A romantic relationship can be like a minefield even if you've known each other for decades. A couple that's been married for 50 years is still aware of old mines buried deep in the sand - the ones that can instantly blow you to pieces the moment you step on them. It's amazing, isn't it? The stuff they used to build in the previous century still works, and I can't even get my brand new iPhone to update properly. But I digress. Back to that minefield...
Most of these 'relationship landmines' are things we say to each other, either inadvertently (reflexively) or in a moment of irritation or anger. If we learn to stay away from these sub-surface mines, our relationship can go on its merry way to wherever it's destined to go. If we don't, we face the wrath of our partner, and possibly a prolonged resentment for even bringing it up. To help you safely navigate the treacherous terrains in your relationship, we've uncovered 17 unexploded ordnances (UXOs, as they say in the military) that you can train yourself to stay away from. Just think of it as a boot camp for 'Relationship Landmine Avoidance 101.'
Now drop and give me 17, soldier!
SIR YES SIR!
#1: Calm Down
Ooooh, that classic sexist put-down. It will blow up in your face every time. Never, ever tell a woman to calm down because that portrays you as the level-headed one and her as the hysterical one in the relationship. It's the worst thing to say when your girl is pissed at you and letting off steam. Let her have her say. When she does truly calm down, things won't look as bad.
In fact, it's more likely than not that she'll feel bad about yelling and probably even apologize for it. That's when you know you handled the situation right. But even if she lets the anger simmer for a few days, give her that.
Telling her to calm down is like throwing gasoline on a flame. Don't get barbecued by making this common mistake.
#2: You're still hungry? (A variation of "Are you going to eat all that?")
Oh no! Another relationship landmine that so carelessly slipped through your lips, made a U-turn and is now rapidly making its way to your belly to explode and expose your innards, not to mention your insensitivity. I don't care if your woman is two sizes short of being an aircraft hangar. Today's woman is more conscious than ever about her appearance and weight. Why on Earth would you even say that?
In effect, you're telling her that she's already eaten a lot and you're surprised that she can handle more food. Why? Are women supposed to eat like dainty birds? What century are you from? I wouldn't be surprised if you thought women should still wear corsets and peck at the food in a disinterested manner.
As a matter of fact, you should go right now and practice how to respond to the "Do I look fat?" or any variation of that question. Practice makes perfect... sense if you want to live to fight another day. Without batting an eyelid, you should be able to come back with a "No baby, you're just perfect" or "You look fantastic in anything."
#3: My ex use to...
Any sentence that begins with "My ex" should be completely ripped out of your vocabulary. No girl wants to be compared to the one she replaced. For that matter, no guy wants that, either. The comparison puts them in competition with each other, and that's not fair play.
Even if you use it in a positive context, it will be taken out of that context and used against you in a court of law. Her court of law. You say: "My ex can't hold a candle to your cooking" as a way of giving her a compliment. She's thinking: "Weeell, so I'm only good in the kitchen, am I? I'm lousy in bed, am I? Why don't you just come out and say it, you coward!"
This one always misfires so rip it out of your vocabulary for good. Never ever utter the sound "ex" unless you're talking about Profession Xavier and his band of mutants. Got it?
#4: You sound like my mother/your mother
A girl doesn't like to be compared to ANYONE's mother. Learn that and you'll live a long and happy life. It doesn't matter whether it's the highest form of compliment coming from a mama's boy, an innocent observation about the similarities between them, or a deliberate and vicious attack on her - you're the one who's going to pay the price for it.
You could lose your head stepping on a landmine like that one! Yup, you step on it, she loses her mind, and your head gets bitten off. Why do you want to put yourself and her through all that pain - and by using someone who's not even there to defend herself. What did your mom or her mom ever do to you?
#5: Yeah, I think she's kind of hot
Oh, brother! Have you learned nothing, grasshopper? When a girl asks you if you think her friend - or any other woman in the world, including Cleopatra - is hot, your reflexive response must always be, "No baby, nobody's as hot as you" or something along those lines.
Learn to properly holster and draw that weapon at a moment's notice because when she's asking you that question, it'll be right after she catches you ogling at someone - and you're probably not thinking with your brain at that point, anyway!
#6: Is it that time of the month?
Whoa there! Why go there, Kamikazi-san? It's especially insensitive to ask your girl this in the middle of an argument. If you want to make things go downhill from wherever you are, this is the question to ask. If not, keep your mouth shut for crying' out loud!
