How Saying Hurtful Things In A Relationship Affects It

October 16, 2023 |
Saying hurtful things
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We often say hurtful things in a relationship during a fight or a disagreement. In the heat of the moment, it doesn’t occur to us that we may be damaging the entire relationship by saying harsh words. We don’t take into account how our partner might feel. Saying hurtful things to someone you love can cause lasting resentment.

Realization always hits later, and by the time we cool down and begin to understand how we might have caused our partner pain, it is too late. Sometimes, a simple “sorry” just doesn’t cut it. That’s precisely why understanding the gravity of how insulting words can harm a relationship is of utmost importance.

It follows the old adage of “prevention is better than cure.” If you know just how deeply rage can cut your relationship in half, you’ll have a good reason to stop saying mean things out of anger. To that end, let’s understand the seriousness of the damage that harsh words can cause.

How Saying Hurtful Things In A Relationship Affects It

When a relationship matures, we don’t mince our words. While this is good as we tend to be more open with our partners and communicate effectively, the same fact can also take an ugly turn as we tend to take things for granted. When your spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend says hurtful things when angry, it has long-term consequences for the strength of the bond holding you together. In author Laurell K Hamilton’s words, “There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”

That begs the question: Why do we say hurtful things to those we love? Perhaps we become too lax and end up being nasty in a fit of rage. When a man says hurtful things or a woman lashes out at her partner, more often than not, it is to score a point, to have an upper hand in a fight, to assuage one’s ego. However, relationships are not boxing matches, and even there, hitting below the belt is considered unacceptable.

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When you say hurtful words to your partner, it begins to weaken the foundation of your relationship. You’re basically damaging your bond with verbal attacks. Saying mean things in a relationship can slowly drive you and your partner away from each other. Loss of interest in the relationship can be a common side-effect when you’re constantly disrespecting your significant other or being disrespected in a relationship. Such emotional abuse has a way of rearing its ugly head when the tension reaches its boiling point.

There are hurtful things you should never say to a partner. Besides, a pattern of one partner lashing out at the other can turn into a trigger for discord. When partners find themselves in a similar situation where hurtful words have been exchanged in the past, the tension between them can be palpable. For example, if your spouse says hurtful things when drunk, their drinking habits can become a bone of contention in the relationship.

In other cases, if your partner says hurtful things when angry, you may begin to fear their anger and start hiding things from them in an attempt to make sure they don’t lose their cool. Even if the erring partner apologizes for their actions, it doesn’t make the hurt go away.

“My partner uses the worst insults to put me down whenever we argue and I cannot deal with it. I don’t know how to get over hurtful words in a relationship.” — The person who is at the receiving end of scathing remarks is often left grappling with such thoughts. Poisonous words strike a blow on your self-esteem too.

The next time you are tempted to deal a low blow to your partner, remember, they may forgive you but they won’t forget it. Too many of these instances can make your relationship an emotionally abusive one. So, it’s imperative to tread carefully and always be mindful of how disrespect in a relationship affects it. Here are 8 ways in which saying nasty things to someone you love affects a relationship.

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1. It scars the relationship and shows that you don’t care

Verbally attacking your partner can be the beginning of an abusive relationship. Your partner is shocked to hear the insulting words and with the fact that you are willing to spew poison and intentionally hurt them. These words will echo in their ears for a long time, and they may grow tired or feel frustrated as a result.

A mental scar from the incident will always remain in your partner’s mind, and that’s how saying mean things to someone you love causes lasting damage. Claudia, a college student from Wisconsin, says, “My boyfriend says hurtful things when angry. Does he mean what he says when he’s angry? I’m constantly worried that things can escalate. If he can be verbally abusive, who’s to say he won’t take a swing at me in a fit of rage? Besides, every time he says mean things, it just chips away at the love and affection I have for him.”

