We have all been in a situation where someone has treated us badly. Be it in the family, a friend, a colleague, a boss, or a teacher, we have all had that one person who has made us wonder if we did something to make them behave this way. But what happens when someone treats you badly in a relationship, a significantly important romantic relationship?
At work, you ask your colleague, “Is it just me, or is the boss terrible to you too?” Chances are your boss snaps at everyone in the office and that gives you instant relief. “Ah! So, it’s not me!”, you say, wiping your brow. In your romantic relationship, though, it is much more difficult to figure out why your partner is treating you badly and what you should do about it.
Reasons Your Partner Treats You Badly
When someone treats you badly and does things to hurt you, it forces you to wonder, “Why?” It is only natural to try to get to the root cause of the pain that is being inflicted upon you. Before you look at how to deal with someone who treats you badly, it might help to look closer at how you try to justify their behavior.
Australian psychologist Fritz Heider in his work, The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations, explored and called it the Attribution Theory, or what a person believes to be a cause of certain behavior. As per this theory, it is completely natural to try to attribute your partner’s behavior to either external or internal causes.
Let’s say your partner often misbehaves with you. They dismiss your emotions, disregard any opinion you give, and sometimes even engage in verbal abuse, snap at you or put you down in front of other people. You can assume the source of their bad behavior to be either of the following two:
- External: This means that the reason for their behavior could be anything outside of them. It could be their circumstances. For example, they were being pushed around at work when they snapped at you. Or something you did, irked them to make them react in a bad way
- Internal: This means their behavior stems from within them. For example, they suffer from narcissistic tendencies. They are ungrateful, arrogant, and abusive, which is why they misbehave
We often tend to attribute our partners’ bad behavior to their external causes, blaming their circumstances or even using them as an excuse for their actions. We even blame ourselves as being their external cause. But if the ill-treatment does not seem to be “just a phase”, you should start looking for the following signs he treats you badly or she doesn’t treat you right:
- They disrespect you or mistreat you regularly
- They refuse to acknowledge your concerns and feedback
- They never apologize
- They apologize but do not make any effort to change
- They gaslight you into believing they did not misbehave with you
If these things are the norm in your relationship, you need to stop blaming yourself or your partner’s external circumstances and face the truth. Your relationship with them is toxic and you need to figure out how to deal with someone who treats you badly.
You also need to recognize why you are letting them get away with this behavior. There’s a message in the way a person treats you, and if your partner has been ill-treating you, you need to face your fears and pluck up the courage to stand up for yourself.
11 Things To Do When Someone Treats You Badly In A Relationship
You have done nothing to invite constant bad behavior. As adults, we are all responsible for our behavior and your partner is no exception. But now that you, unfortunately, find yourself saying things like, “She/He treated me like I was nothing”, or believing, “The way someone treats you is how they feel about you”, or googling, “What to do when someone treats you badly in a relationship”, let us look at how you can deal with this situation, one step at a time:
Related Reading: Take The “Am I Being Gaslighted?” Quiz Designed By An Expert
1. Be compassionate toward yourself
First and foremost, you must not be discouraged by the realization that you have been finding it hard to stand up for yourself, confront bad behavior, demand an apology and a change, and if nothing changes, walk out. It is never easy to stand up to relationship bullies.
Remember, you shouldn’t have to ask for something as basic as being treated right by your significant other, in the first place. Secondly, it is absolutely normal that you want better treatment from your partner. Everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship marked by mutual respect, above all else.
2. Do not react immediately when someone treats you badly in a relationship
We, humans, are programmed to react to threatening situations. We flee or fight when we find ourselves in danger. Your instincts would make you react when your partner misbehaves with you. But doing so will either put you in harm’s way or force you into doing or saying something that you might regret later.
So, if someone treats you badly, just remember that you need to step back to be able to calmly process what happened. Calm nerves allow for a wise recourse in a bad situation. It will also let you see more clearly why the incident happened, recognize a pattern if there is one, and by understanding the dynamics of abuse gauge if things have truly gone beyond control.
