15 Things You Should Never Say to a Loved One

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By Emma

Gaslighting is a subtle, manipulative form of abuse that can erode trust and create doubt in relationships. This article lists 15 common gaslighting phrases that, if left unchecked, could significantly damage your connections with others. Recognizing these phrases is the first step toward healthier, more honest interactions.

“You’re too sensitive.”

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According to Psychology Today, this is one of the most common forms of gaslighting, and it is often used to “sidestep accountability and undermine the scapegoated person’s sense of reality, so they doubt themselves and hesitate to call out the abuse.” Instead, try to encourage open dialogue about each other’s feelings and speak without judgment.

“You’re imagining things.”

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A classic phrase used by abusers who are undermining or gaslighting their victims by questioning a loved one’s sense of reality. This risks damaging psychological effects and can create a power imbalance in your relationship. Where events are perceived in a different way from one another, work together calmly to gain clarity.

“It was just a joke.”

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While humor is an important part of any relationship, there is a fine line between a fun joke and causing harm to your loved ones. It is important to work together to establish a mutual understanding of humor to avoid taking jokes too far.

“You’re being irrational.”

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Labeling emotions or feelings as irrational can undermine a loved one’s sense of perspective and understanding. If you are concerned about someone, try to understand their feelings and talk to them in an open manner to avoid invalidating them.

“You need help.”

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Of course, it is important to support someone’s mental health and well-being; however, by using professional help as a threat or a way to undermine someone, you can harm them. According to Healthline, “When gaslighters feel threatened, they need you to believe and support their version of events in order to maintain their sense of power and control.”

“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”

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It’s important to recognize and respect what is important to others in relationships, even if it doesn’t affect you as much. By invalidating their concern, you belittle their feelings and willingness to communicate. Instead, try to constructively discuss your different perceptions of the issue in order to understand one another.

“I’m the only one who truly understands you.”

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This phrase can work to isolate your loved ones and undermine other relationships and friendships they have. While you may have a genuine understanding of one another, belittling other relationships can be a form of manipulative control. Instead, try to encourage your loved ones to have a support network beyond your relationship.

“You’ll never find someone else like me.”

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Verywell Mind says one sign that someone is experiencing gaslighting is feeling inadequate or never “good enough” when trying to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if they are unreasonable. This undermines their sense of self-worth and can leave them feeling lonely.

“You owe me.”

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Creating a sense of debt within a relationship is sometimes used to manipulate the behavior of others, turning everyday acts of kindness or support into transactions where everything must be reciprocated. Instead, try to work together to set healthy boundaries.

“I was just trying to help you.”

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There is a thin line between supporting or helping someone and controlling them. It is important to communicate with loved ones in order to help you understand one another’s boundaries and recognize when “help” is unwelcome. Positive relationships encourage each other’s autonomy.

“You should have known how I’d feel.”

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Being in a long-term relationship with someone can help you gain a better understanding of one another’s feelings and emotional cues. However, this phrase sets unrealistic expectations for empathy and mind-reading. Instead, try to create a culture of clear and positive communication with your loved one.

“It’s always something with you.”

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Dismissing your partner’s concerns or feelings over a long period of time can lead to a lack of self-confidence and a sense of loneliness. Rather than avoiding issues, it’s better to communicate and create strategies together for constructive problem-solving.

“You’re just like your [parent/friend/ex].”

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According to Choosing Therapy, being compared to someone else is used to “undermine your confidence and self-esteem while pitting you against others.” It is important to recognize the negative effect that bringing up past relationships in arguments can have, and it’s better to remain focused on the issue at hand rather than resort to personal attacks.

“Why can’t you take a compliment?”

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While it’s great to compliment or praise your loved ones, if these positive words are used amidst negative comments and criticism, it can become a form of manipulation. Instead, try to focus on sincere and unconditional kindness that leaves your loved one feeling good.

“You don’t remember correctly.”

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Undermining your loved one’s trust in their own memory and perception can cause them to question their sense of reality. It is important to work together to calmly and respectfully recount any shared experiences and understand that your perspectives on past situations may have been different from one another.