These words are powerful.
Every relationship has its special threats or ultimatums, but there’s one statement that has the capability to really damage a partnership, according to writer and comedian Mandy Stadtmiller.
In a piece in New York Magazine, Stadtmiller says that the five most important words in a relationship — words that can be said calmly but still pack a punch — are “Don’t ever do that again.”
“These “don’t-ever-again” commands are used sparingly by couples, and I would say we get about four or five very serious absolutes a piece,” Stadtmiller wrote. “Any more, you’re getting a little greedy or controlling. Anyone in a relationship should be on the watch for it.”
She calls these relationship danger-bombs “The Golden Threat.” The words “Don’t ever do that again” seem innocent enough but still make a powerful statement.
“At its core, the Golden Threat indicates that a relationship’s fundamental health is at stake — not just your desire to get something you want. With the Golden Threat, there is a firm but fair verbal contract being articulated that says, ‘I know what I need for this relationship to work, so if you don’t empathize with this need, neither I nor the relationship is going to be operating smoothly,'” Stadtmiller explained.
The Golden Threat, while not overtly threatening, has an underlying tension about it and isn’t used lightly or with abandon. If you fail to acknowledge these warnings, you will be blindsided when your relationship starts to disintegrate.
“Ignoring these statement is what causes irreparable damage to a partnership,” Stadtmiller said. “Because the Golden Threat essentially says, ‘Yes, this is the hill I’m going to die on — so what of it?'”
Stadtmiller sums it up best by saying, “We must hear each other’s Golden Threats — and never have to hear them again. Usually, they relate to childhood wounds, as to what feels particularly wrong in our guts and our hearts. These are the most highly personalized triggers for one’s own well-being. Heeding them is the least we can do for our partners.”
Once you’re at a point where you can no longer abide an action that your partner is doing, use the Golden Threat and it will shut that behavior down.