Some background about me and my girlfriend:

  • We are in a long distance relationship for more than four years, so we only see each other on weekends (unfortunately not every weekend), but this is about to change soon (we are thinking of moving in together)
  • We both live in Germany
  • We are in our early 20s
  • I still live with my parents
  • She has her own little apartment
  • We both are a little introverted and don't have a lot of (good) friends
  • This is her first relationship, and my first to last this long

My girlfriend sometimes has problems expressing herself in a decent manner; that means she is most of the time very direct.

And that is where the problem lays. Whenever I do something and she has a different opinion about it, she is insulting me and whenever we make a mistake (if we do something together) she keeps blaming me for it.

A little Story/Example

This is a story that recently happened, and which resulted in me being heavily blamed and insulted.

She saw an ad for a cupboard on a website for used stuff, which was pretty cheap and it looked like it was in good shape. So we decided to take a look at it, and possibly buy it, which we did.

Back at her apartment (she lives on the second floor, so we have to get the cupboard upstairs). We tried to carry it up, but unfortunately we weren't able to get it up in one piece; that means there is a big scratch on the side. We both aren't the strongest and it was a heavy piece and the staircase is not very furniture-friendly. But we both did our best (which she knows).

Now she is pretty sad about the cupboard, so I tried to comfort her (that's not my strong suit). And while we reassembled the cupboard (we removed the doors before carrying so it would be easier to carry), she started to "insult" me, by telling me how bad of a craftsman I am, and that she would wish that I could handle stuff like this better.

While I am not the most skilled craftsman - I come from a family of craftsmen, so I learned a lot while growing up, but it is not my profession - I still don't consider myself as incapable of this, which I tried to tell her, but she kept going on. She also kept telling me that I could have done better while carrying the cupboard, and that as I am the man I should be much stronger. But actually it was both our fault that the cupboard did not survive like planned.

She also told me that I was stupid because I didn't hold it well enough.

I hope you were able to get an idea of how she hurts my feelings. While this might sound like a triviality, what's really hurting is, that she won't stop when I tell her that this hurts my feelings instead she keeps repeating, that in a relationship she should be able to tell me what she thinks (see: "What I've already tried"). I also think that this is disrespectful. This is just an example where this happened the last time, this happens very often.

What I've already tried

Talking to her that this hurts my feelings, to which she responded that in a relationship she needs to be able to tell me what she thinks. While I am of the same opinion, that you should be able to tell what's disturbing you with your SO, I don't think that doing this using harsh language is the correct way, as this is not at all constructive and hurting.

My Question

How can I show her that her behavior hurts my feelings and that I would like her to stop doing this?

Whenever she has something on her mind I try to comfort her, listen to her and reinforce her.

What I want to avoid

  • I don't want to break up with her
  • 25
    Am I right to assume that she says "...she needs to be able to tell me what she thinks" freely, but you are not allowed to do that as well? What would happen if she was asked how she would react to being told she is stupid because the doesn't know that she is supposed to be more empathetic. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 11:41
  • Related question. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 12:08
  • @Keeta I already told her that, she answered that the most important thing in a relationship is to be straight and honest with each other, without having to think about everything what you say.
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 12:09
  • 20
    @anonymous Honest? Do you think she honestly thinks you're stupid and less of a man? If she is claiming honesty, then is she reaffirming that she meant the hateful things she said?
    – Clay07g
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 15:58
  • 14
    @anonymous That's perfectly fine, but I really want you to consider your own definitions of honesty and intent. If she is not trying to hurt you, and yet she is not being honest, then what is she doing? You need to seek this answer because if I tell you here my comment will be removed.
    – Clay07g
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 16:11

16 Answers 16


You are correct. This is disrespectful and rude. You ask "How can I show her that her behavior hurts my feelings and that I would like her to stop doing this?"

