11 Things Toxic Partners Often Say – And Why

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things toxic partners say

American linguist and author Julia Penelope once 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 toxic phrases and things toxic partners say that corrode our psyche so very 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. In this article, we’ll be putting the things toxic partners usually say under the microscope with the help of psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.

If you’ve been wondering how to identify toxic people, or trying to find an answer to, what is a toxic person’s MO, these phrases and our interpretation will help. 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. So let’s begin.

What Are Toxic Phrases?

Expressing oneself in a relationship is one thing and both partners have the right to it. But when that takes a manipulative turn or transforms into constant criticism, it manifests in the form of toxic phrases that people sometimes throw at each other during an argument.

Having a toxic partner who says hurtful things repeatedly and guilt-trips you often, can have disastrous consequences for your mental and physical health. A study indicates that those who are subject to such constant toxic phrases and behavior are at a higher risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression symptoms. If you have been trying to figure out how to identify toxic people, paying attention to the words and phrases they use to chip away at your sense of self-worth and self-esteem can help. Here is what such hurtful phrases might be:

  • They criticize the core of who you are: If they keep criticizing you for your habits, your view on life, or your general personality traits repeatedly, they clearly do not accept you for who you are as a person
  • They make fun of your friends: Not only do they not hang out with your friends, but they also ask you not to and try to alienate you from them. Consider this one of the warning signs of a toxic relationship
  • Toxic phrases attack everything you do: Your toxic partner will keep calling you out, not because they have your best interests at heart but because they don’t like anything you do. From what you are wearing to the way you schedule your day, they are not okay with anything you want to do
toxic phrases in a relationship
Toxic partners use hurtful words to make you feel smaller and exercise control

11 Things Toxic Partners Often Say – And Why

Have you ever heard your partner say something hurtful and instinctively felt it to be wrong and unfair to you? You probably couldn’t put a finger on it and let it slide at that moment. But something was definitely amiss… the tone, the words, the implication, or the intent. Perhaps it was so bad, that you still feel upset about it. We’re here to articulate what you can’t with this simple list of things toxic partners say. Even a quick look 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:

Related Reading: Responsibility In Relationships – Different Forms And How To Foster Them

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, and it is done to exert control and dominance in a relationship.

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; and that you won’t apologize for mistakes you didn’t make.

2. “I can’t do this anymore, I’m done” 

Issuing ultimatums and threats are not characteristics of healthy relationships. They are the most toxic things to say over text or otherwise, that can seriously mess with a person’s head. They instill a fear 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 to prevent disappointing them.

Mikayla, 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. They do this because they want to scare you and make you want to cling onto them. 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. “You’re overreacting” 

Dr. Bhonsle explains, “Phrases such as “you’re overreacting” often used in toxic relationships come under the gaslighting family. Basically, through these phrases, your emotional needs or concerns are invalidated. Your partner is unwilling to investigate 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.

If you’ve been wondering, “What is a toxic person’s most defining trait?”, gaslighting definitely fits the bill. And gaslighting is not just limited to minimizing the other person’s feelings or concerns. According to research, the four most common behavioral patterns that are visible in gaslighting relationships are love-bombing, isolating the survivor from their friends and family, unpredictability in behavior, and giving silent treatment. Here’s how it can affect you:

  • A manipulation tactic: Subtle gaslighting phrases, if not nipped in the bud, can morph into full-fledged manipulation and it is done to make the other person feel like their emotions are not valid or that they are not enough
  • It makes you lose yourself: They will end up making you lose confidence in yourself. Self-doubt can be extremely detrimental to your mental space and can affect your confidence in future relationships as well
  • Don’t lose yourself and demand your worth: 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 to express concern, yes. But if asked in an attempt to censor your conduct, definitely 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. Whenever your partner begins speaking with “should you (…)”, start paying attention. (For instance, “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. They clearly don’t have your best interests at heart.

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.”

One Reddit user shares how critical a toxic partner can be, based on their own experience. They said, “They demand you do certain things and treat you poorly if you don’t. Reaction is disproportionate to failure to do an action. Forget to turn a light off and they yell at you for 30 minutes.”  Here’s what such toxicity can do:

  • It takes away the security from a relationship: 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
  • Think about whether this person is worth being with: 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
infographic on things toxic partners say
These are the things toxic partners say

6. “You’re just like your mother/father”

These are common toxic phrases which are intended to make you a better person but actually make you question everything in your life. 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 you more if you share a strained bond with your parents. If you bring it up with them and tell them how affected you are, a toxic partner will just tell you that you are overreacting and that it is just a joke to diffuse the situation.

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. These hurtful words are really getting to me.”

7. “Why can’t you do anything right?”

Renowned English author Neil Gaiman once 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. Unfortunately, it is one of those toxic phrases in a relationship that can severely damage a bond.

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.” (Phrases like “Can’t you handle this either?” and “Did you mess it up again?” are among the most 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 _____” 

Expressing expectations is a part of healthy communication in healthy relationships. However, the tone and words used are important. A caring partner can express a request without trying to make the other person feel like a complete disappointment. But a toxic partner will go into overdrive and use the most toxic phrases to make the other person know they are not enough. Here’s what such toxic people do:

  • Testing you: 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 might tell his girlfriend, “You won’t go out and meet your friends if you love me. I need you by my side”
  • Ask yourself if this is real love: 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

A toxic partner will say these things as a way to tell you they love you and want you to do the same for them. Yet, all they end up doing is taking digs at you to tell you that you are not enough for them.

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, and if they are asking you to do something otherwise, then it is worth discussing.” A few classic things toxic boyfriends and girlfriends say are “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 as healthy individuals make healthy emotional connections.

10. “You make it so difficult to love you”

What do toxic partners say? If your partner is toxic, expect this one, 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 if you bring it up and express how hurt you are, they will tell you it is just a joke and that you need to relax.

“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.

One Reddit user discusses how their ex would blame-shift constantly, “My ex to a T. He used my depression against me after I pointed out his terrible behavior and he said I was ‘unstable and need therapy’, then proceeded to tell me to get out. I started to leave and he got angry and said I always leave him because I started to leave. Always the victim.”

unhealthy relationship

11. *Radio silence*

What is one of the toxic toxic things to say over text? Well, sometimes, just nothing. They often choose silence as a tool to punish you and withdraw. 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 healthy communication with you. Just remember one simple motto: it’s better to hash it out by talking rather than sulking and moping.

Key Pointers

  • Toxic partners very slyly criticize the core of who you are as a person, and may make fun of your friends or the things you do
  • They indulge in gaslighting to make you feel as if your feelings are not valid and they are always right
  • One sign of toxicity in a relationship is when they constantly compare you with other people and belittle you

Well, how many boxes did you check? We hope that very few of these things toxic partners say were relatable for you. If 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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