2. Your partner loses respect for you

When you use toxic phrases in a relationship, your partner begins to feel that you don’t understand and respect them enough. In turn, your partner begins to lose respect for you. If you say, “My boyfriend puts me down jokingly,” do you get his sense of humor as time goes by? No, you don’t. But you do start losing all respect for him, don’t you?

This respect is replaced by anger and hurt. Your partner might even begin to fear you instead of respecting you. If you don’t respect your partner, you don’t deserve their respect either. Remember, a verbally abusive relationship can even turn into a physically abusive one with a controlling partner.

“My husband says mean things about my family whenever we have an argument. No matter the issue at hand, he cannot resist dragging my parents through the dirt. He even tells me I can’t go see my parents! I’m beginning to resent him for it. Does he mean what he says when he’s angry? I do not know, but it certainly has impacted the health of our relationship,” says Radhika, a Mumbai-based lawyer.

3. Your partner becomes distant

How do you react to your partner’s angry outbursts? How do you build a loving relationship with someone who is looking for reasons to obliterate your sense of self-worth with their words? A person who is at the receiving end of a verbal tirade may find themselves wrestling with these questions. However, they may eventually tire out and give up.

Distance themselves from you

As Atticus, the mysterious poet, says, “Words will scratch more hearts than swords.” When a spouse says hurtful things to you, it plays on the mind of the one at the receiving end. Your repeated habit of saying mean things in a relationship will make them feel overwhelmed. You may regret your actions later and lament, “I said hurtful things to my boyfriend/girlfriend, and I feel awful” but your feelings of guilt won’t make the hurt go away. If the tables were turned and your partner says hurtful things when they’re angry, would a simple apology fix it all? Unlikely, right?

Eventually, they would want to distance themselves from you for some time because it’s not always easy to figure out how to get over hurtful words in a relationship. Toxic words spew negativity and if that’s all you have to give, you can’t blame your partner for needing some space. A toxic relationship can be emotionally exhausting and mentally scarring.

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4. Your partner turns hostile

“My husband said hurtful things I can’t get over and now it’s beginning to affect our relationship. What should I do?” Many readers reach out to our panel of counselors with such issues. And understandably so. If hurtful exchanges of words are a pattern between romantic partners, they may begin to feel hostile toward one another and display passive-aggressive behavior at the least.

Or worse, start looking for ways to get back at each other, trapped in a vicious cycle of who can hurt whom more. As a result, your partner will start seeing you as someone who doesn’t understand them. They may be physically present in the relationship but might have checked out mentally and emotionally.

This is because of the frustration that has been piling up for quite a while now. Their eyes that once looked at you with love will now look at you with confusion and hurt. If your boyfriend says hurtful things when angry, you will feel upset the moment he loses his temper because you know what’s coming.

At this point, the relationship may be beyond the point of figuring out ‘what to do when your spouse says hurtful things’ or ‘how to handle your partner lashing out at you.’ The only way to salvage this bond is with concrete corrective measures from the partner who has been resorting to willfully hurting the other with their words.

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5. The frequency of your fights increases

Even if you realize your mistake and ask for forgiveness, there are chances that this topic becomes a bigger issue in your future fights. Your partner may not be able to totally forgive you and will bring it up in other fights as well. As a result, you will have even more heated arguments with your partner. And thus, the cycle of saying mean things out of anger will continue.

As they say, “Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.” When a man says hurtful things to his partner, “My boyfriend or husband said hurtful things I can’t get over” is a natural and expected reaction. Likewise, if a woman is overly critical of her partner or disrespects them with her words, all these potshots can fuel resentment and negativity.

Practicing forgiveness in a relationship fraught with so much negativity and toxicity isn’t easy. Every fight, every argument, every new tirade of verbal abuse or hurtful words becomes an act of picking scabs off old wounds, leaving them tender and hurting all over again. That’s how saying mean things to someone you love increases the frequency of fights.

horrible things to say to someone
Harsh words can scar the relationship

6. Your partner feels unloved

Saying disrespectful things to your partner in a relationship lowers their self-esteem, making them feel vulnerable and unloved. They might begin to feel that you’re behaving this way because you don’t love them anymore. They could feel underappreciated and feel like you are taking them for granted. They start doubting themselves even though you try to tell them you didn’t mean what you said.

