11 Comments From Your Partner That Seem Kind But Are Subtly Toxic
If you're in a relationship, there are likely a lot of sweet comments flying around. Depending on how open you and your partner are with emotions and whatnot, you likely compliment each other, and maybe even talk about your feelings in an over-the-top way. And that's OK. But there are a few red flag comments that may seem subtle or sweet, but can be toxic.
And it can really help to learn how to tell the difference, and fix the problem whenever possible. "By recognizing manipulative tactics early on, you can detect underlying toxicity that will usually become more obvious later," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle.
To more accurately spot toxicity, "the best course of action is to look at the bigger picture," Bennett says. "For example, if you suspect your partner has controlling tendencies, then a comment checking up on you could be a red flag. On the other hand, if your partner seems relaxed and easygoing about your habits, it could be genuine worry."
It's up to you to figure out what's sweet and loving, and what's rude and manipulative. "If your partner’s comments are toxic, the best course of action is to communicate," Bennett says. "Ask the meaning behind comments and stand up for yourself if needed." By talking it out, you can help a rude partner adjust their language so they're more respectful. But if toxicity is afoot — and your partner shows no signs of change — don't hesitate to get out. Here are a few toxic comments experts say you need to discuss ASAP — even though they seem to be sweet.
1. "You're All I Have."
When you're in a healthy, stable relationship, it'll undoubtedly be great to hear that you're super important to your partner. Letting each other know how much the relationship means to you, and how central you are to each other's lives, is a beautiful thing.
But it is possible to go overboard. "While it sounds sweet and nice to be someone’s 'everything,' if your partner has no support network or friends and family, it puts a big burden on you," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "It’s toxic for your partner to expect you to be best friend, parent, and therapist all rolled into one."
If they lean on you for every little thing, and expect you to play every role 24/7, it can become tiresome — and controlling. It can help to remind your partner to keep their friend and family circle in tact — no matter how important the relationship becomes.
2. "I Worry So Much When You Don't Text Me."
If you go a few hours without texting your partner back, they might send a few worried texts. And that's OK. "It can be endearing when your partner wants you to be safe and checks on your welfare," Bennett says. "However, there’s a fine line between checking up because someone is worried and keeping tabs on another person out of a desire to control. Watch out for controlling behavior disguised as 'worry' or 'concern.'" This can quickly get out of hand, and is often an early sign of an emotionally abusive relationship.
3. "You're Way Too Good For me."
It all depends on the context when someone says something sweet, such as "you're way too good for me." It can be a sign they're head-over-heels, and smitten with the relationship.
But it can easily take on a more toxic tone. As Bennett says, "It can be taken as a compliment to hear that you’re a great catch and out of your partner’s league. However, if your partner has low self-esteem and feels you can do better, it can lead to toxic insecurity and resentment that [may] destroy the relationship."
This is a red flag that you'll definitely want to keep an eye on. Bring it to your partner's attention, and see if they can work on improving their self-esteem and feeling more secure. If not, it may be best to move on.
4. "No One Will Ever Love You As Much As I Do."
If your partner ever say something intense, such as "nobody will ever love you like I do" or "you will never experience love like this again," it's a major red flag.
"These are phrases of control — this idea of never, and nobody else implies that this person you are with is the be-all, end-all," licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula tells Bustle. "This can diminish your self-esteem a little bit because if things ever do start going south in the relationship you may feel as though you should not go or if you did, that you would end up alone or not properly loved."
So if it feels like too much, it probably is. "Much of this falls under the entire toxic pattern of the 'love bomb' — the over-the-top, fairytale, intense, all-encompassing courtship that can feel romantic but also overwhelming — and which can leave people seeming ungrateful or unromantic if they feel overwhelmed and want to get out," Dr. Durvasula says.
If it's genuine passion and you both feel it, that's one thing. But if you feel controlled or creeped out, don't be afraid to reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for help.
5. "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way."
If your partner ever says "I'm sorry you feel that way" after an argument, or after you bring up something that's bothering you, it can sound like a genuine, kind apology. But it's actually pretty dismissive.
"This communicates to you that your feelings are wrong, you are unreasonable, and you're not allowed to question/raise your issues with someone's [behaviors] that may be unacceptable," clinical psychologist Dr. Perpetua Neo tells Bustle.
5. "You Need To Calm Down."
