“I love you BUT I will tell everyone how YOU….”


Have you ever been around a group of friends and heard some cleaver zingers flying back and forth between couples? They are meant to be funny, but somehow the room always falls silent. They are meant to be innocent, but somehow your friends talk about them way after the party is over. Zingers hurt relationships even if we are convinced that they do no harm–even if we are convinced that we have no negative intentions behind using them!

Jancee Dunn wrote an article for “O’s Guidance to Life,” and she explored some of the reasons behind the blurts. Before describing those, I want to make sure that we all know what we are talking about. These types of zingers will hurt your relationships:

EXAMPLE 1: At a small dinner party a couple is talking about how much joy their newborn son brings to their life. The wife says: “No sleep is hard, but we kind of prepared for that mentally.” The husband makes a comment: “No sex is hard, but we didn’t’ prepare for that one!” Wife: “Thank God for the 900 numbers that you have been dialing like a maniac!”

EXAMPLE 2: You and your partner are hosting a Christmas Party for some of your work friends. Your guests are emphasizing how beautiful you look tonight. You say: “Thank you for the compliment!” Your partner says: “Wait until she scrapes off her make up…guess who is beautiful then?”

Yes, these are the types of zingers we are talking about. When I do therapy with couples, I try to “catch these bullets” as they fly by. Thankfully, it is my responsibility to do so, and to help couples figure out why they are shooting at each other. At a party; however, it is not my place, and if anything, I do my best to change the topic quickly.

Here are some reasons why we throw zingers like that:

  • Maybe we start feeling a little ignored watching our partner chat away with a friend, and when we start feeling left out, a cleaver zinger will definitely put the attention back on us.
  • Maybe we truly want to be funny thinking that if we are funny at the expense of our loved one, we will somehow “win” the competition for the funniest joke of the night. We usually end that “joke” with: “I was just kidding!”
  • Maybe we carry some “unresolved hurts” that resurface at times when we feel insecure about our connection with our partner. These zingers will be painful and they will definitely make the room go silent.
  • Maybe we want to show off how well we know our partners and how “resilient” our relationships are—since we can throw these blurts and “pretend” that they really don’t impact our deepest selves at all.

As a therapist who uses Emotionally Focused Therapy to work with couples, I am convinced that, even for the most securely bonded couples, there are times when we feel that our connection with our partner is somehow threatened. Depending on the emotional safety that we have we can either say: “You just couldn’t stop yourself and stare at her like a pig. What is wrong with you?” OR we can say: “I am worried if you find me attractive. Can you reassure me that you find me sexy?”

Are YOU using zingers sometimes? When are you most likely to use them? What is your reason behind using them? Do you want to entertain your company or shock them? Perhaps you want to bring up something hurtful to your partner’s attention and this is your way of doing that? Remember, ZINGERS HURT YOUR RELATIONSHIP!

Whatever your motive is, think about it before you let it out. It may not only save your partner from some hurt, but it will also prevent your friends from gossiping about your relationship.


Reader Interactions


  1. Andrea Silver LCSW says

    Marta, zingers hurt is so true and very clearly expressed. Maybe it will help us think twice and take a breath before the toads jump out of our mouths. What if we consciously said appreciative things about our partners in social settings? We could replace zingers with mmmmers. Andrea

  2. Paul Sigafus, LMFT says

    Marta, this is such a good point — it can be too easy to let the zingers fly when we’re feeling disconnected or undervalued — but it inevitably does more harm than good. Zinging one’s spouse can become a bad habit — one worth changing. The hard work of talking with each other about about our needs and vulnerabilities is well worth the effort, and is more likely to go well if we’re speaking about each other with respect and kindness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.