There are many things you should never tolerate in a relationship, though many of these things are MUCH easier said than done. We are complex beings and while we may rationally know we should not be with someone for some reason, it is not always so easy to “just walk away.”
Always remember that you are a worthy being and that you never “deserve” harmful things a partner may inflict upon you and you should never put up with a partner who makes you feel small, dram or unworthy so that they can build themselves up. You should never put up with a partner who abuses you.
With that being said, here are 14 specific examples of things you shouldn’t tolerate in a relationship:
1. Emotional Or Verbal Abuse
So many of us accept emotional abuse without realizing it. Physical abuse comes with bruises you can see, but emotional abuse is characterized by manipulative comments and controlling behavior that cause self-doubt. Live Bold and Bloom explains, “The victim of the abuse often doesn’t see the mistreatment as abusive. They develop coping mechanisms of denial and minimizing in order to deal with the stress.”
The behavior of emotional abusers may seem insignificant at first, but ongoing degrading treatment is representative of a much deeper issue. Behaviors to keep an eye out for include humiliating you in front of family, friends, or co-workers, forcing you to ask permission before you can go somewhere, taking anger out on you whether or not the problem has anything to do with you, insulting you and calling you cruel names, and threatening you in order to maintain control — and the list goes on.
Long-term emotional abuse can result in low self-esteem, withdrawal from family and friends, depression, illness, anxiety, and giving up on goals. You do not deserve this treatment, but recognizing and leaving an emotional abuser is a process that takes time. Take advantage of available resources and hotlines as you gather the courage to leave the relationship.
2. Physical Abuse
If your partner is physically abusing you, gathering the courage, strength, and ability to leave is a long, difficult process that can be complicated by economic barriers, among other issues. So be kind to yourself, while also recognizing that you do not deserve this treatment and have every right to leave the relationship. When you have decided that you are ready, there are precautions and steps to take in order to make your transition easier and safer. These include gathering any evidence of the abuse should you decide to press charges, having at least two escape plans and a predetermined safe place to go, and packing a bag with cash, medication, legal documents, a change of clothes, etc. For more specific recommendations, read this list from Women’s Law and check out these hotlines and other resources. There are also ways to keep yourself safe if you are not yet ready to leave the relationship.
3. A Partner Making You Feel Horrible When You Don’t Want To Have Sex, Which Can Often Lead To Assault
Marital rape, or the raping of one’s spouse, wasn’t illegal in every US state until 1993. The majority of state criminal codes contained a disgusting “marital rape exemption,” essentially declaring rape between spouses to be impossible. As RAINN explains, these horrifying laws represented the ideology “that only stranger rape constituted ‘real rape’ or that forced sex is a ‘wifely duty.'” While the crime is now recognized by law books, like other forms of sexual assault, it still occurs, is often not reported, and rapists are often not convicted. Our culture already makes it difficult for survivors to recognize and report rape, so it becomes even more difficult to understand your romantic partner as a rapist.
That’s why it’s important to recognize that partner/marital rape can happen in otherwise non-violent relationships, and to remember that consenting to a sexual act once does not mean consenting to a sexual act for all time. If your partner pressures you to engage in unwanted sexual activities because it is your “duty” or because you “owe” them, the relationship is abusive, unhealthy, and unsafe, and you deserve so much better. Refer to these hotlines and resources about partner rape for more help.
4. Body Shaming
When your partner shames you for your weight, appearance, etc., not only is it cruel, immature, and based in patriarchal falsehoods, but it can also be a manipulative way to convince you that you’ll never be good enough for anybody else; that you can’t leave your relationship, because no one else will ever love you. It’s a sickening method of establishing dominance and control in a relationship. You’re beautiful. Lots of people know you’re beautiful. You don’t have to stay with a person whose internal ugliness leads them to try and convince you otherwise.
5. A Partner Refusing To Listen To Your Sexual Needs
If a partner rushes through foreplay because they consider their orgasm more important than yours, makes you feel bad about your sexual preferences/needs because they require effort, or pressures you into activities that make you uncomfortable, voice your dissatisfaction and discomfort without shame.
6. A Partner Belittling Your Career Aspirations
It’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who doesn’t want to see you succeed. It’s one thing for your partner to provide constructive criticism, or to express frustration if your career has you ignoring the relationship. But if your partner’s insecurity, jealousy, controlling nature, sexist ideology, etc. causes them to actively insult your work ethic, mock your achievements, or even convince you to turn down opportunities, then you need to either confront the issue or walk away from the relationship. If you do neither of these things, imagine how you’ll feel, years later, after passing up an amazing experience to appease a selfish partner who didn’t want you to surpass their own accomplishments. Remember when Pam finally left art-career-hater Roy on The Office? Follow her lead.