Prior to my answer I will quickly note: A relationship where one partner continues to do something like this will not be healthy or sustainable in the long term. It is draining to be with a partner who always criticises you or puts you down and makes you feel small. My answer demonstrates how you can communicate to her why you are hurt, but if she continues to behave in this way, the relationship is going to be very difficult to maintain in the future.

Now on to my answer. As I alluded to in the note, it is draining to be with a person who criticises you or puts you down. Everywhere in the world you go there are people who are not on your side, who care nothing for you or your best interests. Your partner should be the one person in the world who is on your side, who does care for your best interests. We are constantly surrounded by people who want to judge us and want to criticise us. A partner is someone who is accepting for who we are.

As such, a partner has a lot of power over you. Their words have meaning, moreso than other people in the world. You can ignore their opinions, but you can't ignore hers because you care about her. She needs to learn that her position is one of power, and that she can't just throw words around flippantly like she may do with her friends or family.

This is a good place to start the conversation.

"I know I'm not the best craftsman. It's easy to compare myself with my family to tell that. When you tell me that I'm not a good craftsman, it reminds me of that yet again, and it's even worse because I really care about you and what you think. It makes me feel like I'm not good enough for you, it makes me feel like I need to change. I want to feel accepted by you."

She can "say whatever she wants", but she must also remember that her words have a lot of power with you. The closer you are to someone, the more powerful and influential their words are. She needs to learn to be careful with her words because they have a lot of power.

"Your opinion is really important to me, moreso than other people's opinions. I can ignore what they say. But your words have power, they are really important and valuable. I can't just ignore what you think like I can for other people. And when you remind me of things that are inadequate about me, things I already know, then it hurts a lot because I care about you a lot."

The critical thing here is that you communicate to her:

  • You care a lot about her and her opinion of you.
  • You want to be accepted by her and you want to feel good enough for her.
  • Her words are very powerful and influential to you because she is important.
  • When she uses these words, she can do a lot of good and a lot of damage.
  • When she speaks well of you, it can cancel out all of the bad/negative things that other people say.
  • When she speaks badly of you, it's worse than anything that anyone else could say.

Ultimately, this is a realisation that she needs to come to on her own. Your words will only get so far. She needs to learn this for herself, otherwise she's going to have difficulty in any relationship. If she doesn't learn this quickly, then the relationship is going to become more painful to endure as it continues.

  • 2
    I think this is a good approach to tell her how I feel, I hope she recognizes how she is hurting me and will stop it, thanks for taking your time to answer my question, I will wait for a little longer until I accept an answer to give people from other timezones the abillity to answer.
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 10:17
  • 14
    This answer is ignoring that some of the girlfriend's "insults" weren't pointing out inadequacies. In the question, OP states that is girlfriend called him stupid (surely that's not her opinion, and it's most definitely not pointing out an inadequacy). I would like to see an answer that addresses this.
    – Clay07g
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 16:02
  • Thank you stacey, I tried your approach by telling her that I care a lot about her opinion(as I am not able to see her now, by a textmessage), I will accept your answer, and now lets see how she is going to react. Maybe she will understand it.
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 19:45
  • 3
    @Clay07g To be technical, her calling him stupid is pointing out an inadequacy: that he's not intelligent enough. It is rude, just like the other things she is saying, but the answer still applies. There are plenty of other answers that comment on the abusive nature of this relationship. My goal here is to give the OP some practical advice on how he can give his GF an insight into why she should be thinking twice about her words so that they can salvage things, because he's made it clear to try that first.
    – user6818
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 8:09
  • 1
    @industry7 I didn't say anything about her words being logical or justified, or even make any assumptions about whether she herself truly believes what she was saying. I can't read her mind. It isn't logical to call someone stupid because they can't hold a cupboard. (If anything, they're lacking in hand-eye coordination, not IQ), and she probably isn't justified because it's not likely he is really that stupid. The point is, other people make us feel stupid all the time, and he needs her to be on his side, and calling him stupid isn't good partner behaviour (to say the least).
    – user6818
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 11:58

I'm sorry for all the abuse that you seem to have to tolerate, while also wanting to stay in a relationship with her.

