People vent. Whether it’s about their job, their friends, or their relationships, talking over mild frustrations with someone you trust can work wonders when it comes to fending off everyday stressors. It's normal! You may vent to your friends about bae taking eight hours to answer one simple text, and bae probably vents to their friends about the things you do that annoy them, too. But while venting is completely normal, it's another thing entirely to catch your partner badmouthing you over and over again, or saying something really unnecessarily cruel. If you feel like they've taken their critiques of you way too far, it may be time to have a serious conversation with them. After all, your partner should be your number one fan — not someone who feels the need to say awful things about you behind your back.
"If your partner wants to confide relationship issues in a friend or confidante, that's one thing, but to overhear him/her saying something negative is another story," dating coach Erika Ettin tells Elite Daily. "It requires a conversation — a hard conversation. Where are these words coming from? Jealousy? Intimidation? Actual hatred? You'll learn a lot from an open, honest conversation (perhaps with the help of a couples' counselor), and then decide how to proceed."
But before you jump right into having a hard conversation, it's important to note what exactly you caught your partner saying about you. "The first thing you might want to investigate is if you're hearing simple, innocuous grievances or if you're hearing comments that suggest disrespect toward you," Denise Limongello, psychotherapist and relationship expert, tells Elite Daily. If they're just venting to a friend or loved one, there's really nothing wrong with or abnormal about that. In fact, Limongello explains that talking through their issues with friends is even considered healthy. "Most often when venting to friends or family about our partners, we simply don't intend our partners to hear what we're saying."
"The only time 'badmouthing' is acceptable is when it's confused for venting, which ideally is meant to move the relationship forwards, not backwards," founder of Blush Life Coaching, Kali Rogers, tells Elite Daily. But if you feel like what you heard them say about you was cruel and crossed the line, it might be time to confront them.
"Ask a) why they didn't feel comfortable coming to you first? b) the nature of the badmouthing (was it venting?) and c) discuss the actual badmouthing at hand (what were they talking about?)," says Rogers. As tempting as it may be to fight fire with fire and begin badmouthing your partner to others, try to refrain. "Instead, break the cycle, and redirect the conversation between the two of you, where it most likely should have been in the first place," Rogers says.
Make the conversation personal. Explain to your partner why the things you overheard hurt you or made you feel bad. "The best thing to do is to discuss how that behavior affected you and what are acceptable and unacceptable ways to seek relationship advice from others," Rogers says.
If you feel like simply talking it out isn't enough and you want to get a broader opinion, that's OK too. "Seek the help of a professional or a friend or family member whose judgment you trust," Limongello recommends. "Process your feelings with that person to determine if your partner's complaints are normal and human, or indicative that he or she doesn't care for you the way you had hoped." Whether you talk about it between the two of you, with your friends and family, or in couples' therapy, make sure that in the end you're both airing out all your grievances.
Rogers suggests seeking help from a therapist, because "that way it's not seen as badmouthing, but instead seen as productive growth in a confidential environment." You can both use your time with the therapist as a way to really vent about each other, to each other, with a professional moderator that can help gear the conversation in a productive direction.
Sometimes, the people we love say things about us they don't mean with any intentional malice, but it comes across as hurtful anyways. Try to remember that, again, venting is beyond normal and expected in any relationship. As long as what your partner was saying about you wasn't crossing the line or felt cruel to you in any way, try not to jump to conclusions you might regret. And if what you heard did hurt you and it feels unacceptable, don't be afraid to take a stand and say "thank u, next." You deserve a partner who loves you and cheers you on, not one who talks bad about you behind your back.