American linguist and author Julia Penelope said, “Language is power, in ways more literal than most people think. When we speak, we exercise the power of language to transform reality.” Our relationships shape our lives significantly; the communication that takes place within that space is integral to our well-being. Alas, there are so many things toxic partners say that corrode our psyche deeply.
Most people struggle to draw boundaries when such phrases are used; the primary reason being their seemingly innocent appearance. A nuanced perspective will reveal the workings of manipulation and power struggle in the relationship. We’re putting the things toxic partners usually say under the microscope with psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.
Take a look at the red flags you need to watch out for and try to grasp the dysfunctional mechanism in place. The toxic things in a relationship are easier to identify (and rectify) if you start looking in the right places.
11 Things Toxic Partners Often Say – And Why
Have you ever heard your partner say something hurtful and instinctively felt it to be wrong? You probably couldn’t put a finger on it and let it slide. But something was definitely amiss… the tone, the words, the implication, or the intent. We’re here to articulate what you can’t with this simple list of things toxic partners say. Even a quick perusal should be enough to know why your significant other’s words pinched you a certain way.
Dr. Bhonsle says, “People with toxic tendencies place the responsibility of their lives and happiness in the hands of others. Nine times out of ten, it’s a problem of accountability being deflected. When this is not the case, they try to control certain aspects of their partner’s life. Words are a powerful instrument to establish dominance.” With that basic understanding of how toxic partners use words to manipulate or exert control, let’s take a look at the things toxic partners usually say:
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1. “Look what you’ve made me do”
Dr. Bhonsle explains, “When an individual is unwilling to assume responsibility for their actions, they peg it on their partner. Statements like, “You made me cheat on you” or “My meeting went badly because you did XYZ” are very problematic. If something goes wrong in any sphere of the toxic person’s life, they will find a way to make it about your shortcomings.” Blame-shifting is one of the worst things toxic partners do.
Can you think of a time when your boyfriend or girlfriend blamed you for something they did? Such statements sound absurd, almost ridiculous, but they can cause you to dwell in a pool of perpetual guilt. You’ll keep wondering where you went wrong, feeling like you aren’t good enough for your significant other. We can only hope that you will put your foot down when this happens; that you won’t apologize for mistakes you didn’t make.
2. “I can’t do this anymore, I’m done”
Issuing ultimatums or threats are not characteristics of a healthy relationship. Or a healthy person. They instill a fear in you that your partner will leave at the slightest hint of trouble. Such phrases strive to convey, “If you don’t do everything right, I will leave you.” This is the stuff fear of abandonment is made of. With time, you will begin walking on eggshells around your partner in order to prevent disappointing them.
A reader from Nebraska shared her experience of things toxic boyfriends say: “I’ve had some fair exposure to the things toxic guys say. Warnings of “I’ll dump you” are more common than you might think. Before I knew it, I was reduced to an insecure, scared, and submissive person. I practically couldn’t recognize myself… Here’s a tip: whenever a guy threatens he’ll leave, LET HIM. You’ll thank yourself later for letting that toxicity walk out of the door.”
3. Things toxic partners say: “You’re overreacting”
Dr. Bhonsle explains, “Such phrases come under the gaslighting family. Basically, your emotional needs or concerns are invalidated. Your partner is unwilling to conduct an investigation into your complaint; you have to deal with it on your own because it’s too trivial for them. When you’re constantly subjected to such manipulation, you’ll start second-guessing your perception.” Such is the power of things toxic partners say.
Subtle gaslighting phrases, if not nipped in the bud, can morph into full-fledged manipulation. They will end up making you lose confidence in yourself. Self-doubt can be extremely detrimental to a person’s mental space. The next time you hear such utterances (along with things like “you’re too sensitive”, “it’s no big deal”, “you can’t take a joke”, or “get over it”), be sure to put your foot down.
4. “Should you be doing that?”
This is a fairly harmless question, right? If asked with the intention of expressing concern, yes. But if asked in an attempt to censor your conduct, no. The question suggests that the listener should refrain from continuing an activity. Any relationship that does not give you the space to exercise choice is toxic. The need to control one’s partner or regulate their behavior is deeply unhealthy. (And ending a controlling relationship becomes very difficult.)
Many women ask, “What do toxic boyfriends say?” or “What are the things toxic guys say?”, and this is one of the most common answers. In fact, whenever your partner begins speaking with “should you (…)”, start paying attention. (“Should you be wearing that dress?” “Should you be meeting that guy?”) The phrasing suggests that the ball is in your court, when in fact, your not-so-significant other has deemed your decision to be inappropriate.
Related Reading: 8 Common “Narcissistic Marriage” Problems And How To Handle Them
5. Things toxic partners say: “You ALWAYS do this”
Of all the things toxic partners say, this is the most dangerous. Dr. Bhonsle says, “Generalizations make the person on the receiving end feel stupid or incompetent. Their mistakes are the end-all and be-all for their partner. “You always do XYZ” or “You never do XYZ” are gross exaggerations that are designed to make the other person feel bad about themselves. Your self-esteem suffers when someone constantly tells you how you never operate efficiently.”