Here's a quick digression:

I used to be in a long-term, exclusive relationship with a girl that was also verbally abusive to me, but I couldn't imagine being brave enough to break up with her - she was good-looking, popular, and smart. But she constantly claimed that I wasn't tough, wasn't manly enough, was not smart enough, was not mentally stimulating enough for her. She said other stuff about how she doubts I could put up with her bitchy ways. She brought up how I didn't go to an Ivy League school, even though she didn't go to one herself. My usual responses were pretty weak; I'd try to say, "but I am tough", "but I am smart", "but I am funny", etc.

All of my closest friends advised me to break up with her as soon as possible.

I finally did so, and I never looked back for a second - there wasn't an ounce of regret. I was able to be funny, confident, and caring to my friends again. I met new girls for dates, and life was very exciting and spontaneous.

You can't change her verbally abusive ways, and the problem is not about you.

This sounds like she has major intrapersonal issues to work out.

Now, onto what you can do, from an IPS perspective, if you are convinced that you want to stay in a relationship with her:

You can work on humorous, clever, and witty put-downs to respond to her with, when she insults you.

The goal here is humor, so refrain from any personal attacks on her, e.g. you could make a mockery of her insults or undermine the insults. You could try using a bit of exaggeration to make her realize how ridiculous her insults sound.

For example, when she calls you stupid, perhaps respond with,

Oh, wow, that's awesome! I’m really glad that someone was honest enough to express their opinion of me - and it really is helpful to know that I'm stupid!


I’m sorry, but did you just say that I was stupid??

Do not respond with anger.

If you respond with anger, you effectively give her insults credibility, and you will stoop to her level, equalizing you two in a pointless, unproductive argument.

Choose to accept some of the insults.

You could consider accepting some of her insults as a means to self-improvement, but you have to carefully analyze which of her insults are truthful, and which are just plain verbal abuse that you should not tolerate (and should thus respond back with humorous put-downs).

Unlike the insults from your closest and trustworthy friends and family members that you can sometimes use as a means to self-improvement, the insults from your abusive girlfriend are very likely only meant to harm you. I would be very careful about choosing to accept any of her insults.

Perhaps the best advice of all is to ignore the insults.

But this does not really apply to you, as you have already said that you want to stay in the relationship with her. So, you'll need to work on your responses to her.

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201302/how-deal-insults-and-put-downs

  • 69
    "If you respond with anger, you effectively give her insults credibility, and you will stoop to her level, equalizing you two in a pointless, unproductive argument." Which will lead to either her realizing she can't go on like that or both breaking up. With all seriousness, I do think sometimes anger is a valid response. It shows that you are hurt way better than just saying "I'm hurt".
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 7:24
  • 5
    I agree with @DonQuiKong 's comment. If OP's girflriend is "hard of hearing", anger can help to make her realize she's stomping on an important boundary better than any peaceful reasoning and that she cannot give him for granted. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 13:34
  • 15
    @anonymous While I don't think this warrants its own answer, what you're describing is abuse. You will have to make your own decision about what to put up with and how to show that it's not okay. Personally, I recommend you buy and read the book Respect-Me Rules by Michael J. Marshall and Shelly Marshall. It should be a pretty quick and easy read, but incredibly worth the insight.
    – mbomb007
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 14:44
  • 5
    I would argue that using sarcasm as a "witty response" is essentially a milder form of anger. It's a slightly more passive aggressive approach, which (depending on her personality) she might actually take more offense to than directly angry responses.
    – Mage Xy
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 18:34
  • 3
    I don't think passive aggression suggested by this answer is a good idea. Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 15:33

I might have been in a similar situation.

I have a health issue that bothers me so I won't go into further detail about it. The reason I mention it is because some times my girlfriend used it to hurt me even though I had asked her to stop it. The last time she did it I said "you know what?, I don't want anything with you anymore". Long story short, she apologized and she's never mentioned it again.

