How To Deal With Belittling In A Relationship: 6 Effective Tips!

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Does your partner make you feel small, stupid, worthless?

Do they steal away your self-belief?

If so, you’re probably dealing with belittling in your relationship.

Let’s explore what belittling means, how it manifests, and what you can do about it.

What exactly is belittling?

You’ve probably heard the word thrown around before, but it can be hard to know what belittling really means in a real-life situation.

Before we run through some examples of belittling behavior and language, let’s get down to the core meaning.

Belittling is essentially being made to feel insignificant. People who belittle us can be condescending and undermine us (sometimes in public) to make us feel inferior.

Belittling is a very unhealthy behavior, but it can start as seemingly trivial small digs and little put downs every so often. Over time, it becomes habitual and can be very upsetting to experience, especially in a relationship from a partner we love and trust. 

How do I know if I’m being belittled?

If you regularly feel degraded or dismissed, there’s a chance your partner is belittling you.

Belittling can manifest through language and actions such as:

1. Humiliating you.

Your partner might go out of their way to make you feel or look stupid in front of other people.

This could be anything from calling you names and teasing you through to insulting you and undermining everything you say.

Maybe your partner tries to make you feel silly by saying certain things to you, or maybe they go one step further and play pranks on you.

This form of belittling will leave you feeling humiliated and confused. It is unfair behavior from anyone, let alone a loved one.

2. Criticizing you.

Your partner may start off with what seems like ‘feedback’ or constructive criticism, but this can rapidly descend into degrading and hurtful behavior.

If you’re often left feeling worthless, boring, or unattractive because of how your partner acts, you’re being belittled by them.

They may make remarks about how you need to dress differently, or how you’re not good enough to get the promotion you want. 

3. Insulting you.

Your partner may start questioning your decisions and making rude comments about them, maybe insulting your friends and family and putting you down for caring about them.

They may wind you up and degrade you, making unfair comments about your appearance, your job, how you choose to do certain things like clean or exercise. 

4. Dismissing you.

You may notice that any time you raise an issue, it’s dismissed straight away. Your partner might try to invalidate your feelings a lot, or trivialize them.

As such, you might be left feeling very lonely and isolated, or even be made to question whether or not you’re being dramatic and need to just dismiss it like they’ve done. 

Note: These are not the only forms belittling may show itself. But if you’re regularly made to feel small (belittle = be little!), your partner is belittling you.

This behavior is emotionally abusive and is not acceptable.

You may even have become so used to this kind of behavior that you no longer identify it as belittling. This is a sign that it has gone on for far too long that it feels normal and habitual for both of you.

You may have tried to talk to your partner about this before but been dismissed or felt like you’ve been gaslighted and made to question whether or not you’ve just made this all up in your head.

This is when it is time to make a change, because you do not deserve to be made to feel this way – nobody does. 

Why is my partner belittling me?

While there is no excuse for this kind of behavior, there are some explanations that might make sense to you about why your partner is behaving this way.

1. They’re insecure.

It’s a strange one, but a lot of people who belittle others are actually very insecure themselves.

They bully other people to make them feel as bad and insignificant as they feel, and belittling you is their way of trying to feel better about themselves by bringing you down to their level. 

2. They need to feel in control.

Some people have control issues and may feel that their partner is too independent from them.

They may get jealous of you having friends and a successful job, and want to feel in control of you and your life so that you never leave them.

They’ll belittle you and keep you down so that they are in control of how you feel and can ensure you feel trapped with them in this relationship. 

3. The reason actually doesn’t matter…

You will never know for sure why your partner is belittling you, and it’s not your responsibility to find out.

Some people act in ways for reasons we could never understand, and we have to either do our best to find solutions with them or move on from them if it becomes too difficult.

There are lots of things that could cause someone to act in this way, and you will exhaust yourself trying to figure out which one it is.

Instead, accept what is happening, understand that your feelings are valid and important, and do what you need to do to feel happy and secure. 

How can I deal with belittling in a relationship?