Similarly, if your partner tells you to calm down when you're upset or when you're telling them about something that's bothering you, there is a chance it's dismissive.
"Initially, it can be a way to calm you down, to let you know everything is going to be OK," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "But if repeated, it becomes a statement of dismissal; of not acknowledging your feelings and basically telling you how to feel."
If your partner doesn't realize they're being dismissive, you need to let them know. This can turn into a toxic habit that, over time, can lead to both of you feeling resentful.
6. "I'm Only Trying To Help."
If your partner tacks on a phrase like "I'm only trying to help," there's a good chance what they just said was toxic. "When someone undermines you on the pretext of helping you, and then tells you you're sensitive, they're telling you your feelings aren't valid and that you can't trust yourself," Dr. Neo says. "Essentially, they are gaslighting you."
Of course, your partner might be genuinely trying to help, so it's important not to jump to conclusions. But if it's said in a way that feels manipulative, take note. "Whilst some comments are definitely aimed at helping some people, toxic people do this to justify bad behavior," Dr. Neo says. Don't be afraid to bring this up, if you feel like they're being disrespectful.
7. "You're So Quirky. You Should Tone It Down."
Another type of comment that may sound kind at first, but is actually toxic, is the thinly veiled compliment. If your partner calls out an aspect of your personality, for example, only to tell you that it's not good or you need to tone it down, take it as a red flag.
"We are all quirky in our own ways, and most of us can actually trust ourselves to have a healthy dose of quirk and still function in society," Dr. Neo says. "Toxic partners, however, get envious of their non-toxic partner's joy or certain qualities, and try to beat it down. Essentially, they do it to rob you of your personality and the things that matter."
8. "Don't You Trust Me?"
Trust is obviously a super important aspect of a relationship. But not when it's feigned in order to manipulate someone.
"If said in a kind and caring way, this comment expresses the thought that your partner has everything under control and you need to just let go and let them handle things," Dr. Klapow says. "Over time, however, if your partner is frequently asking if you trust them versus saying something like, 'I’m looking out for both of us,' the conversation can switch from letting your partner handle things to questions about trust in the relationship."
9. "You Look Great, But..."
There are genuine compliments that couples give each other. And then there are backhanded compliments. And if they aren't pointed out and corrected, it can become toxic real quick.
"It’s very important to assert yourself as soon as you hear a toxic compliment," Amie Leadingham, a Master Certified Relationship Coach, tells Bustle."They are often a sign of the way your partner was taught to communicate. The good news is that any skill that is learned can be unlearned. We teach people how to treat us in life. If we let those types of comments slide, we show that we don’t have boundaries and give others the ability to treat us less than we deserve. What you do in your personal relationship will bleed into other parts of your life, i.e. work, friendship, family. So it’s important to start communicating your boundaries."
10. "We'll Have The Salmon."
It might seem sweet on a first date if someone sweeps you into a restaurant and orders for you. After all, they might have planned out the date night and are really excited to show you their favorite foods.
But it shouldn't become a habit. "If your partner orders on your behalf just remember, this isn’t a sign of confidence, it is a sign of [insecurity]," Shar Fuller, founder of the relationship website Mai Tai, tells Bustle. It can also be a sign of someone who's controlling or narcissistic. So tread carefully.
11. "Our Sex Life Is Finally Getting Better!"
It's important to be open and communicate about your sex life as a couple, so that you can make sure you're on the same page, and that you know what works, what doesn't, and so on.
So it should raise some eyebrows if your partner comes out of the blue, with a comment like this. "You may have thought your sex life was pretty good," Laurel House, Relationship Coach and Resident Sex Expert for My First Blush, tells Bustle. "[They] never historically said that [they] didn’t enjoy it. But now that [they] said that it’s getting better, you question if [they] ever liked it at all."
The problem here isn't that they're talking about sex or commenting on it, but the fact it's clear they had issues and didn't tell you. "This style of communication will constantly keep your self-esteem and self-worth in flux," House says. "And that keeps you in check, and even feeling like your constantly walking on eggshells, hoping for [their] approval, but fearing [their] criticism."
In order to have a healthy relationship, communication is key. So if you notice any of these comments — and feel like they might be toxic — let your partner know. If they don't realize they're being hurtful or rude, pointing it out can put a stop it. And if they're doing it on purpose, the sooner you can remove yourself from a toxic or manipulative situation, the better.