My advice is to show her that you won't tolerate such disrespect. I'm not saying that you should be mean, but make your point clear, and if she doesn't respect you then the best you can do is finish that relationship.

  • This does not go beyond the "what I have already tried" part of the question. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 4:29
  • 30
    @StephanKolassa I disagree, saying "if you keep with this behavior, I'm leaving" is very different from "you hurt my feelings". The former implies a consequence to her actions. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 8:18

To challenge your 'I don't want to break up with her':
How do you feel when you are leaving home to spend the weekend with her, do you feel excited to see her or do you feel a bit of anxiety? During the week when you are home by yourself, do you feel like you are kind of waiting for the weekend to be with her again, even if you two don't have anything planned?

Now for an actual answer: Stay home for a weekend when you would normally see her. When she asks you why you can't see her, tell her her comments had an negative impact on you and you'd like to spend the weekend by yourself and just do your own thing.
You've been spending a lot of your weekends with her, are there any friends you haven't seen in a while because of this? Hobbies you've stopped practicing? Something new you want to try? Put your phone on silent and go see that friend or go do that thing. Take some time off. Make her realize it's still your choice to see her and you're not afraid to take some time off for yourself. And if you answered yes on my second challenge question above, make yourself realize it too.

I'm a bit biased having come out of a 3 year relationship 8 months ago and now in wonderful 2 month old relationship, but really think about the long term value of this relationship. You both were given a challenge in getting that cupboard up the stairs. You succeeded in doing that as a couple, but instead of affixing a sense of victory to that cupboard you will now feel a sense of defeat every time you look at it.
How will you handle bigger issues as a couple? When you move in together these comments will erode your entire relationship (speaking from 2 experiences of 4 years and 3 years). OP, do NOT move in together before having resolved this!


Get out of that relationship.

She has no respect for you and that paradigm will not change. I speak from bitter experience. Your feelings matter; they are important. YOU matter. It's not acceptable to be spoken to like that. She hasn't heeded your calls for it to stop. You need to break out of that relationship my friend. You are being bullied. You will find someone else. The pain of the breakup will fade. For your own sake, end it now. Let her bully someone else.

  • 8
    This is the best answer, but will include one little bit: The OP should probably seek counseling to understand why he is willing to tolerate such abuse. To the OP: You have shortcomings and strengths as do all humans. So what. You need to find someone who can recognize and appreciate your strengths. If this person is willing to abuse you over a stupid used cupboard then what else will trigger such inappropriate rants?
    – Pete B.
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 16:28
  • "get out" is what to do if the solution fails, not the first step... if you feel like getting out, instead that means you don't fear fixing it, right? Nothing to lose. So just try something that might risk the relationship first before deciding to give up.
    – Peter
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 14:48
  • 1
    @Peter; you're quite right. However, I believe the OP took the first step by acknowledging his feelings and then, a second step if you will, told the antagonist to stop. It didn't work. @Pete B; follow up counseling is a great idea. What allows us to tolerate such abuse in the first place? I wish anon every health and happiness, and kindly thank those who have taken the time to comment.
    – user11728
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 16:17

Her behavior does not sound trivial. It sounds abusive. While I respect your want to stay with her, she needs to decide if she wants to stay with you or stop the abuse.

There is no point in your arguing with her while she's berating you. State that you will not tolerate such language, that it hurts, and that having a positive relationship with her is important to you. Then leave the scenario, or leave the room. If you want to discuss the abuse, do it with a mediator present.

That's my main suggestion. Abusive language is a major red flag in any relationship - get counseling. If she is unwilling to do that for you, is it worth continuing?


"In a relationship she should be able to tell me what she thinks" - this is true. But you should also be able to tell her what you think which is "she was insulting and mean".

