Whatever You Do, Don't Say 'Whatever'

Using the word "whatever" because it's convenient and lets you off the hook for a decision is setting yourself and your relationship up for a downfall.
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If you think being an agreeable mate is always a positive, think again. Does this argument sound familiar? Your mate asks, "What do you want to do for your birthday?" You answer, "Honey, whatever you want." Then you end up eating at the Italian Restaurant you absolutely hate, with your extended family, who are not on the top of your friends list. Watch this clip for a short play-by-play enactment of the "whatever" fight.

Using the word "whatever" because it's convenient and lets you off the hook for a decision is setting yourself and your relationship up for a downfall.

In a healthy relationship, two people often have different opinions and preferences, and they should express them. When you don't take the time to reveal your true thoughts, whether it's about where to eat, where to honeymoon, or who to sit with at your wedding, it's only a matter of time before you begin to resent your mate for not knowing what you really want. In turn, your mate begins to resent you for placing the burden of decision-making entirely on his or her shoulders.

Whether you are engaged, newly married, or years along in wedded matrimony, it's never too late to re-think your words and upgrade your relationship, one conversation at a time.

Rather than continuing to allow energy-draining "whatever" arguments to stress us out and poke holes in our relationships, we can recognize and sidestep blunder. If you find yourself about to utter the "whatever" word, whether it's because you want to be nice to your mate or in-laws, or because you simply don't want to be bothered with the decision, stop yourself and say, "I better think about this." Then say what you really want, or ask for a few more minutes to think about your answer.

You might end up in a disagreement, but that is a good thing because the end result will better reflect both of your desires. Listen to your mate's perspective, then ask that he/she listen to yours. Finally, look for a compromise. That's how to set up your relationship for long-term success. Happy couples do fight, but they also know how to make-up.

On the other hand, if your mate says "whatever" to you one too many times, don't get enraged, just engage him/her. Say, "I value your opinion and I would like to hear it," or "I know that sometimes I pressure you to agree with me, but the truth is that I like it when you have a different point of view. It helps us come to a better solution." If your mate still gives you a blank stare, say "how about if you take some time to think about this and we talk about it after dinner?"

From now on, to avoid the ridiculous "whatever" argument, take charge, engage your brain, and talk. Most likely, you will have a good conversation instead of a pointless argument.

Laurie Puhn, J.D., is a Harvard-educated lawyer, couples mediator, syndicated columnist and premier conflict resolution expert. She is the author of the best-selling book, "Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In," now in paperback. You can hear her informed commentary, relationship advice and humor on major news outlets including "Fox and Friends," "Today," "Good Morning America," "The Early Show," "20/20" and "Imus in the Morning." Visit her online at www.fightlesslovemore.com.

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