Once you’ve realized that your partner is belittling you, you’ll probably want to address it straight away.

It’s important to think your approach through first to ensure you don’t seem like you’re confronting or attacking them.

1. Start shutting it down.

If your partner starts belittling you, it’s okay to just say you don’t agree or you don’t like it when they behave this way. Many of us get so caught up in how we feel that we forget to express ourselves.

Your partner cares about you (hopefully!), even if they are acting this way, and will care that they have upset you.

If their behavior has progressed over time, it may feel so normal for you both that neither of you questions it anymore.

As such, you saying to them that you don’t agree with what they’re saying, or that it makes you feel bad, will be a wake-up call to them and should put a stop to the cycle of toxicity that has grown over time.

2. Be patient.

We know, it seems unfair that you have to be patient with the person who’s upsetting you!

However, your partner’s belittling behavior that has likely developed over time and is not something that will disappear overnight, unfortunately.

If this has become an ingrained behavior for them, they may take a while to understand the true implications of it and further time to adapt and get out of this habit.

Nobody can quit something overnight and expect to never have a blip, so try to be patient with your partner and trust that they are making the effort to change. 

3. Communicate openly.

Again, give your partner some time to snap out of this habit. You can help this process by being honest about how it makes you feel.

The more you remind them how you feel when they belittle you, the more they will remember to stop.

Sure, they should know anyway and be able to monitor their behavior as an adult, but we all need a helping hand at times.

Keep letting your partner know how you feel and keep working on solutions together.

Instead of just shouting or getting upset, you can say things like “I feel uncomfortable when you insult me in public” or “Please don’t trivialize things I am upset about.”

This isn’t antagonistic, but it does let them know how you feel and why you are asking them to change their behavior. 

4. Try to make light of it.

The best way to stop bullies is to stop them from seeing that their behavior affects you.

When your partner belittles you, try to make a joke out of it if you think it could help. Joking about it gives you more control and shuts the conversation down and turns it from negative to more neutral.

If they tell you your outfit is horrible, joke about how you’re wearing it for a bet.

It might seem silly, but the more you push back in a positive, funny way, the sooner they’ll realize that they’re not affecting you the way they want and they’ll back off a bit.

5. Talk to loved ones.

Confiding in our loved ones can help with many problems, and belittling in a relationship is no different.

Choose people who are exclusively your friends, not those whom your partner might be friendly with too. This makes it feel less awkward for the friend and means you can be truly honest without worrying about your partner finding out what you’ve said.

If you do feel like your partner is making you question whether or not things are happening, it can be really useful to speak to someone you trust and get their thoughts.

Sometimes we need to hear someone tell us our feelings are valid, especially if our partner is making us feel like they’re not!

Your friend will also be able to give you a bit of a confidence boost if you’re starting to question your worth, and will be there to remind you of how great you are in the absence of your partner doing it. 

6. Take a break.

It’s hard to take time out from any relationship, but it’s important to do what’s best for you. And if you regularly feel belittled or dismissed, what’s best for you is probably a little break.

It may take you asking for a break for your partner to realize just how serious things are.

We would suggest trying other things before this one, as this is more of a last-resort.

Walking away from a partner, even if it’s just for a couple of weeks or a month, is really hard – especially if the relationship is toxic already. They may make you question this decision and try to convince you you’re ‘crazy’ or wrong.

To make sure you follow through with this choice, speak to a loved one about it before. They will remind you of why you’re doing this if your partner does start making you question it, and they will be there to keep you company and show you love during this break.

You may realize that the break needs to be permanent, but, ideally, your partner will realize how much they love you and appreciate you, and will come back ready to make some changes and adapt their behavior in a healthy way. 

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Being belittled by a partner may start slowly but can build up easily and become very difficult to live with.

There are ways you can work with your partner on their behavior, including working with a professional couples’ therapist, but, ultimately, you need to decide how you feel and what you want to do – even if that involves walking away.

Still not sure what to do about the belittling in your relationship? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.