These seemingly innocent phrases still have the power to wound… big-time. By Anna, Davies, REDBOOK.
1. "Did I ever tell you about the time X and I skinny-dipped?"
"She didn't, but now that's all I can think about," says Charles S., 42. "I've never skinny-dipped with her, and she's my wife! I wonder what other wild things she and her ex got up to that I've never heard about." While you may intend to innocently share stories about your crazy single days, your guy hears this and assumes you're still hung up on your ex. You don't have to edit your stories for his ears, but add how much more fun it would be to go skinny-dipping with him so he knows that he's the only one you want.
2. Do you know how many gray hairs you have?
"My wife said this to me on my 40th birthday!" says Mike S., 41. "I know she was just kidding, but more than a year later, I still think about it every time I look in the mirror. I thought I looked good." Gentle ribbing is part of marriage, but it's important to get across that you still find your husband hot. "Men too can be self-conscious about aging," says Holly Hein, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Los Angeles. Even stating the obvious--"I'm so attracted to you"--makes it clear that you have no desire to trade him in for a younger model.
3. "I know you're unhappy."
"My wife said this a lot when we were going through a rocky patch a few years ago," says George S., 41. "We were both unhappy, but the way she said it made it seem like she was being a martyr--as if she was totally fine and it was all about me. This was right around when our third daughter was born, so we were both stressed. Things settled, but I just wish we could have communicated better and figured out how to get back on track without all the grief."
4. "Do you think we've lost our spark?"
"Up until she said this, I thought we were doing well," says Greg T., 34. "The question made me worry that we had a problem." If you feel things aren't quite what they used to be, avoid broad statements like "losing spark" or "what's happening to us?" and focus on things that you and he can change, suggests Hein. "Maybe it's the fact that both of your work lives have gotten crazy, or that you haven't prioritized doing things as a couple. Speaking to specific issues and offering solutions makes it clear that the issue isn't permanent or unfixable."
5. "Our sex life is so cozy!"
As Ben T., 25, knows, any word that could be used to describe your sweats--think: cozy, comfortable, warm, snuggly--isn't exactly a turn-on. While you may mean that you're thrilled to have gotten to a place where neither of you needs bells and whistles, adding some exciting adjectives--hot, steamy, so over-the-top amazing I became momentarily blind--will reassure him that you two still got it.
Related: 25 Reasons Why Married Sex Is Better
6. "You have no idea who I am!"
"This sentence always sends chills down my spine," says Dave A., 34. "I guess it's because I feel like I've spent the last 10 years wanting to know and trying to learn everything about her, and this makes me terrified that I'm completely off the mark." Consider whether you really mean something like this, and then try to vocalize what's really upsetting you--you feel like he hasn't taken an interest in your new job, or you're just worried because the two of you feel differently about how to spend the weekend.
7. "Let's face it, it's all downhill from here!"
"My fiancée says this as a joke, but I wish she'd stop," says Ben W., 35. "It makes me wonder if she really does think that everything isn't going to be as awesome as it used to be. I hate that idea!" You may be kidding, but if you see him recoil or fail to laugh off these sorts of comments, why not just cut them out?
8. "My mom thinks you should find a new job."
"I hate that my girlfriend was talking about me behind my back," says Avery T., 30. "I know she wants what's best for me, and I'd like a new job too--but I'd prefer if her mom weren't involved in my professional life." If you're close with your mother, it's likely you two discuss details of your personal life--including those about your guy. But experts strongly suggest avoiding using anyone else's thoughts as a crutch for expressing yours. "Be honest: Is this your opinion? Because if it is, own up to it and have it come from you," says Judi Cineas, a therapist in Palm Beach, FL.
9. "As long as the kids are happy, right?"
"I always want to scream "No!" when she says this, because it's not just about the kids," says Zach K., 45. "Of course it's important that they're happy and well cared for, but there's also the two of us, and I hate when it sounds like my wife is giving up on us and only focused on them."
10. "I sometimes feel like you stopped me from reaching my potential."
"My wife said this in a fit of anger, but it still haunts me," says Darryl F., 34. "I like to believe we bring out the best in each other, and it physically hurts me to think I may have pulled her back from living her dreams." The lesson: Try to make sure you mean what you say even when you're angry, so that later, you can actually address the hurt and move forward.