The subtext of this sentence is “how many times do I have to tell you the same thing?”. A relationship ought to be the source of comfort, security, and confidence for a person. If it is actively contributing to dismantling your self-worth and making you feel very insecure, you have some serious thinking to do. After all, why does your partner want to make you feel poorly about yourself? Is it because they want you to rely on them for most things? Only you truly know what lies behind the things toxic partners say.
6. “You’re just like your mother/father” – Things toxic girlfriends say
If this is thrown in your face during a fight, walk out of the room (and maybe the relationship). Dr. Bhonsle astutely says, “Your partner is trying to point out how you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes your parents made. Even if you are emulating a trait your parents possess, it is not something that should be used as a weapon in a fight. What is the purpose of bringing it up?”
And this statement will pinch more if you share a strained bond with your parents. A close friend once said, “I’m in such an emotionally exhausting relationship. She keeps comparing me to my father although I’ve repeatedly told her that it’s a trigger for me. I don’t know what to do anymore.” Unfortunately, these are the things toxic girlfriends say. Do you really want to be with someone who knows the chinks in your armor and exploits them?
7. “Why can’t you do anything right?”
Renowned English author Neil Gaiman said, “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” When criticism does not go hand in hand with compassion, it is being doled out to damage you. It is also indicative of a lack of empathy between partners.
Dr. Bhonsle says, “Again, this is a case of belittling a person. Making someone (let alone your partner) feel bad about themselves is quite horrible. Because we end up believing what we’re repeatedly told. If you’re called slow or dumb every day, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” (FYI: Phrases like “Can’t you handle this either?” and “Did you mess it up again?” are among the common things toxic partners say.)
Related Reading: What Is Forgiveness In Relationships And Why Is It Important
8. “If you really cared about me, you’d do _____”
What are a few subtle things toxic partners say? They ‘test’ your love and ask you to prove it. In reality, this is a means of getting what they want. But they will portray things very differently… For instance, a guy tells his girlfriend, “You won’t go out and meet your friends if you really love me. I need you by my side.” Outwardly, he is making this an issue of priorities; she ought to put him first because they’re dating. But we all know that’s not what it’s about.
There’s a huge difference between selfless and selfish love. You know it’s the latter when you begin spotting toxic things in a relationship. Nobody should have to prove themselves over trivial things. It is a mark of childishness and insecurity on the part of both individuals. Rise above the petty demands placed by your partner and strive toward maturity in love.
9. “Why aren’t you more like ____?”
Dr. Bhonsle says, “It’s always inadvisable to play the comparison game. Your partner shouldn’t ask you to be more like anyone. There shouldn’t be an ideal yardstick to which they want you to adhere. They’re dating you for the person you are.” A few classic things toxic boyfriends and girlfriends say include, “You should dress more like her” and “Why can’t you try to be as easy going as he is?”
Be wary of the things toxic guys say or girls pass off as casual remarks because they will infringe upon your individuality. You can’t go around being like everyone else on your partner’s recommendations. They’re trying to shape you into some customized version they like. Hold your ground and resist the urge to comply. Balancing independence in the relationship is crucial – healthy individuals make healthy emotional connections.
10. What do toxic partners say? “You make it so difficult to love you”
The things toxic partners say are truly hurtful. Take this one, for instance, along with “You’re so difficult to date” and “Being with you is not an easy job.” Dr. Bhonsle explains, “It’s very cruel to make someone feel as if they’re unlovable. When such things are said every day, you will begin believing that you’re not worthy of love. That your partner is obliging you by dating you.
“And that’s not true at all; people always have the option to walk out of a relationship if it’s bothering them so much. But if they choose to remain in it and make you feel awful, then there are some problematic factors at play.” Every relationship requires some management and so does yours. However, you are not responsible for all of it. Your partner shouldn’t make you feel like you’re not good enough for them.
11. *Radio silence*
What do toxic partners say? Nothing. They often choose silence as a tool to punish you. The silent treatment has its pros and cons but in this context, it is only damaging. Your partner will use passive aggression and silence to withdraw affection. You will sit in a pool of anxiety, waiting for them to come around and talk to you. Dr. Bhonsle says, “Refusing to communicate is unwise and it’s one of the things toxic partners do.
“It suggests that the goal is not conflict resolution but ‘winning’ the fight. The space between partners becomes very unhealthy when no communication takes place from one end. Silence is the manipulator’s tool quite often.” Does your partner also use silence against you? We hope they come to realize the importance of conversation with you. Just remember one simple motto: Better to hash it out by talking rather than sulking and moping.
Well, how many boxes did you check? We hope that very few of these things toxic partners say were relatable for you. In the event that they were and you’ve realized you’re in a toxic relationship, there are two paths you can pursue. The first is calling things off with your partner. If the connection is not conducive to your growth, parting ways is always an option. And the second is working on the bond by putting in time and effort. The two of you can heal together.
Undertaking either course of action will call for a lot of emotional strength and fortitude. Reaching out to a mental health expert can help you evaluate your situation better and equip you with the right tools to cope. At Bonobology, we offer professional help through our panel of licensed therapists and counselors who can guide you through this tumultuous period. You can embark on the journey of recovery from the comfort of your home with us. We believe in you and are here for you.
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