17 Emotionally Abusive Things You’ve Probably Said to Your Partner

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Content Warning: Relationship Abuse, Mental Illness, Suicide

The word “abuse” tends to stop a conversation in its tracks. It’s a word that doesn’t apply to *us* or *our relationships*, and it feels extreme enough not to inspect it any further.

We all think we know what relationship abuse looks like — something along the lines of Chris Brown and Rihanna, explosive scenes in public, dangerous scenes in private. We all think we know what an abuser looks like — a man, usually a big man, with insecurity and fake confidence who takes it all out on his frail wife. We also assume that abusers are the only ones who abuse. That there is a type of evil person who treats others poorly and they're doing it on purpose.

The truth is, you don’t have to be a serial abuser, or an “abuser” at all, for you to cross a line with a partner. Maybe you’re feeling anxious or insecure. Maybe they hurt your feelings and you want them to feel bad. Maybe you genuinely don’t think you’re hurting their feelings. It’s just a joke, right?

Anyone, even a truly good person, can use guilt as a weapon, can try to put someone down, can say what they feel they have to in order to keep their partner from leaving. If you don’t interrogate your reactions and practice measuring your emotions before speaking to your partner, you may wind up alienating them in the long run. You may be a wonderful, loving person. But that does not let you off the hook from putting in the actual work to be a good partner.

Here are some lines commonly deployed by people who don’t realize the emotional toll it takes on their partners. If you find you’re guilty of saying some of them, that does NOT necessarily mean you’re a bad person or even a bad partner. It means that you may have to evaluate why you’re saying them, and how you can better control your reactions in the moment.

Anyone can be better. But the first (incredibly painful) step has to be honesty with yourself.

1. “I just don’t like hanging out with your friends.”

The subtext: I don’t want to be part of your community.
It’s possible that your partner’s friends actually do suck. It wouldn’t be the first time a wonderful, sensitive person somehow surrounded themselves with bullies. If your partner’s friends are actually rude or mean to you, that may be something to address directly — is it something you did during that crucial first impression? Are they primed to dislike anyone your partner dates? Does your partner only vent about the bad, while failing to balance out with your good qualities or the good parts of your relationship?
Any of that may be true, but, just as likely, you don’t like your partner’s friends simply because they aren’t your friends. You feel left out around them — they have their own jokes, their own history, and they will likely be together even after you and your partner break up. Of course, it would make you uncomfortable to be around, especially knowing that your partner probably talks about you.
But hanging out with your partner’s friends is part of being a partner. If they invite you, it’s because they want you to share in their life. And insulting someone’s friends is the fast-track to souring their opinion of you.
In short, if your partner’s friends are rude, you don’t have to keep that to yourself. But you have to offer understanding, and remember that those friends were likely there before you. Be forgiving of their faults, and remember that you’re spending time with them to show your partner that you want to be in their life, not because you want to be best friends with their friends.