The 21 Most Hurtful Phrases You’ll Hear From a Toxic Partner

Have you ever been blindsided by hurtful words from someone you love? 

If your partner regularly diminishes you with criticism or tries to control you with accusations, you may be the victim of emotional abuse. 

Toxic relationships often start subtly before escalating into a nightmare. 

Becoming aware of verbal tactics like gaslighting, blaming, and shaming can help you identify a harmful partnership. 

Though endings are painful, walking away from toxicity is the only path to fulfillment. 

You deserve to be cherished for everything you are. 

Now is the time to break destructive patterns and courageously choose yourself.

What Is a Toxic Partner?

A toxic partner is someone who brings more pain than joy into your life.

Though relationships require work, you should never feel constantly diminished, criticized, or controlled.

couple talking in kitchen things toxic partners say

Toxic partners employ insidious tactics to manipulate you

Warning signs include:

The first step is recognizing you deserve better.

Surround yourself with positive people who build you up. Start making a plan to leave and take back your freedom.

21 Hurtful and Confusing Things Toxic Partners Say

Toxic partners employ psychological tactics to control and diminish you.

Their words can slowly erode your self-worth while making you feel guilty and trapped.

Here are 21 of the most common hurtful or confusing phrases used by those in unhealthy relationships to manipulate their partners.

1. “You're Overreacting”

Toxic partners often use this phrase to dismiss your feelings and make you question your own reality. If you confront them about something hurtful they've said or done, they'll claim you're just being too sensitive or blowing things out of proportion.

This insidious gaslighting technique is designed to gradually erode your confidence in your own emotional responses. You'll start second-guessing whether you're right to feel upset by their actions. Over time, you can become conditioned to accept increasingly toxic behavior without objection.

2. “You Made Me Do It” 

Abusive partners refuse to take responsibility for their words and actions. When confronted, they'll claim you “made them” behave inappropriately, shifting blame and accountability.

This form of emotional blackmail plants seeds of self-doubt. You'll find yourself constantly trying to avoid triggering their anger and manipulation, even when you've done nothing wrong. Over time, you can become trapped in a dysfunctional cycle of walking on eggshells.

3. “No One Else Would Put Up With You”

Insulting your value and desirability is a classic tactic used to damage confidence and breed insecurity. Toxic partners want you to feel you're lucky they care about you at all, even if the relationship is destructive. 

This undermines your motivation to leave by making you feel unlovable. It also keeps you clinging to someone who doesn't treat you with the care you deserve from a real partner. Remember, you have value that reaches far beyond this one person's limitations.

4. “It Was Just a Joke”

Sometimes verbal abuse is disguised as “humor” to provide plausible deniability if you protest. When challenged, these venomous people will insist, “It was just a joke,” and accuse you of being unable to take a joke. 

In healthy relationships, both partners consider each other's feelings and avoid mean-spirited teasing. Question any “jokes” meant to humiliate or demean you – real humor should never come at someone else's expense. You deserve to feel safe, respected, and cared for.

5. “I'm The Only One Who Understands You”

Toxic partners present themselves as the only ones capable of accepting or understanding you. This discourages you from seeking outside support from friends or family.

By convincing you that others don't care, they isolate you emotionally. This separation makes it harder to gain perspective since they become your sole source of feedback. Remind yourself that your worth isn't defined by this one person's limitations. There are many people who appreciate and support you. 

6. “You're Just Like Your Mother/Father” 

Criticizing you by comparing you to a parent they know you have issues with is a low blow. Not only is it inaccurate, but it presses on your deepest insecurities.

A caring partner would never exploit vulnerabilities based on your painful history with a parent. Note when your partner uses your unresolved wounds against you rather than Handle conflicts respectfully. Their willingness to fight dirty reveals their poor character.

7. “You'll Regret Leaving Me” 

Threats about what will happen if you consider ending the relationship are fear-based control tactics. They want you to feel you can't safely walk away.

Remind yourself that everyone deserves to remove themselves from harmful situations. While the unknown future may seem scary, nothing is scarier than remaining trapped with someone toxic. Have faith in your strength and know you have the power to create the life you want.

8. “I'm Just Trying to Help You Improve”

Toxic partners disguise criticism as “constructive” advice, so you feel unappreciative or defensive if you don't take their direction. However, their focus is often on perceived flaws rather than building you up.

couple sitting man raising arm aggressively things toxic partners say

True partners offer guidance only when asked and know when to dial back unsolicited advice. Consider whether this person's “help” makes you feel empowered or diminished. You deserve support that expands your horizons, not shrinks them.

9. “You're Being Unreasonable” 

When confronted about their behavior, they portray you as irrational or “crazy” to invalidate your perspective. This undermines your ability to trust your own judgment.

However, just because they claim your response is unreasonable doesn't make it so. Look at the facts of the situation – is your reaction truly unwarranted, or are they trying to deflect accountability? Remind yourself you have a right to feel heard and respected.

10. “I Guess I Just Can't Do Anything Right”

Controlling partners use self-pity to make you feel guilty and back down when you confront them. They portray themselves as the victimized party.

Don't buy into the narrative – your partner's “hurt” over being called out does not excuse the original damaging behavior. You have a right to stand firm when someone treats you poorly, even if they act wounded when challenged.

11. “You Owe Me”

Whether it's guilt-tripping you about gifts, time spent together, or other “favors,” these partners use obligation and scorekeeping to control you. Healthy partners give freely without strings attached.