Have a direct talk with her and let her know that yes, while there are other men who are more 'manly/stronger/intelligent', there are also other women who might be more 'kind/respectful/understanding'. Ask her how she would feel if you were to call her stupid and weak.

In any relationship, there are adjustments to be made but tolerating frequent insults from your partner is not one of them, that's a behavior that's going to cause problems for both of you in the long run.


You and she seem to have fundamentally different philosophies about relationships. Specifically, the two of you seem to place very different weight on respect and politeness vs. openness and candor.

Note that there is an important asymmetry here: if she is disrespectful to you, it will hurt you more than if you are not open towards her. After all, she may not even notice when you are not being open. (She does not sound very attuned to your feelings.)

Many people believe that one "should be able to tell what's disturbing you with your SO", to quote you. And yes, this is correct. Nevertheless, it needs to be done with respect. Respect and politeness are more important in close relationships than among strangers, because you can always walk away from strangers. Regularly hurting your SO's feelings can fester and poison the entire relationship.

Unfortunately, it appears to me that this is much more of an issue for you than for her. I suspect that your SO does not even understand why you are making "such a big deal" out of this. For you, conversely, it's like a few grains of sand in a delicate piece of machinery - it looks trivial, but over time, it will grind things down.

I recommend that you sit down with your SO and have a talk with her along nonviolent communication lines. Tell her specifically and neutrally what she said. Then tell her how this made you feel. Tell her that this is important to you, and ask her to work on her communication. Ask her whether she understands that this is an important topic for the long term, especially if you two plan on moving in together. Validate her desire for openness, but also ask her (and expect her!) to validate your desire for respect.

If she does understand that this is an important matter, then there is hope. Do consider counseling. Better to invest the time and money now than to let this fester.

If she brushes you off and treats your concerns about your communication style as cavalierly as she has been treating your requests for respect so far, I recommend strongly that you think long and hard about whether this is a relationship that you will be able to keep up in the long term. Constant low-grade conflict is not a good fundament for a relationship.

  • 7
    Saying "you are stupid", shifting the blame and making up false accusations ("not a craftsman/manly enough") have nothing to do with openness and candor. Honesty is not an excuse for verbal abuse.
    – Agent_L
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 16:07

Damn, there are many answers already, but I'm still going to add my own. I will use D. Hutchinson's excellent examples first, as I believe you will be able to look at them in a more detached way since they're not directly about you. Then I will switch to your question.

I used to be in a long-term, exclusive relationship with a girl that was also verbally abusive to me, but I couldn't imagine being brave enough to break up with her - she was good-looking, popular, and smart.

This is the heart of the matter: here, there are no kids, mortgages or other strong reasons to stay in an abusive relationship. You can end it at any time and make it stop. Of course, once you acknowledge that, you can no longer paint yourself as a powerless victim, and have to accept responsibility for letting her abuse you instead of simply leaving. It takes quite a bit of effort to admit this, but it's empowering. If a relationship makes you unhappy, you can either try to fix it or make it stop any time you want... No-one is pointing a gun to your head and forcing you to be a victim...

That said, I don't think OP's (or D.Hutchinson's) examples were abuse at all. It's a lot simpler than that. I'll still use D's examples because really, you two have the exact same problem.

she constantly claimed that I wasn't tough, wasn't manly enough, was not smart enough, was not mentally stimulating enough for her.

Of course! I also got served copious amounts of all of above, they're really funny. What she's doing is giving you a challenge. She wants a boyfriend who is manly, smart, and mentally stimulating (is anyone surprised by this?). Therefore, she asks you to show her that you actually possess these qualities. That's logic.

Picture your little brother inviting you to play a game, he could say something like "I'm so gonna crush your n00b ass on CoD!" (or basketball, or whatever). That isn't an insult, it's a challenge!

She said other stuff about how she doubts I could put up with her bitchy ways.

I got served that one tons of time too. She's trying to help you when she says that. That even sounds like an apology for treating you a bit rough...