3. Understand what constitutes abuse
When somebody behaves badly in a relationship, you likely get a gut feeling that something isn’t right. But we are often not sure of it. To be able to pinpoint what is wrong, we need to feel certain. Remember, knowledge is power.
Physical and verbal abuse is easier to recognize but there are several other forms of abuse that can be far more insidious. Here is a lowdown on abuse in its varied forms, along with examples, to help you understand what exactly you need to watch out for:
- Emotional abuse: For example, gaslighting, threatening to leave, threatening to cause harm to self or others
- Neglect: For example, withholding affection, refusing to share the load, giving the silent treatment
- Social isolation: For example, preventing a partner from socializing
- Financial abuse: For example, withholding financial resources, overspending without consent, leaving little money
- Sexual Abuse: For example, interfering with or manipulating birth control, attempting sex without consent
4. Think of the boundaries you want to set
When someone treats you badly in a relationship, the most important thing you need to do is set clear boundaries. To be able to do that, take a step back and think, why do feel like you have been mistreated? Think of your boundaries. Analyze what makes you feel respected, valued, and most importantly, safe.
To be able to know how to react when someone treats you badly in a relationship, you need to understand and know yourself. You also need to be well-versed with the vocabulary of your feelings. Prepare your statements before you talk to them. If you don’t know what you feel and how you would like to feel, how would you communicate it to the other person?
Related Reading: 10 Must-Follow Healthy Relationship Boundaries
5. Communicate your boundaries to your partner assertively
Now that you know what you want and what hurt you, it’s time to put these thoughts into words. You need to tell your partner what they did wrong and what you expect from them. Assertiveness means you should speak clearly, respectfully, calmly, and with courage.
Ideally, your partner should offer you a sincere apology that includes an understanding of their action and its impact on you, remorse for their behavior, and reassurance that they will not repeat it.
6. Do not put up with bad behavior
If you have told your partner why you were hurt by their words/actions and why they must change their behavior, do not allow them to misbehave with you again. If you let them, you’re telling them that you do not respect yourself. You are essentially saying, “I am okay with this. Carry on.”
Remember, the way someone treats you is how they feel about you. The cycle of abuse only gets reinforced ever so strongly when you put up with bad behavior. Learn to say a strict, “No, I will not tolerate this”, when someone treats you badly in a relationship.
Related Reading: 11 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem Behaviors In A Relationship
7. Introspection can tell you why you put up with bad behavior
If you have not actively refused to put up with your partner’s bad behavior and have not confronted them, you need to analyze what makes you tolerate misbehavior or abuse. You need to get to the root of your fear. People endure and ignore bad behavior from their partners mostly due to the following reasons:
- You are an empath personality type and think your partner is wounded and needs support
- You subconsciously think you deserve what you are getting
- You believe that they will change
- You are afraid to imagine a life without them
- You are not independent (emotionally, financially, physically, etc.)
Most of these beliefs stem from either poor self-esteem or a savior complex. You need to address them to let you tap into your personal source of courage and stand up to an abusive partner who treats you poorly.
8. Seek professional help
To get to the root of the issues that keep you from asserting your emotional rights, you may need external intervention and guidance. Working with a therapist can help you look back at childhood traumas that may trigger issues like fear of abandonment, insecure attachment style, or codependency issues.
Seek help from a mental health professional, who can handhold you and guide you toward a respectful life with a loving partner. They can also help you learn how to react when someone treats you badly in a relationship or abuses you. Should you need that help, skilled and licensed counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here to help you.
9. Give yourself love
When someone treats you badly in a relationship, be your own source of love, give yourself what you need, and see the difference. You must improve your relationship with yourself to feel more confident. Indulge in self-love. But don’t limit self-care and self-love tips to skin deep remedies.
Sure, going to a spa or getting a new haircut, or splurging on new shoes may lift your spirits. These may even allow you to prioritize your desires. But self-love is deeper than that and you might have to work harder at it. Here are some ways you can practice self-love in true earnest:
- Fixing your diet
- Picking up a hobby or a sport
- Reconnecting with an old friend
- Finding a therapist
- Forgiving yourself more readily
- Keeping a check on negative self-talk
- Keeping the promises you make to yourself
- Asserting your boundaries
10. Don’t settle for the bare minimum in a relationship
Observe the difference between the sentence, “You get what you deserve” and “You get what you think you deserve.” Nobody else decides what you deserve in your relationship other than yourself. When someone treats you badly in a relationship, you might need to step back and analyze the standards you have adjusted to.