You don't “owe” anyone continued tolerance of mistreatment, no matter what they've done for you in the past. Remind yourself you can walk away from one-sided relationships – you deserve to be cherished, not emotionally indebted.

12. “I Can't Control My Anger”

Anger issues or impulse control problems are used by some partners to excuse upsetting behavior. However, unless they acknowledge the problem and sincerely work to improve, you're under no obligation to endure it. 

Consider whether you feel safe. Though mental health issues explain behavior, they don't justify abuse. You have a right to demand better treatment or remove yourself from the situation.

13. “Your Friends Don't Really Care About You”

Isolating you from loved ones is a common tactic of control. Toxic partners will insist your friends and family don't truly care, but only they do. 

This undermines your support system, fuels dependency, and distorts your reality. In truth, people who authentically care for you want you to be happy – even if that means ending a bad relationship. Evaluate who truly has your back while asking yourself why your partner is threatened by them.

14. “I Need You” 

Toxic partners present themselves as helpless and unable to function without you. This creates a sense of obligation and guilts you into staying in the dysfunctional dynamic.

Remind yourself that their threats of falling apart are manipulative. You are not responsible for any other adult's mental health or life struggles. Let go of undue burdens and prioritize your own well-being. Your worth is not defined by being needed.

15. “You're Nothing Without Me”

If you dare assert yourself, these partners are quick to put you back “in your place” with cruel remarks meant to shrink your self-perception.

The truth is your identity and value as a person have nothing to do with this other flawed human. You are already whole and worthy of love. This person wants to make you feel small, so you don't realize your power. Refuse to accept these distortions about your virtues.

16. “I Never Said That” 

Gaslighting by outright denying reality is a mind-twisting tactic used to erode your ability to trust yourself. These people will contradict your recollection of events, conversations, and even their own actions.  

Over time, this form of manipulation seeds self-doubt. You'll start distrusting your own memories and perceptions. To combat this, keep a journal noting interactions and how they made you feel. Seek outside confirmation from others when possible. Your experiences and intuition are valid.

17. “Why Are You Being So Difficult?”

When you express unhappiness or confront poor treatment, toxic partners flip the script to paint you as the unreasonable one causing problems. This diversionary tactic pushes your valid concerns aside.

Remember, calling out issues in a relationship is healthy communication, not “being difficult.” Partners focused on growth will listen, reflect, and work to improve. Question whether this person truly has your best interests in mind or mainly seeks to defend themselves.

18. “It's All In Your Head” 

Similar to gaslighting, this dismissive remark is meant to make you believe the problem is your own skewed perception, not their behavior. It implies you're emotionally unstable or can't be logical.

Stay grounded in your own reality. Toxic people sprinkle enough truth into their claims to confuse you. But if multiple people in your life confirm your experiences, believe them over the skeptics. Surround yourself with trustworthy perspectives.

19. “You Made Me Feel Unappreciated”

Emotional abusers avoid taking responsibility for their actions by blaming feelings on you rather than owning them. But it's impossible to “make” someone feel anything – we each choose how to interpret situations.

Note when a partner holds you accountable for their emotions, as it's a sign of immaturity. State clearly how their actions affected you, then disengage from childish guilt-tripping and accusations. You can't reason with unreasonable claims.

20. “You Embarrassed Me”

They play the victim when confronted, acting as if you've somehow wounded them by asserting yourself. But calling out poor treatment is healthy communication, not humiliation.

Beware shame-based language meant to make you feel guilty for speaking up. You have every right to express unhappiness and request change. If your partner paints this as embarrassment, they likely lack accountability and self-awareness. 

21. “Do You Really Think Anyone Else Would Put Up With This?”

Threatening to leave if you don't comply with their demands is a control tactic meant to play on abandonment fears. They often use insecurity against you.

Refuse to be emotionally blackmailed. A caring partner committed to growth may need to walk away from unhealthy dynamics – but not as petty punishment or lack of care. When someone truly cherishes you, they don't offer threat-based loyalty through fear.


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How to Respond to the Hurtful Things Toxic Partners Say

When subjected to the confusing, crazy-making tactics of a toxic partner, it's essential to respond in ways that protect your self-worth and boundaries. Here are some tips:

  • Get support. Never keep their hurtful words or behaviors a secret. Confide in trusted friends and family to reality-check. Their concern will reinforce that the toxicity is the problem – not you.
  • Be assertive. Clearly communicate how the remarks make you feel using “I” statements. If they respond defensively, disengage and revisit it later when emotions have cooled.
  • Know your worth. Toxic people often prey on insecurities. Make a list of your positive qualities to counteract their negativity. Remind yourself – their criticism says more about their issues than your value.
  • Enforce boundaries. Consider reducing contact if your partner continues to disparage or mistreat you. You teach people how to treat you by what you tolerate.
  • Consider counseling. A professional can help reveal unhealthy patterns in how you relate so you don't repeat them. They can also help build skills for assertiveness.

The most important thing is tuning into your intuition. If a relationship consistently diminishes your well-being, be willing to let it go. You deserve to feel cherished, respected, and free.

Final Thoughts

Though toxic relationships can erode self-worth, there is hope. You can break free by recognizing harmful behaviors early and responding with courage and self-compassion. Your liberation begins when you embrace your worth and accept nothing less than unconditional love. The possibilities for joy await.