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How Can I Make Sure I Do Not Accidentally Say the Wrong Name?

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In my current relationship, there are a lot of issues stemming from my past marriage, issues that cause my wife insecure feelings and feelings of being ‘the second one’. About a year ago I referred to our cat by the wrong name — calling it the name of my ex wife’s cat. This hurt my wife, because to her it felt like the cat, and she herself, was interchangeable. I heard that it hurt her, and told her I would be careful not to do it again. The other day, a year later, I did it again. She is hurt all over again, and I don’t know what to say except apologize and reassure her it was a meaningless language slip, but to her it means more. I want to be able to ‘promise’ I won’t do it again, because I know how important it is that I don’t, but I did not mean to before. Are the any useful strategies or tools to make sure my brain does not make this error again? Any ideas or tips would be very helpful. (From Canada)

How Can I Make Sure I Do Not Accidentally Say the Wrong Name?

Answered by on -


This problem isn’t yours alone to manage. This is something I’d talk to your wife about — helping her to understand both of you need to learn to cope with her reaction. You by doing everything you can to prevent it, and her by doing what needs to be done not to overreact. The fact that she gets upset and that it puts you in the position of having to manage her well-being. Talking about it before it’s an issue will help both of you managed better. She will need to recognize that you calling a cat by the wrong name isn’t a catastrophe. You work is to realize how difficult this is for her to do and to do all you can not to activate her. If this is too difficult to discuss on your own you may want to seek couples counseling.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

How Can I Make Sure I Do Not Accidentally Say the Wrong Name?

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). How Can I Make Sure I Do Not Accidentally Say the Wrong Name?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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