You must raise your expectations and not settle for the bare minimum in your relationship. Do you think it is okay to sometimes be lied to? Do you think it is all right to hit your partner once in a while if you love them most of the time? Do you think it is okay to feel anxious and restless in love? Do you think drama in a relationship equates to “passion”? Think about your answers.
11. Don’t be afraid to walk out
When someone treats you badly and hurts you, maybe you should just walk out. Should you feel the need to do that, know that this act of self-preservation is neither unreasonable nor selfish. It is all right to feel scared of an unknown future, no matter how toxic the known present is. Your fear is entirely understandable. Be kind to yourself and take it one step at a time.
Take help from your loved ones. Get your affairs in order and leave! Be extremely mindful of your strategy for leaving, especially when dealing with a physically violent partner.
Related Reading: 9 Silent Red Flags In A Relationship No One Talks About
Knowing When To Leave
This research study titled, Abuse in Intimate Relationships, states, “It may be somewhat artificial to separate emotional abuse from physical forms of abuse because physical forms of abuse also inflict emotional and psychological harm to victims, and both forms of abuse serve to establish dominance and control over another person”.
When someone treats you badly in a relationship, you need to be honest with yourself about how bad things really are. You owe yourself an honest answer to the question “Am I in an abusive relationship?” Prepare yourself to leave your partner if you are a victim of abuse. If you’re not sure whether what you’re dealing with amounts to abuse, the following questions will give you some clarity:
- Does your partner hit you?
- Do they call you names?
- Do they regularly talk to you with contempt and condemnation?
- Have they been emotionally neglecting you without addressing their issues with you?
- Has your partner been cheating on you?
- Do they often engage in financial infidelity?
- Are they always/often disrespectful toward you?
- Do they make you feel small?
- Do they belittle you publicly? In front of your family, children, or friends?
- Do they gaslight you into believing that they did no wrong?
- Do they manipulate you into doubting your emotional feedback system?
- Do they trivialize your pain and refuse to do anything about it?
All of the above are signs he treats you badly or she mistreats you, physical violence should be a strict no-go. Verbal abuse and emotional neglect too can be extremely traumatizing for the victim. You do not deserve this humiliation.
If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
- We often tend to attribute our partners’ bad behavior to external causes, blaming their circumstances or ourselves for having instigated them
- One needs to learn to recognize abuse. Physical, emotional, financial, verbal, and sexual abuse, along with social isolation and emotional neglect, are ways your partner can treat you poorly
- Do not put up with bad behavior, think about your boundaries and communicate them assertively to your partner. Be compassionate and loving toward yourself
- You might find it difficult to resist bad behavior because of self-esteem issues or a savior complex or other underlying emotional trauma
- Should you find it difficult to stand up for yourself, resist bad behavior, or walk out of a toxic and abusive relationship, seek the help of a professional
If you find yourself frequently telling a trusted friend, “She/He treated me like I was nothing”, remind yourself that there’s a message in the way a man treats you or a woman behaves in a relationship. And ignoring their bad behavior will only reinforce it. They are clearly not showing you the respect you deserve. Ask them to change their ways, and if they don’t, be prepared to walk away. You must prioritize your physical safety and mental/emotional health.
When someone treats you badly in a relationship, you might find it difficult to leave because of self-esteem issues where you subconsciously think you do not deserve better behavior or because you have a savior complex where you think your partner is emotionally wounded and you can fix them. You might also stay with them because you trust that they will change. You might be afraid of a future without them.
You might love the idea of being in love with them. You might even feel inclined to put up with their behavior. You might pity them and try to heal the broken soul that makes them misbehave. But you will gradually find it more and more difficult to be in love with someone who treats you badly in a relationship until you cannot tolerate their presence in your life.