11 'Harmless' Comments Partners Say That Can Be Emotionally Abusive


The first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear the words “relationship abuse” is often “violence” — punching, kicking or physically harming a significant other in some way.

But sometimes, “violence” isn’t physical.

Sometimes relationship abuse comes in the form of words, statements or questions. And while a significant other might think what they’re saying is “harmless,” the person receiving those sentiments may feel hurt, trapped or manipulated.

That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share one “harmless” comment partners say that can actually be emotionally abusive. Please remember, if you’re in a relationship or have been in a relationship that seems emotionally abusive, you’re not alone, help is out there, and you deserve love and support.

Here is what our community shared with us:

1. “Lose some weight.”

“‘You should cover your arms. The extra fat makes you look even bigger than you are.’ Gee, thanks. That was said to me as a teen getting ready for prom. Here I am at 30 still hearing that voice in my head, still hating my body (especially my arms) while trying to lose weight.” — Shaye B.

2. “Did you take your medication?”

“When I would try to talk to my ex about my depression he would just say, ‘Take your medicine and go to bed.’ I would lie in bed crying for hours until I fell asleep.” — Alyssa V.

“Anytime I’m frustrated or feel overwhelmed: ‘Did you take your meds?’ Even when I say yes, he looks.” — Sabrina P.

“My ex-husband loved to ask if I took my meds if I didn’t agree with everything he did or said hour by hour. He’d even shake the med bottles. But he also would put a Bible under my pillow when I was in bed crying with a migraine. He said it was the devil causing pain, and I must have done some thing to invite him in. I mentioned he’s an ex, right?” — Jessica B.

“Once during a disagreement with a romantic partner I was told: ‘I like you better when you’re on meds.'” — Olivia V.

“It can’t be good putting all those chemicals into your body (while referring to my medication) Or the very tone-heavy, ‘No, it’s OK, nevermind.’ Looking back on it all now, there was so much gaslighting!” — Julz T.

3. “It’s not that bad.”

“‘Its not that bad.” This makes me happy I don’t have children to pass that ignorance to.” — Dave G.

4. “You always find something to be upset about.”

“’You always find something to be upset about.’ I heard this from my family and now my husband. Standing up for yourself isn’t a crime. Setting boundaries isn’t a sin. Not settling for less than you or anyone else deserves is nothing to apologize for.” — Kristen B.

5. “Am I talking to you or your borderline personality disorder?”

“‘You’re being very borderline today,’ or ‘Stop being so borderline today.’ I have borderline personality disorder (BPD) and anytime I say anything negative — I have anxiety, I feel emotional or I don’t agree with him — that statement is his go-to response. — Megan G.

“‘Am I talking to you or your BPD?’ This was after I got upset for him cheating and he told me I was hallucinating when I spotted a mark on his neck to get away with it further. I ended up on a higher dosage of meds then I needed, and then there was: ‘Am I not giving you enough attention? Why do you keep attempting suicide?” — Victoria E.

“A friend said to me: ‘You put your BPD as a big thing until you can’t see anything behind it.’ It think it’s really hurtful. She doesn’t even know how it feels living with BPD.” — Nini R.

6. “Stop being so lazy.”

“I really really hate the word lazy. My ex called me lazy all the time. I worked two jobs and walked three miles in the Texas heat to get to them. I never really had energy for housework. On top of my depression body aches. I have my faults but lazy is not one of them. I’m sorry I inconvenience everyone with my inability to move.” — Naoko P.

7. “You have to choose to get better.”

“’You just have to choose to get better.’ I no longer talk about any struggle I have with them, so I don’t feel belittled and like I’m choosing to have my mental illnesses. — Harrison S.

“‘I was like you before. Depression is a choice, you just have to choose to be happy,’ said by my ex-boyfriend who I told all my problems to. He left me a month later, saying that he couldn’t handle being with me because of the fact that I’m depressed.” — Monaliza H.

8. “You’re being so dramatic.”

“‘You’re being dramatic!’ He would say this when he had done something he knew would upset me, which made me wonder if I was letting my anxiety and depression rule me instead of accepting that I was having human reactions to unacceptable behavior. — Jennifer S.

9. “You’re crazy.”

“‘You’re just crazy.’ Anytime I used to share a legitimate concern/hurt because I have bipolar disorder. It really made me afraid to share my feelings because I knew he wouldn’t take them seriously. We still struggle with this, but it has gotten better.” — Amanda G.

“Not me, but with my mom, I have seen my stepdad call her ‘crazy’ and tell her she needs to take her medication when they argue. It’s hard for both her and I because it’s almost as if she isn’t allowed to have feelings.” — Tilyn N.

“This was an ex: ‘You know you’re crazy, right?’ Knowing full well I’ve dealt with mental illness all my life due to trauma.” — Mariela L.

10. “No one else will love you.”

“Not so harmless, but my ex once said, ‘No one will love you like I love you,’ which still messes me up, even though I’m in a different relationship now.” — Danielle N.

11. “You’re doing this to yourself.”

“‘Just calm down, you are doing it to yourself.’ That one killed me. Especially since it was from someone who I thought loved me.” — Kate-Lynn R.

For more information about emotional abuse, check out this resource from The National Domestic Violence Hotline.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Mental Health

A screenshot from the movie, "Hereditary"

New Horror Movie Explores the Hereditary Nature of Mental Illness

A new horror movie, “Hereditary,” directed by Ari Aster, puts a supernatural twist on the topic of heredity. Specifically, the role heredity plays in passing down mental illness and distress. Toni Collette plays Annie Graham, a woman coping with the death of her mother. In the trailer, Annie describes her mother, Ellen Graham, as a secretive and [...]
Demi Lovato and her tweet

Demi Lovato Apologizes to Fans After Sharing 'Funniest' Prank She Ever Pulled

Demi Lovato answered a slew of questions from fans on Twitter Sunday. One fan asked the singer to share the “funniest” prank she’s ever pulled on someone. Lovato replied with a story about the time she surprised her bodyguard with a “lady of the night.” In a now-deleted tweet, Lovato said she hired a sex [...]
rdhead girl holding a white puppy, they both seem to be laughing out loud with heads back showing great joy

8 Benefits That Make Dogs Great for Your Mental Health and Wellbeing

Many children who don’t have a pet always dream about having a dog. And although some family members may not be thrilled by the arrival of your newest furry friend, it often ends up being the best thing to happen to any family. Other pets are great, but I believe life is so much better [...]
Little girl with pigtails looking at camera making a face, somewhat angry or puzzled

How to Teach Our Children the Important Skill of Self-Regulation

I’m a therapist, but I’m also a mom, wife, sister and daughter. Never in my whole life has someone telling me to “calm down” actually worked. In fact, if my husband says to me, to “Calm down. Take a deep breath.” I feel all of my 20 years of mental health training go out the [...]