To you, it’s just a few words. To him, it’s a short sentence that he’ll never, ever forget. Here, the seemingly innocent observations that can really rock a relationship.
“I really don’t respect you.”
“My wife and I probably use the word ‘respect’ about as much as we use the word ‘love.’ Both words were in our wedding vows,” says Dave, 36, about why the R-word is just as important to him as the L-word. “And when I hear that she doesn’t respect me, it’s almost like her saying she doesn’t love me. Luckily, she’s never said it-precisely because we had a whole conversation about how we’ll never throw around that word like that.”
Your tummy is so cute!
“Please, call it what it is-a beer gut!” jokes Chad, 38. All kidding aside, the men we spoke with said that they have the same body image issues as women, which means that making fun of him when he’s gained a few will make him feel insecure too.
“I love when you get all mad.”
Is he fuming because he’s behind a car that’s oh-so-annoyingly crawling along in the left lane? Sure, it’s fine to make a joke, but Jeff, 40, suggests making it at the other driver’s expense. “I know I can get worked up about minor stuff, but when I hear this, I feel like it’s harder to be honest about my feelings when it comes to things that really matter to me, because I’m worried she’s going to shoot me down.”
“He acts like such a baby when his team loses.”
“This is something I’ve overheard my wife say on the phone to her friends,” says Charles, 38. “I know she’s talking about me, but she uses the same voice she uses when she’s talking about our 3-year-old having a temper tantrum.” While no one likes to be talked about behind their back, guys are especially sensitive to lack of loyalty. Yes, the way he freaks out when his team blows a playoff game is funny-but if he’s not laughing, it’s best to keep it on the DL, at least while your husband is in earshot. There’s another reason: “When I hear her talking about me to her friends when she thinks I’m not listening, I can’t help but wonder what else she may talk about.”
“Do whatever you want.”
Unless you’re saying this with a smile because it’s his birthday or he just bought a winning lottery ticket, when guys hear this, their stomachs sink. “I feel like I’m on a game show. Just tell me the right answer!” begs Bryan, 29. Men everywhere agree: If you have something in mind, spill it instead of making him play a guessing game.
“Do you think I actually believe you?”
This ties back to respect, says David, who asks, “If she doesn’t believe me, then why are we even trying to have a conversation?” If you’re questioning his honesty and integrity-and not whatever lie you think he may be covering up-that’s what you two need to have a serious discussion about.
“You’re just like your dad.”
“I love my dad, but when my girlfriend is scowling at me and saying that, I don’t want to be like him,” says James. And even if he and his father get along great, it’s not always ideal to compare them. Instead, speak directly to whatever he’s doing that’s bothering you.
“What do you think that was about?”
When said in the bedroom, this phrase hits below-the-belt-literally. Performance issues happen, and the more you ask about them, the more likely they are to come (er) up again. “Sometimes things don’t work the way they should, either because I’ve had too much beer, or am stressed out, or just because. And trust me, I’m obsessing over it…and I’d like to at least pretend you aren’t too,” says George, 40. If it only happens once in a while, just let it go.
“Should I call the emergency room and let them prepare?”
“I admit that my D.I.Y. projects may have landed me in the emergency room once or twice in the past, but reminding me only makes me feel like an idiot, and more likely to mess up,” explains Avery, 28. If you’re nervous about your guy cleaning the gutters, powering up the lawn mower, cutting down branches, or wielding a glue gun, the best way to get around it may be to discreetly hire a pro while his mind is on something else.
“Are you sure we can afford that?”
“The worst is when she says this in front of a salesman,” says Chad. “I feel like I’m a failure.” If you’re heading out to buy a big-ticket item and don’t want to blow the budget, research prices beforehand and use phrases like, “This seems over our target,” so it sounds strategic, not like you and your guy are scraping the bottom of your savings account.