My usual responses were pretty weak; I'd try to say, "but I am tough", "but I am smart", "but I am funny", etc.

Yes, this is called digging your own hole. Show, don't tell!

All of my closest friends advised me to break up with her as soon as possible.

They were either clueless or jealous you were dating the "good-looking, popular, and smart" girl.

Now back to OP. Sorry for the rough tone, but you need to be kicked back into shape.

Back at her apartment (she lives on the second floor, so we have to get the cupboard upstairs). We tried to carry it up but unfortunately we weren't able to get it up in one piece, that means there is a big scratch on the side. We both aren't the strongest and it was a heavy piece and the staircase is not very furniture-friendly. But we both did our best (which she knows).

She's blaming you for not taking charge and showing initiative.

You are supposed to assess the weight of the furniture, and decide together if you two will be able to carry it up the stairs. If you are not strong enough, there's nothing wrong with that. Find a solution to the problem. Someone needs to take initiative. Either you or her, but if she doesn't then it has to be you. Discuss it. "The stairway is narrow, and this is heavy, I think we should disassemble it, or call Steve for help, what do you think?"

You say "it was a heavy piece and the staircase is not very furniture-friendly". This means you are blaming the furniture and the staircase. However, these are inanimate objects. It crashed into the wall because one or both of you made it crash into the wall.

So, when her cupboard was damaged, what you should have done is accept responsibility: "Sorry for damaging it" or "I should have noticed the staircase would be a problem" or something like that, instead of weaseling out of it and blaming the staircase. The former will make her respect you more, and the latter will make her respect you less (and she's right about this, it is logical).

And while we reassembled the cupboard, she started to "insult" me, by telling me how bad of a craftsman I am

Maybe she was pissed that it was damaged and letting off steam? Angry people say things.

She also kept telling me that I could have done better while carrying the cupboard, and that as I am the man I should be much stronger. But actually it was both our fault that the cupboard did not survive like planned.

Dear feminist readers, please skip this paragraph. She is giving you all the information you need, but you aren't listening. She is literally telling you that as the man, she expects you to be in charge of hauling operations. You were supposed to direct her in the stairs. And as the one in charge, you're the one responsible for failure. Management 101. She's right.

Now you say "it was both our fault that the cupboard did not survive" which she would interpret as an attempt to weasel out of it and blame it on her. So she gets angry. Not surprising.


I hope you were able to get an idea of how she hurts my feelings.

You sure are complaining a lot! Try this experiment:

Tell her you thought about it, and yeah, it was your fault for breaking the cupboard. Explain how it happened. Something like "I didn't tell you to stop, so you kept turning left, and I didn't have time to get the proper grip, so I lost balance and it crashed."

Ask her if she expected you to direct her. My money's on a "yes". Ask her what you should have said to avoid the crash. Remember when hauling stuff, most of the time each person can't see the others' grip or when the stuff is going to crash in the wall. Communication is required.

Now, check her reaction. If you own your failure and show guilt, she's a lot more likely to forgive you or say that it's okay once she's no longer angry. In fact, this tells you if she's abusive or not. If you own your mistake and she doesn't forgive you, and keeps reminding you of the fact constantly to put you down, then it's abuse. If she forgives you after a reasonable delay, then she was just angry.

