who says, “I’m just a big ear.” I don’t have to agree, I just have to be respectful. And insist on respect as well.

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