There's a whole bunch of assumptions beneath the surface of that question, innocent though it may be. Does the term PMS ring a bell? For ages, men have used the female menstrual cycle against them. In fact, 'menstruation stigma' is an actual thing, and it has its roots in many religious texts. There's a lot of negativity surrounding this natural phenomenon. That's why it's inappropriate to refer to it when a woman is undergoing it - or at any time in between.
So, unless you're a gynecologist, never ask a woman the question, "Is it that time of the month?" Actually, an OB/GYN would never be so crass as to call it "that time of the month", but you know what I mean.
An interesting side note: Menstruation is rarely called by that name; euphemisms are used instead. The problem is, the less you say the name of something, the more shrouded in mystery it tends to become, thereby heightening the intensity of the taboo against that thing. For instance, Voldemort was a frightening character in the first three Harry Potter books because he was referred to as "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named"; but over time, his name became so used that he became less of a frightening and elusive character and more of a tangible, flesh-and-blood (well, sort of) enemy for Potter to fight against. See this graph and you'll see what I mean.
#7: You look tired
You might as well say 'haggard', 'baggy-eyed', or 'downright ugly'. Tired is just a way of saying that someone looks like sh*t. Why would you say that to a girl unless you wanted to put that steak in the freezer to good use? (For the black eye you're about to get, in case you were wondering.)
This one should be a no-brainer but, unfortunately, a lot of men think they're being 'concerned' and 'caring' when they say stuff like this. It couldn't be farther from the truth.
If you're really worried she's tired, offer to do some work around the house. "Let me make dinner tonight" is a thousand times better than "You look tired." Would you agree?
#8: I liked your hair the way it was before
Saying this implies that she has no fashion sense. The problem is, men think that their words convey one thing, while the receiver often sees it a completely different way. You might be making an innocent observation about something trivial like her hair, but when it lands, it's a landmine. It's like you don't even care that she went through the trouble of setting an appointment with the stylist and sitting through a probably painful process just to look better - worse, she might have done it just for you!
There are tons of relationship landmines like this one. You mean one thing but it's received as something else. It's like ordering a hot pizza and getting cold french fries delivered - a case of gross miscommunication. The best thing is to avoid it altogether. Why do you want to poke the bear, you masochistic human being?
#9: I better drive
Why - because you're Sir Lewis frickin' Carl Davidson frickin' Hamilton MBE frickin' HonFREng... and I'm Miss frickin' Daisy??? You think I can't parallel park!!?? Can you apply lipstick, rouge, eye-liner and eye-shadow doing 85 on the highway and step out of the car 20 minutes later looking like you belong on the cover of Vogue? You'll probably end up looking like this...
So gimme dem keys, boy!
#10: You're so sensitive
Right, and you're what - a block of concrete? Yes, women are more sensitive than men because they're more emotionally intelligent. To paraphrase Red Foreman from That 70s Show, you're an emotional dumb*ss!
The truth is this:
"In numerous studies females score higher than males in standard tests of emotion recognition, social sensitivity and empathy."
You already know that she's sensitive, but why are you using it against her? In what context does it help to be 'less sensitive'? A funeral, perhaps? A baby shower, maybe?
Let's just accept the fact men can't process emotions in a nuanced manner the way women naturally can, and with none of the grace that women can muster at a moment's notice. No, men need some preparation time to be 'sensitive', to be able to say the right words, or just use gestures as the easy way out - a pat on the back or a lame and meaningless "there there, it'll be alright", for instance. And that society is largely to blame for this male-female dichotomy: women cry, men don't. Women overreact, men just react. Women are weak, men are strong.
BALDERDASH I say! What a load of HOGSWADDLE and CODSWALLOP! Maybe we're just warm-blooded blocks of concrete after all.
#11: Are you angry at me?
No, no, not that landmine. Of course she is. Can't you read her? If she is, she's not going to tell you. Heads you lose, tails she wins. Why shoot yourself in the foot? If she's angry, you'll know it.
Learn to read the signs. If you've been in a relationship with any woman long enough, you'll know what those signs are - monosyllabic answers, a sweet tone of voice with others vs. a monotone with you, a frequent rolling of the eyes, chores left undone on purpose, etc. They're all targeted at you, don't you know that? Each of these signs is intended to send you a clear message that she's angry. But those words will never leave her mouth, and neither should they leave yours.
