Sometimes, we think we’re giving our partner a compliment, but it backfires because it has a hidden meaning. And those backhanded compliments can trigger frustration and wounded pride. So, here are some phrases couples say to each other that could use a makeover:

  • Like saying: “It’s sweet of you to offer to help, but I can do it faster myself.” You may have certain chores down to a science, like folding laundry, or washing dishes, but experts say turning down help sends the message that your partner isn’t good enough. Plus, relationships are all about compromise. So, even if your partner takes twice as long to finish a chore, let them do it and thank them for it.

  • Another phrase that backfires: “You’re the only person I can talk to.” Carin Goldstein is a licensed marriage therapist, and she says that statement puts too much emotional pressure on your partner, because it makes them feel like they have to offer the support of your parents, siblings, and friends all rolled into one. So, instead of using the word “only,” say something specific about why you value your partner, like “You’re my favorite person to talk to, because you’re the best listener.” Not ‘You’re the only person I can talk to.’

  • The next backhanded compliment: “It’s the thought that counts.” Goldstein says, you’re basically saying “This gift stinks and if you really knew me, you would have chosen something else.” But no matter how well your partner knows you, they can’t read your mind. So thank your partner for being generous, and if you want something specific, send them a link. 

  • One more phrase we should stop saying to our partner: “You’re so cute.” Basically, Goldstein says we should avoid saying anything that we might say to a baby or a puppy, because it makes our partner feel like we’re talking down to them. Instead, compliment your partner with words they don’t hear every day, like “handsome” or “gorgeous.” Those words enhance intimacy, “cute” destroys it.