Relationships
If your partner talks down to you, it's not worth staying in the relationship

4 Red Flags Your Partner Talks To You In An Unhealthy Way

Because that is definitely not OK.

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Most of the time you spend with your partner is probably going to involve some form of communication. Whether you're trying to get your joint schedule for the week solidified, or you're having intense conversations about things going on in your relationship — how you and your partner talk to each other can make a big difference in the way your partnership plays out in the long run. That's why knowing how to spot the red flags your partner talks to you in an unhealthy way is crucial.

Having differing communication styles is part of what makes talking with different people so interesting. Since opposites often attract, it's likely that you could end up dating someone who doesn't have the same communication style as you do. “Most partners come to relationships with different communication styles,” says Alexis Auleta, LCSW. “Because of this, they can get stuck when trying to move through and resolve conflict.” But there is a difference between a partner whose communication style clashes with yours, and a partner who disregards your feelings and verbally lashes out at you on the regular. To discern which it is, ask yourself how your partner talks to you and how you feel after. If you’re thinking “my boyfriend talks to me rudely” or “my girlfriend never listens to my side,” it could be a sign you have an unhealthy communication dynamic in the relationship.

Depending on the nature of your relationship, it may be possible to have a conversation with your partner about why the way they talk to you is so unacceptable. But it's important to tread carefully when broaching the subject, especially if they’ve ever been abusive in any way. If that’s the case, remember you are not alone, and there are resources you can turn to for help. However, if you believe the relationship is salvageable and you want to have a conversation with your partner, prepare your talking points in advance.

Below, four red flags your partner talks to you in an unhealthy way, and how to address it with them.

01
They Talk At You
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Being talked down to in a relationship is not OK. "This means that their voice is the dominant voice in your conversations," says NYC relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter. "It’s a form of control that reminds you that your input is of little significance." If you’ve ever had the thought, “My boyfriend talks down to me,” “My husband talks down to me,” or the person you’re with isn’t respecting you in some way, take note.

“When a partner talks at you, they are leaving absolutely no room for you to problem solve as a team,” Auleta tells Elite Daily. “A person who talks to you is willing to jump on the seesaw of solid communication. They can share their feelings in an open and honest way without being interrupted, and then they allow you to do the same.” This type of conversation takes more of a “we” approach than a “you versus me” approach, Auleta says.

We've all likely participated in one-sided conversations, and they're not fun. It can be so easy to talk over your SO without even realizing it, especially if they're more of an introvert and you're more of an extrovert. But you should always feel like you can rely on each other equally for emotional support. "If you feel like sharing your own feelings or relying on your partner emotionally will rock the boat, chances are you feel emotionally drained," life coach Kali Rogers previously told Bustle. "You never want to feel like someone's counselor, but that line can be blurred when there isn't a 50/50 split on emotional sharing."

According to Winter, the best way to deal with a partner who won't let you get a word in is to let them know in the moment that the conversation feels unbalanced.

02
They Are Constantly Playing The Role Of Educator

Everyone comes with their own unique background, knowledge, and skill set. This means people might feel like they can speak in an authoritative way about certain things. For example, if your partner works in construction and you teach high school history, you might know a thing or two more about the details of the Revolutionary War than they do, and they might have better insight on how to fix the leaky faucet. That’s totally normal and expected.

However, according to Winter, if your partner is constantly trying to control your thoughts or opinions, this isn't sustainable. "If your partner feels that it’s their responsibility to educate you as to how the world works, what choices to make, and how you should feel about the things that happened to you — this is unhealthy because your partner is trying to control how you think," says Winter. Think “mansplaining” — it’s explaining or “teaching” something in a totally condescending way.

“It’s a top-down approach, and it doesn’t work,” Auleta tells Elite Daily. “It’s one thing when a partner asks for advice and guidance. It’s another when that advice or instruction comes unsolicited.”

03
They Lash Out At You
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"An impatient or irritable partner can often use anger as their form of communication style," explains Winter. "There’s no real communication happening under these circumstances, only a partner barking back at you because they don’t feel good or they’re not happy."

Being grumpy and upset from time to time is a totally normal part of being alive. Sometimes, our feelings can cause us to direct our anger at others, and even though we've all probably done it, this way of communicating can be really damaging. But there’s a difference between simply being in a bad mood and lashing out at your partner. “When your partner lashes out at you, it feels aggressive,” says Auleta. “Like you’ve been punched in the gut and left on the side of the road. When your partner is in a bad mood, it may feel unpleasant but they’re not taking their feelings out on you directly.”

Winter recommends dealing with a partner who lashes out by diplomatically bringing up your concerns. "Try not to accuse or blame your partner, as that will only confound your efforts to establish a healthy flow of communication," says Winter. "Rather, seek to inform them of how their style of communication is affecting you."

04
They Shut Down

"Absolute and total silence is an unhealthy avoidance of communication," explains Winter. "It doesn’t provide you with any information, so it cannot lead to a solution. No matter how uncomfortable the subject may be, we need to be able to continue to have a free flow of communication."

Conversations, especially when they're emotionally triggering, can make some people shut down. In these situations, moving past the silent treatment can feel impossible. When voicing your concerns to a partner who struggles to engage in difficult conversations, Winter says it's important to address the problem head-on.

"Explain the situation to your partner from an 'I' position," says Winter. She suggests saying things like: “I want us to be able to communicate in a healthy manner. Silence doesn’t work for me. It leaves me guessing as to what you want and what you’re feeling. I’d like you to talk to me so that we can resolve whatever it is that’s going on.”

There's no such thing as perfection when it comes to relationships. We all make mistakes and have our own unique set of weaknesses we're working through. If communication is something that could be improved in your relationship, then calmly letting your partner know how you feel is a great way to start. Once you've alerted them to the communication issue, Winter also suggests giving your partner a brief example of an alternative way they could have gotten their message across that would work better for you.

Everyone deserves to be spoken to in a respectful manner. If you feel like your partner isn't doing that, or won't even talk to you about the possibility of changing, remember that you deserve the very best. Communication is vital to the health of a relationship, so it might be a good idea to make that a relationship priority.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.

Experts:

Susan Winter, relationship expert and love coach

Kali Rogers, life coach

Alexis Auleta, LCSW, individual, couples, and family therapist

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