Among the most hurtful things to say to a woman (or a man) are attacks on their appearance or their core personality traits. If you tell your partner that you hate the way they talk to you when they’re excited or that they annoy you enough to warrant abuses with their little antics, they might start having second thoughts about how much you even love them.

When a spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend says hurtful things when angry, they are essentially telling their significant others that they are not valued, respected, or cherished in this connection. In that situation, it is only a matter of time before they begin to doubt the sincerity of your feelings for them.

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7. Resentment seeps into your relationship

When you’re looking for mean things to say to your boyfriend or girlfriend when you’re angry or in the middle of a heated argument, it can have a lasting impact that can alter the nature of your relationship. All those hurtful jibes and deliberately attacking each other’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses can cause resentment to seep into your relationship.

The most hurtful things to say to your boyfriend or your girlfriend include attacks on their capabilities. There are many horrible things to say to someone that the person you love might indulge in. Not only does the victim’s self-confidence shatter, but they also hold it against their partner.

Letting go of resentment in a relationship can be one of the hardest things a couple has to contend with. All the mean, nasty things you say to your partner or they to you compound into overbearing emotional baggage. Then, every time you find yourself caught in a fresh spell of disagreement, you not only have to deal with the present problems but also the weight of this baggage. You can wonder how to get over hurtful words in a relationship all you want but there is a good chance that neither of you will be able to forget the pain.

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8. Your relationship turns toxic

“I said hurtful things to my boyfriend.” “I lashed out at my girlfriend in anger and said some mean things.” The weight of your actions will press upon you, you may experience guilt and vow to never resort to such behavior again. Yet, when the next fight happens, you find yourself going down the same rabbit hole of hurling nasty words and insults at one another.

If not checked initially, this can easily become a pattern that can turn you both into a toxic couple. To understand how to break this pattern, you need to first understand why we say hurtful things when angry. It is because it is the easiest way to vent your frustration and pain, and it’s certainly a lot easier than focusing on your issues and working on resolving them.

Once you realize why it is that you end up choosing the most hurtful things to say to your boyfriend or girlfriend, you can figure out how to stop it. Unless you do, neither partner will be on the same page about a disagreement and the baggage from previous arguments will weigh you down.

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9. You both start looking for love elsewhere

It takes one negative to overshadow all the positives. Similarly, saying mean things in a relationship can overshadow all the months or years of love between the two of you. This is because those toxic words begin to play on your mind and you start to doubt your relationship. For example, if one partner indulges in the most hurtful things to say to a woman/man, the victim will begin to doubt how respected they are in the relationship. They’ll wonder how much love the partner truly has for them, and later, might be intrigued by an opportunity for a fresh start elsewhere.

That’s because the love starts to fade away and you involuntarily start seeking love elsewhere. This does not mean cheating on your partner. It simply means that you start appreciating those old and new suitors who always seem to treat you better than your own spouse. This could be the beginning of an emotional affair, which will only drive your partner further away from you.

Even though cheating and having an emotional affair are two different things, they both stem from a broken relationship. Of course, every individual may handle this situation differently, but most people will opt to cut ties with their current partner if the insulting words never seem to stop.

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10. Your partner abandons you

There’s a limit to everyone’s endurance. Constant verbal abuse can lead to completely damaging a relationship with words. Author Gemma Troy puts it succinctly, “Words hurt more than hands do.” It hurts, even more, coming from someone you love. When a man says hurtful things to his partner repeatedly or a woman uses her words to put her significant other down, every blow drives that victim away.

Your partner may not show that they want an out of the relationship but might just silently observe you. When they realize that they can’t take any more of your toxic behavior, they will abandon you, which might even start off under the garb of taking a “little breather.”