  • 6
    Thank you for providing a different view, I already have seen it as a challenge, while reassembling the cupboard, I gave my best to show her that I indeed am able to handle this, but instead of stopping to insult me, and acknowledge how I am handling this, she just continued to compare me to her father, which is a craftsman as well, and telling me how bad I am at this. I understand that in this particular event she might just be mad, but this is not the first time, and she sometimes does it without there being a reason to do so. So she doesnt give me a chance to improve. 1/2
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 11:57
  • 2
    Also I took responsibility, I told her that and tried to comfort her. The information that the staircase was to narrow was just so the readers have an idea about it. And even after telling her that I was not strong enough to carry it, she told me that I am not strong enough for a man. 2/2
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 12:00
  • 2
    If she compares you to her dad all the time, you're in trouble! Have you tried giving her less attention? How do you communicate? Texts?
    – user2135
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 12:18
  • 1
    She does indeed sometime. I think the reason for this is that she lost her mother when she was little. As we see each other only on weekends we communicate through texts, while not seeing each other
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 12:50
  • 3
    @anonymous, there is a lot of wisdom in many answers, this is one I liked the most. I can't write an answer but first thing is to make sure you feel yourself valuable at least as much as she is. From this position you can handle the situation in many different ways. You know, most communication is non-verbal. And if you feel inferior, you will show it somehow. There is noway to hide. Also you feel hurt because you feel like you are not enough, not because she does. Imagine 5yo telling you that you are stupid, would you be hurt? This is simpler said than done btw. Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 10:48

From the sound of it, she outright does not know that what she does hurts you. Without her actions having clear repercussions it's little wonder why she's become irresponsible towards you and thinks she can get away with doing what she does.

I say 'thinks', but past a certain point (and I speak from experience, having dealt with a good number of such cases) she probably doesn't think about it at all. Once you get too accustomed to someone, it's easy to forget the boundaries set between the two of you. This is in no way the kind of case that would warrant breaking up, not if you've been together for 4 years, because if she minded it so much outside of those immediate moments she would've broken up with you a long time ago. However, whether she wants it or not, through this kind of behavior she's using and abusing you. You need to confront her in order to set those boundaries and get her to understand what is acceptable and what is not. She probably won't be able to fix that outright, because changing unconscious behaviors like this one takes a lot of effort, but be clear and concise with her while giving her the chance to prove to you that she can do better than she currently is.


Direct feedback

Unpleasant, but not extremely so

Though I definitely will not advise you to go over the top with this, try giving direct feedback as appropriately and consistently as possible.

The feedback should be quick and simple.

For direct insults this is very easy: you find something that gives her a similar feeling as she gives you. The main thing to look out for is that you do not go for something that she feels too strong about, and don't apply this method when she is depressed in general.

Note that you should NOT put any emotion in the statement, it should be something that is not relevant, not untrue, and not important. Just as the thing she just said to you.


Whenever she calls you stupid, you tell her she is short

Completely irrelevant, not too intense, not related to the context, but creates the feedback loop that you seem to need.

Though using this feedback loop may be a trick, it is not something that needs to happen secretly. In fact you can explain why you are going to do this before you start.

I don't like you calling me stupid, from now on I will call you short whenever you call me stupid

For some purposes, like 'you are not a great craftsman', it may be more difficult, but if this is a recurring topic you can surely come up with an appriate reply. For instance:

You are not a great cook

or perhaps even

You are not a great craftsman yourself

Again the same criteria have to apply: you should NOT put any emotion in the statement, it should be something that is not relevant, not untrue, and not important.


In a relationship, I should be able to say what I think.

Mostly correct, and it helps a lot not having to second-guess your partner. So now you know that she thinks you not enough of a handy and strong man to be worth having.

Either you are ok with her metrics. If you are, you need to work on better matching them. If you aren't, you need to draw a line, and if she cannot be satisfied with the space that leaves her, you have no relationship to work with with her: just with who you wish her to be. But that one's out of your reach.

I think Oscar Wilde had one of his characters say in one of his works ("The Picture of Dorian Gray"?) "Men marry with the expectation that their wives will stay the same, women with the expectation that their husband will change. Both are disappointed."

At some point, both of you need to take a look at what you actually have rather than what you'd wish to be having (and that's quite harder when not going long-distance) and decide whether you can work with that.


How can I show her that her behavior hurts my feelings and that I would like her to stop doing this?

This is the question and also the solution.

Show, don't tell!

You can tell someone you're hurt, but for them to remember, they need to feel it. Human brains remember feelings better than facts. If you get emotional, she will notice. Then you can tell her why. Ignore her for some time if necessary. Or in short, make this a conflict she'll remember.

