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When Your Partner Says Hurtful Things

In a perfect world partners would always be kind, considerate and thoughtful toward each other. The reality is that partners sometimes, due to stress, fatigue or down right meanness do not always treat each other with respect. What are you to do with the cheap shots from your partner or others?

There are three possible types of responses when someone verbally assaults you. 1. Withdraw 2. Counterattack 3. Stand your ground


The first two responses only make matters worse. When you withdraw, you make yourself and easy target and it is only a matter of time before resentment will start to build. On the other hand if you counter attack things can get really ugly quickly.

Standing your ground involves first checking to see if you have misinterpreted what they said. Try saying something like, “Ouch, it sounds to me like you are saying that I am stupid. Is that what you are trying to say?” Or, “When you said _____, what are you trying to say?”

When you respect yourself by standing your ground, others will respect you as well.

However the best way to neutralize verbal attacks is to fortify the target. When you feel good about who you are, you will be far less affected by other’s comments. I ask, clients who are very distraught because their partner has said hurtful things to them, to think about how they would feel if their partner called them a purple dinosaur. Most of them respond that that would not bother them at all. I ask them to think about why that would not bother them. They say things like, “Well, it’s ridiculous.” Or “That’s just silly.”

The point is that it does not hurt because it is not true. There is not one little bit of them that on any level believes that they are a purple dinosaur. But often people, on some level, some part of them, do believe that they are stupid, ugly, a bad mother, or horrible person. Those beliefs create ready targets for verbal attacks.

Feeling good about yourself removes the ammunition from your partner’s arsenal. You need to hang onto yourself and give yourself the validation that you need, rather than depending on your partner to make you feel good about yourself.