7. A Partner Not Publicly Acknowledging Your Relationship
If you and your partner have mutually decided to enter a committed relationship, as opposed to a FWB, casual dating, or hookup situation, then it shouldn’t be a secret (unless, of course, there are reasons you two have chosen to keep it under wraps, away from familial and social pressures, etc.) However, if that is not the case with your relationship, yet they won’t introduce you to friends as a significant other, then consider it a red flag. If you are spending time on this relationship, then you deserve recognition. Does your partner consider you a placeholder, and doesn’t want to appear tied down in case someone else comes along? Are they lying about monogamy to multiple partners, and have to keep it secret? Are they embarrassed by the relationship because your appearance or gender defies social norms? You should only be with someone who respects you and is proud to be with you.
Gaslight is a 1944 mystery movie starring Ingrid Bergman as a newlywed. In the film, Bergman’s husband is looking for hidden treasure in their house with the help of the attic’s gaslights, which causes every other light in the house to dim. When Begman’s character addresses the dimming lights, her husband insists she is imagining things. From this film, the term “gaslighter” was born to describe a partner who tries to convince you that you are wrong or crazy.
Gaslighting is an especially common trait for controlling partners, as it lets your partner easily isolate you from friends and family by making you doubt your reality. Examples of gaslighting behavior include unfaithful partners convincing you that you fabricated proof of their affairs — “You’re just making this stuff up” — or a partner who stole something from you convincing you that you “gave it away.” If a gaslighter offends you with a comment and you confront the issue, they’ll probably say, “It was just a joke” or “Lighten up.” Leaving a gaslighter is challenging because of the self-doubt that it so maliciously creates, but it’s possible.
9. A Partner Who Keeps You Away From Your Friends
A humongous relationship red flag is a partner trying to isolate you from the people who have been in your life since before the relationship. There are many explanations for why they may behave this way, and all of them are bad. Your partner may become incredibly controlling, jealous, and insecure whenever you interact with any other person, to the point that it negatively affects your happiness, personal relationships, and self-care. Your partner may know that your friends will dislike the relationship for very good reasons, thus attempting to keep you away from people who will point out serious flaws and concerns. Partners who think they can claim you and separate you from your own world can never be trusted.
10. A Partner Always Accusing You Of Cheating
You should not have to sever relationships with close friends because of your partner’s insecurity. If there are certain aspects of your friendships that make your partner uncomfortable, then you should absolutely listen to their concerns and evaluate how your behavior may be hurtful. However, if your partner constantly accuses you of cheating with one or multiple friends, despite the fact that you haven’t and there is no cause for suspicion, then something is wrong. Your partner must recognize that you are a person outside of the relationship, and that you were a person before the relationship. That doesn’t mean you are unfaithful, or that they can speak to you like you are a cheater. All it means is that you are an independent, complex individual who has many people in her life for different reasons. This is especially dangerous because if you stay in the relationship without addressing the problem, you may find yourself pressured to actually stop hanging out with your friends. Also, take note of whether or not you accuse your partner of cheating with their friends, and if they hang out with their friends without any anxiety over how you will react. This double standard makes it even more obvious that you need to end their behavior, if not the relationship.
11. A Partner Not Respecting Your Boundaries
Does your partner joke about traumatic things that aren’t funny? Are you in recovery for drug and/or alcohol addiction, and your partners offers you these substances or consumes them around you, even if you’ve expressed your discomfort? Do they talk about their exes in a way that makes you uneasy? Does your partner share information about your private lives with others despite your protests? These are just a few ways that a partner can overstep your boundaries, and you should let them know that these are dealbreakers.
12. A Partner Invalidating Your Anger And Experiences
Similarly to how you must ditch a gaslighter, you should not tolerate a partner trying to convince you that important parts of your history or lived experiences are insignificant or untrue. One example: If a woman expresses anger about the catcalling she frequently faces on the way to work, and her male partner brushes it off as “not a big deal,” telling her to “consider it a compliment,” she needs to nip that idiocy in the bud. Now, it’s possible to educate your partner about issues that their race or gender may allow them to avoid, and it’s possible for them to learn to understand your experiences. However, if you don’t start a conversation calling them out on ignorant statements, you will rightfully become frustrated and irritated in the relationship. Likewise, do not let your partner disregard or minimize your anger.
13. A Partner Talking Over You And Interrupting
It’s said all the time, but it’s true: Communication is one of the most important parts of any relationship. If your partner frequently talks over you, even if it’s in a non-malicious, bad habit kind of way, you need to point it out to them. Next time they interrupt you or talk over you, ask “Do you want a conversation or an audience?”
Does your current partner get angry about your sexual history or number of past sexual partners? Does your partner call you a “slut” or “whore” if your outfit shows “too much skin”? Slut-shaming is your partner’s way of asserting control over your body; it is disgusting and has no place in a respectful, loving relationship.