Conflicts are actually a healthy thing in a relationship (to some extent). Not everything can be talked out calmly, because if you seem calm, she'll think it's not that bad.

Make her see it is.


I also have problem defending myself when someone lashes out at me.

My solution:

Go for a walk and let your partner calm down

My solution, when I deemed the situation too extreme, was to say something along:

"I don't like you screaming at me/insulting me. I'll go for a walk, we both calm down and then we can talk about it."

I often ran into situations like this - we were moving and it has been stressful for both of us.

After I returned from the walk, we both had time to think about the issue, and if there was a way to solve it, we both had it figured out by then and the argument was gone.

This is probably the best solution when the situation is overwhelming. If you don't leave, one of you is soon gonna say something you're both going to regret. This also sends very strong signal to your partner, that you can't psychically stand such behavior - and after all, you really shouldn't have to, ever.

  • Thank you for your answer. Most of the time we aren't screaming at each other, she is just telling me these things as if I say hello to somebody. So the situation might not look that extreme.
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 10:06
  • @anonymous It was just an example. Different people say bad things in a different way, but the issue is the same if their words are hurting you. Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 10:15

If you don't want to risk breaking up with her, then you are in her power and she will continue to abuse you.

She is (presumably) an adult and responsible for her behaviour. This means you have every moral right to hold her accountable for the way she relates to you, and demand and end to her shitty and manipulative behaviour.

As a first step, you need to set clear boundaries that this behaviour is unacceptable and you will not tolerate. No need to be crude, but you need to be firm. Make your expectation that it not happen again absolutely clear. And then back it up. Do not tolerate abuse from her. She is an adult and therefore responsible for her behaviour.

In the short term, you can refuse to co-operate with her. Tell her right there and then to stop and that you won't tolerate it. If she continues, tell her to go get her furniture delivered by professionals. Just dump the cupboard in the stairwell, leave her at the dinner table or the party, or whatever the situation, and leave her with the problem of her own making. Do not cave in to emotional manipulation like crying and so on. She's the one who sucks for doing this to you.

Let her know that these tactics will not work on you.

If the behaviour continues, and you've discussed it, end the relationship.

Remember the golden rule: no one will respect you if you do not first respect yourself.

  • 1
    Please don't diagnose people here. We're not medical professionals and we don't have enough information to give technical diagnoses to users. Additionally, this network requires that users "Be nice". Your post utterly fails that test. Accusing someone you do not know of spousal abuse is not nice. You can absolutely answer questions with what to do but you must meet our standards.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 23:23
  • Note: This answer, and edits made/moderation actions on it, are being discussed on meta.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 4:25

You don't want to accept the various comments made as a single package as true? Then don't. Say nothing. Just look at her, with a neutral expression and neutral stance. When the outburst is past, initiate the next task, without any reference to the past.

Responding to the package gives every comment validity and/or invites more. Even demonstrating that they were untrue is likely to do no more than change the subject, without changing the likelihood of it happening again.

  • 1
    Although I agree that responding to the comments acknowledges some validity in the eyes of her I think your answer doens't take into account that this comments actually hurt OP. So I don't see how op is going to stay stoic neutral and "ignore" the comment he just received when being verbally harassed by the person he's in love with. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 14:16
  • 1
    @Alexander you are right, it is not easy to ignore it, but I don't think she is actively doing it to make me feel bad, even though I don't understand why she doesn't react to me telling her that it hurts.
    – anonymous
    Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 14:26
  • 3
    I think mainly because that would mean 2 things, 1 she made something wrong and should apololize, and from what you described I don't see it as an easy outcomming scenario since she seems to think she has the right to tell you so & 2º I think she might have some partner male standards quite patriarchal (strong man, no emotions, do your duty, all that bs). It's just a shot in the dark since I don't have enough info on the background of you both but from the info gathered is just the feeling I get. Commented Mar 21, 2018 at 14:43

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