Can You Take Back Hurtful Words?

People often start damaging a relationship with words without even realizing it. They eventually feel bad and apologize to their partner who then forgives them. This can become a vicious cycle as they begin to take their partner for granted and saying disrespectful things becomes a habit. 

What they don’t realize is that each such incident scars the relationship even further. By the time the person realizes it, it can often be too late. Sure, there’s superficial forgiveness to try and restore normalcy, but do those harsh words ever really leave the mind of the victim? Out of all the horrible things to say to someone, there are bound to be a few sentences that hit a nerve and are etched into the victim’s mind forever, even though they may make themselves believe that forgiveness is possible.

As a result, you can’t really take back the hurtful words that you say to your partner or vice versa, since the memory of such a statement always sticks. Name-calling in a relationship, emotionally blackmailing someone, and disrespectful remarks are all bound to stick. Though you can’t make everything okay by “taking back” your hurtful words, all hope is not lost yet.

The layers of damage caused by horrible words are far more complex than we can imagine, which is why they leave a mark. However, the concept of a “perfect relationship” is also a sham, isn’t it? Anger, hurt, pain, and sorrow are a part of every relationship, no matter how healthy it is. Though some regretful words may have been spoken, there may still be some room to turn things around by ending the pattern of toxicity and working on a better future as a couple.

For starters, each partner must ask themselves the question: Why do we say hurtful things to those we love? Then, the foundation of the relationship must be evaluated. Do you both respect each other? Is there enough trust, compassion, empathy, and love in the relationship? Though it may be hard to face tough facts, ask yourself and answer honestly: Does it seem like your relationship has a better future in store?

Respect each other’s boundaries, respect your partner, trust in the relationship, practice effective communication, and you’ll be able to stop saying hurtful things to someone you love. Since we’re all only human, setbacks are inevitable too. When it feels like it gets too much and you can’t find a clear path toward growth, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists and relationship coaches can help.

Key Pointers

  • Saying disrespectful things to your partner in a relationship can cause lingering resentment, self-confidence issues, and leave a mental scar 
  • Being disrespectful toward each other can also increase the frequency of fights a couple has 
  • Disrespect can also cause couples to split or emotionally check out of the relationship

Whenever you find yourself wondering about how to get over hurtful words in a relationship, remember these wise words from the iconic Julia Roberts, “I wish I were a little girl again because skinned knees are easier to fix than a broken heart.” So the next time, you’re tempted to hurl a few insults at your partner, make a conscious effort to restrain yourself. Take a deep breath, walk away from the fight if you need to, and then revisit the issue when you’re calmer and more in control of your emotions.

This article was updated in January 2023.


1. Is it normal to say hurtful things in a relationship?

No, it is not normal to say hurtful things in a relationship. Once or twice during an argument, something hurtful can slip out involuntarily. You or your partner might regret it instantly and ask for forgiveness. But saying mean things during all kinds of arguments is not normal at all.

2. Why does my boyfriend say hurtful things?

He says hurtful things because he feels a sense of power when you get upset. Because in all probability, he’s had toxic parents who threw hurtful words at each other. Your boyfriend says hurtful things when angry because he is unable to control his anger or his words.

3. What to do when your husband hurts you with words?

If your husband is sarcastic and says hurtful things, then it becomes a very difficult situation for you that can push you into depression. The best thing you could do is zone out when he is angry and not listen to a single word he says. If he apologizes later, it’s fine. But if his behavior keeps troubling you, consider seeking relationship counseling.

4. Is it easy to forgive someone who said hurtful words to you?

Some people do have the habit of saying bitter things when angry but then they would tell you they didn’t mean a word of it. They would apologize and do everything to ensure you don’t feel hurt anymore. In that case, it is easy to forgive someone who said hurtful words. But if this becomes a pattern, you cannot forgive every time.

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