Watch Your Words: “Yes…but”–BLOG

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“I love this spaghetti, but the pasta is a bit mushy.”

You were trying to give a compliment…saying something nice. You were trying to connect through kind words. Unfortunately, with your phrasing, all your partner heard was “…the pasta is a bit mushy.” For all your good intentions, he/she is angry and hurt and threatening to have you do all the cooking!

Couples often get into conflicts due to word-choice.

“Yes…but” is a common source of disconnection 

How does it work?

You say something neutral or positive; you are trying to be kind, to connect. Then, in the same breath/phrase you tack on a short “but….” and a mild critique or negative statement.

Young couple in conflict in kitchen. Image meant to portray couple who might benefit from learning couples communication skills in Massachusetts from a couples retreat in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Maine.

You are trying to be honest and be balanced in your feedback. Unfortunately, your partner will generally lose sight of the first part of the phrase and focus on the negative aspect almost entirely.

There are some psychological reasons we focus on the negative. Watch my video “Why It’s Hard to See the Good In Our Partners” to understand the reasons. Your partner isn’t necessarily being ‘negative’ nor needing to see a therapist due to low self esteem. Your partner is just being human.

It IS possible that both statements are true, though. Possibly the spaghetti is good and the pasta is mushy.

So the question is, can you give the constructive (or honest) feedback without negating the first part?

Bi-racial male gay couple connecting over meal. Image is meant to portray LGBTQ couples feeling emotionally connected after attending a couples retreat in Maine, a couples retreat in Massachusetts, or a couples retreat in Connecticut.

Yes! Here’s Some Ways to Try

Sandwich the feedback

Say something positive, then the critique, followed by another positive.

“I love this spaghetti.  The pasta is a bit mushy but the spices really made the sauce.


Soften the negative words

You can be critical of something but you don’t have to make it extreme. The world is not black/white, there is gray. There is also feedback that can be made ‘gray’, not AS critical.

“I love this spaghetti.  The pasta is a little soft, but it’s delicious.”


Substitute a ‘pause’ where you would put the ‘BUT’

Although this can still feel like you are negating the first part, you actually aren’t. This is also good practice for you to even NOTICE you were about to say ‘but’.

“I love this spaghetti; the pasta is a BIT mushy” (I would soften my voice here).


Express the feedback from a kind, caring place

Often times, if we really have good intentions behind our feedback, that intention is expressed in our body language and vocal tone. So when you are giving the feedback, allow yourself to feel the love you have for your partner…let that inspire how your voice and body express the feedback.

“Thank you for making this spaghetti; I love it.  I tend to cook my pasta a little shorter time; we just do it differently.” 


Possibly Don’t Even Give the Negative Feedback

We often times think of things that we decide not to say. Just because you have an opinion, you don’t HAVE to express it. When we are working on improving our connections, it’s about deciding what is worth possibly hurting our partner’s feelings over. And what is not.

“I love this spaghetti!

Older couple sharing meal happily. Image is meant to represent the happiness a couple feels after attending a marriage seminar in New England or a marriage retreat in New England.

Communication Activity

Pick one of the patterns from above that you want to practice this week; inform your parter you are trying to do things differently.

Give your partner permission to help you in this activity, as you will not realize you have said “but“; your partner can notice it and give you an opportunity to express yourself differently.


Start Improving Your Relationship Today with a Private Couples Intensive or a Couples Workshop

Relationships depend on communication, yet it’s something we don’t always do well. You don’t have to keep getting into conflicts and have hours or days of disconnection over simple communication issues. There is hope; your relationship CAN be different.

Stone walkway with garden beds on both sides, leading up to a bench. This image is meant to represent emotional connection and the ability to rebuild trust after attending a Hold Me Tight Workshop in Massachusetts with Bri McCarroll of New England Hold Me Tight.
Workshops and Retreats take place in a dedicated clinical space in a beautiful New England colonial home. This is the front walkway.

Private Couple Intensives (Retreats) and “Hold Me Tight®” Couples Workshops can help you learn communication skills, reduce conflicts, and re-connect even stronger than before.  New England Hold Me Tight has skilled therapists and relationship coaches who specialize in helping couples who want to save a marriage or fix a relationship.

To start on your path towards better communication and a stronger connection in your relationship, follow these simple steps:

1. Contact Bri McCarroll at New England Hold Me Tight.

2. Meet for a free 50-minute consultation (video or in office).

3. Determine if a Private Couples Intensive (Retreat) or a “Hold Me Tight Workshop®” is a good choice to improve your relationship.

4. Communicate more effectively and connect better than you imagined possible.

Additional Relationship Tips (Free)

I want you to succeed, so I encourage you learn communication tools and relationship skills NOW with my FREE videos and blogs.

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