In the middle of an argument, it can be easy to say something hurtful that you don’t really mean. But even during a fight, you and your partner should strive to keep the discussion civil and respectful. If your partner says toxic things to you on a regular basis, that’s not acceptable, according to experts.
If your partner says one of these toxic things to you, that isn’t necessarily a sign that the entire relationship is worth abandoning. What’s more important is how they react when you confront them about this, and whether or not they change. “If the partner is open to admitting it’s a problem, they can move forward with working towards change,” Joanne Ketch, LPC, LMFT, a psychotherapist specializing in strengthening relationships, tells Bustle. But if they don’t react so apologetically to what they’ve said to hurt you, that’s another story. “If the partner dismisses, invalidates, gaslights, or repeats a toxic behavior, I suggest that [they] get outside help,” Ketch says. “If that doesn’t work, I suggest leaving the relationship.”
Sometimes, toxicity can verge on abuse, she says. You should never feel like you have to put up with abuse, no matter how much you love your partner. Reach out to trusted friends and family members and speak with a mental health professional if you need support for leaving the relationship.
If your partner says these things, it may be toxic, according to experts.
1. “You’re A Loser”
If you’re in a heated argument with your partner, it can be easy to say things that you don’t really mean. But name-calling is a bad habit, no matter how angry they are. “People who call their partners names lack the skills necessary for effective communication and conflict resolution,” Virginia Gilbert, MFT, MFC, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in sex and love addiction and high-conflict divorce, and the author of Transcending High-Conflict Divorce, tells Bustle. If this only happens once by accident, tell your partner clearly that it’s not acceptable to call you names and that you won’t continue the conversation until they speak to you with more respect. “If name-calling is habitual, it’s a sign of verbal abuse,” Gilbert says. “If your partner does not demonstrate remorse, or agree to therapy or anger management, you should make plans to leave the relationship.”
2. “You’re Overreacting”
“People who accuse their partners of overreacting or being ‘high drama’ are often unaware that they are doing things to invite a strong, negative reaction,” Gilbert says. “For instance, they may be consistently irresponsible, critical, or, worse, gaslighting to deflect from infidelity or abuse.” If you get even more upset when your partner says that you’re overreacting for having a reasonable response to a difficult situation, that can really be harmful for your relationship and erode your self-esteem, she says.
Once you’ve taken some time to cool down, let your partner know that saying this invalidated your feelings and that, in the future, you’d like them to be more respectful.
3. “Why Can’t You Just Be Happy?”
Whether you’re severely struggling with a mental health issue or you’re just upset about a situation, a healthy partner is one who will show you empathy and ask how they can support you. But someone who wants you to just “get over it” or “just be happy” is not someone who’s reacting in a positive way. “If your partner personalizes your mood, acts like you’re a buzz-kill, or emotionally abandons you, they are essentially saying you’re not OK as you are, and their love is conditional,” Gilbert says.
Try acknowledging that your partner might feel helpless to support you through the situation, she says. Then, explain that comments like these actually make you feel worse. If they change their behavior, that’s wonderful. But if they keep acting like your negative emotions are a burden, you might want to consider couples therapy or leaving the relationship.
4. “No One Else Would Be With You”
“Abusers use this phrase to control their partners,” Gilbert says. “They erode your self-esteem so that you will stay and continue to tolerate abusive behavior.” If your partner says this to you, they probably have low-esteem and a sense of abandonment themselves, she says. But it’s not OK for them to treat you this way, no matter what the reason.
“If your partner devalues you by telling you no one else will want you, you need to leave the relationship ASAP before the abuse escalates,” Gilbert says. Reach out to trusted friends or family members to help support you, and consider speaking with a mental health professional if you’d like some extra guidance.
5. “You’re So Stupid”
There may be a context in which your partner saying “You’re so stupid” is fine. For example, if you tell a corny joke, they might laughingly say this as a response. But if your partner is genuinely insulting your intelligence, that’s a sign of a toxic situation.“This is a power technique and toxic to any relationship,” Ketch says.
Confront your partner about how demeaning a statement like this can feel to you. If they sincerely apologize and promise to be more careful with their language in the future, that’s a good sign. But if they consistently belittle you, you might want to consider ending the relationship.
6. “If You Really Loved Me…”
When your partner is trying to convince you to agree to their favorite dinner spot or share your favorite pair of fuzzy socks, they might say “Well, if you really love me” in a silly way. But if they’re seriously trying to manipulate you into doing what they want, that’s not so innocuous. While it might not seem like a bit deal at the time, it might be a sign of a deeper issue in the relationship.
“If your partner threatens you with this line, call it out for the manipulation that it is,” Adina Mahalli, MSW, a certified relationship expert and mental health consultant, tells Bustle. “You do love your partner, and they know it, so whatever they’re about to say is a form of guilt-tripping.,” she says. “You have nothing to prove with this toxic remark.”
7. “You Left Me With No Choice”
While it’s probably true that your actions influence your partner in some way, the choices that you make do not take away your partner’s ability to make decisions. For example, maybe your partner said this to you after you confronted them about cheating. When your partner blames you for something you did not do by telling you “You left me with no choice,” that’s not a good sign. “If your partner ever tells you this, your first thought should be the knowledge that it’s just not true,” Mahalli says. “Trying to shift accountability and place the blame on you for their own actions isn’t OK and is a sign of toxic behavior,” she says.
8. “You’re Just Like Your Parent”
If your partner and your mom are BFFs or your partner and your dad are inseparable, it’s probably a major compliment for them to tell you “You’re just like your parent.” But if this is something that they say in an attempt to hurt your feelings, that’s a sign of a toxic situation.
Do your best to stay calm, Dr. Doug Weiss, a licensed psychologist and relationship therapist, tells Bustle. Even though your partner said this to you, they might not have thought about their words before they spoke them. Explain clearly that this statement hurt your feelings, and give them the chance to apologize. Make sure you establish boundaries and speak up for yourself, Weiss says.
If your partner says something hurtful during an argument, give them the chance to apologize and resolve not to do it again. But if they consistently say some of these toxic things, you might want to consider leaving the relationship.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
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