So, instead of putting your foot in your mouth by asking that question, rack your brain to find out the cause. Most likely it's something you did or didn't do. Sorry, that doesn't really help narrow it down much but at least we've narrowed it down to you! If she's angry at something else, the signs are very different.
#12: Don't take this the wrong way, but...
Nope. That preface has never worked for anything in the history of offering an opinion... or the history of prefaces, for that matter. The moment you start your sentence with "Don't take this the wrong way...", they can't but be prepared to take it the wrong way. It serves no purpose other than to force the other person to put their guard up.
Delivering a message to a girl this way makes her about as receptive to your opinion as a bunch of bald men at a shampoo convention. Not only will she be hurt by what you say initially, but everything you say after that will be like adding insult to injury.
#13: I was only kidding
Okay, so you really stepped in it this time and she won't even look at you. Don't try to gloss it over with an "I was just kidding" - it won't sail. It never has and it never will. Instead, try rendering a genuine apology for what you said. She might be mad at you for a while but a sincere "sorry" goes a long way in mending missteps in a relationship.
The "I was only kidding" landmine will actually bring her train of thought around to the fact that you were definitely NOT kidding. At least that option was open before you spoiled it! An apology and an act of contrition can solve most transgressions. Try it instead of squirming away from it. You worm, you.
#14: Is that your real hair/nose/butt/etc.?
Whoops, what did we just step on there? Oh no, it's the dreaded I-will-haunt-you-for-the-next-15-years-for-asking-that-question relationship landmine! There's really no graceful way to get out of this situation. I mean, what's she going to say - "No, I got these puppies from Dr. Emile Schneider of Fifth Avenue? He's the best. Have you heard of him? Go on. Touch one." You think?? Absolutely not!!
No woman will stand to be asked such a question, especially from someone she's just getting to know. On the other hand, if you want to kill a potential relationship, this is your go-to question. It'll have you out the door before you can say "I was only kidding."
#15: I make more money than you do
Let's face it. Women are already painfully aware of the fact that they make up to a third less than men for the exact same job. Do you want to be the one to rub it in?
The gender pay gap is a real thing, and the pandemic has actually made it worse because 54% of women lost their jobs versus 39% of men. And those are global figures. Experts say that it will take women two years more than men to get back the jobs they lost during the pandemic.
In such a scenario, do you think it's fair to tell any woman that you make more than her? I don't, and I'm pretty sure I'm not in the minority on this.
#16: Are you pregnant?
Now this is for men who've just met a woman who may be a little on the plump side but automatically assume that she's pregnant. It's a faux pas that's up there with other classics like "You look great for your age" and "That's a man's job." No more need be said other than the fact that you're an insensitive Neanderthal and we wish you were back in the Stone Age where you belong. Grunt!
#17: Shut up!
(Audible Gasp) Nooooo, he didn't just tell her to shut up, did he? Yup, that he did. And he's going to pay for it with his life. For life. Nobody in their right mind would tell their girlfriend, wife, or partner to shut up. Nobody. This is a gross infraction that attracts the most immediate and stringent punitive action possible - no s*x for a year! At least! Do you really want that?
There's a lot of history behind this. Women have had it tough for thousands of years, unable to speak out and be heard. In many ancient societies, women were not allowed to speak in public or in front of men. Some of those practices persist around the world to this day. So "shut up" has a much deeper and more hurtful meaning for a woman than for a man. Be sensitive about this.
Treat Her with All the Respect YOU Deserve
Men, I tell you this with all sincerity: Treasure the women in your life like you would the rarest of pearls. Treat them as equals in everything. They are as capable, if not more, than you are. They are one half of the reason the human species goes on generation after generation. They do twice the work - often, much more - for half the credit - often, much less. Men and women were not created equal in every respect, but they were most certainly created to be perfectly complementary to each other. Let's never forget that. If all the men in the world subscribed to this view, we'd have zero domestic violence, zero discrimination, and 100% happy relationships. That's excessively naive, I know, but there's no harm in hoping for the best, is there?
Wait, don't go away yet! You want to know how to really treat a woman right? Here's how...
- One for her and one for you. Set them up in different locations and connect them to the local Wi-Fi networks. Choose a color for each. Now, when you touch your lamp, her lamp will light up in your chosen color! It's a great way to communicate between rooms or across the globe. Thousands of long-distance couples, people with relatives overseas, friends living across the country, and couples living apart have told us that this is an innovative way to keep in touch and stay in touch. With touch.