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19 Reasons Why Name Calling is Not OK in Your Relationship

Sometimes it’s hard to know if we’re in an abusive relationship. Especially if it’s not physical. However, abusive behavior comes in many forms, so is it OK for your partner to call you names?

It’s never OK to call your spouse or partner names. In fact, name-calling, like belittling or swearing at them is a form of verbal abuse. Over time, it’s one of the most destructive behavior patterns that, left unchecked, will almost certainly lead to a breakup.

But there’s a lot more to know about communication in a relationship and how it can turn into verbal abuse. So let’s keep going.

In this article, we’re taking an in-depth look at yelling, belittling, and swearing at our spouse or partner. We’ll explore just how damaging that can be to a relationship too. Specifically, though, we’re answering the question of is it OK for your partner to call you names?

The answer is definitely no, so let’s explore why.

Table of Contents:

But now, let’s review the . . . 

19 Reasons Why Name Calling is Not OK in Your Relationship

1. It destroys your self-esteem

It may go without saying, but over time if your partner is always putting you down and calling you names, it will affect your self-esteem.

You may start to feel like you deserve to be treated that way. That’s especially true if you grew up in a home where this was the norm and if you were talked to that way as a child.

2. It replaces the love in the relationship with hate

As I get into more below, our emotional bucket where the feelings for our partner go is finite.

And the more of this there is, and the longer it goes on for, the more love in that bucket will get replaced by hate. Eventually, you’ll be left with nothing but angry feelings and all the love will be gone.

Even if they get help and change, it can be very hard to save the relationship once the love is no longer there.

3. It’s controlling

Verbal abuse is a form of control.

Ironically, it’s driven by their own insecurities. But at the end of the day, they are trying to control you, make you think less of yourself, and become more dependent on them. And they often do that because they have a fear of abandonment.

So they figure if they can squash your independence, you’ll never go anywhere.

4. It’s a form of verbal abuse

As I mention a few times, make no mistake; this is verbal abuse. Maybe it’s not as bad as physical abuse, but it is abuse and it is incredibly damaging.

5. It’s disrespectful

This one may seem obvious, but calling you names shows a complete lack of respect and regard for you as a person. In a way, they don’t care about you. They just care about hurting you verbally as it makes them feel superior.

6. It can lead to a constant escalation and battle

If you’re strong at all, you will eventually stop just lying there and taking it.

When that happens, you’ll begin to lob the ball back over the net and give it right back to them. This often leads to things escalating and creating an environment of constant hostility, drama, and anger.

7. It eliminates genuine communication

When verbal abuse starts and whether you dish it right back or withdraw and begin to question yourself, the real loss here is that it all but eliminates genuine communication.

In this environment, there just isn’t room for caring, conscientious sharing of feedback, thoughts, and desires. It also assuredly means that the verbal abuser never takes ownership of their behavior.

And a complete lack of ownership will prevent the relationship from ever being healthy.

8. You start to doubt yourself

If the verbal abuser is also a gaslighter, you may begin to question yourself.

You may not only start to feel like you deserve it, but may even question whether it’s your fault, or whether your behavior led to the abuse.

Make no mistake; there’s no excuse for abuse.

9. You deserve better

Of course, it goes without saying that every one of you reading this deserves to be with someone who truly loves you. Who respects you, cares about you, and communicates in a healthy way.

Now no one is perfect, so I’m not saying that.

But no one deserves to be name-called, talked down to, or otherwise emotionally abused. And while I’m not suggesting you dump the person, I am suggesting you set clear and healthy boundaries and enforce them by any means necessary.

10. It creates resentment

Even the most docile of us will eventually tire of being treated this way.

When that happens, not only will the love fade and hate or at least indifference will replace it, but you’ll begin to strongly resent them for treating you that way.

11. It will eventually lead to divorce

Not surprisingly, you will likely find yourself divorced if you’re married or plan to get married.

This type of behavior is one of the 4 worst behaviors a couple can engage in and according to renowned marriage expert Dr. John Gottman, I believe he found that 91% of the time, it would lead to divorce in the tens of thousands of cases he has studied.

12. It can open the door to other inappropriate behaviors

When you allow verbal abuse, the abuser can take advantage of that unspoken permission and begin to engage in other inappropriate behaviors.

I’ll get into physical abuse below, but they can easily start to gaslight, but also may start to get rougher sexually.

13. They can start to get more possessive

As I mentioned above, their behavior is ultimately driven by insecurity.

So as it continues and especially if it’s constant or escalating, that insecurity will start to show up in other ways. Those ways can include possessiveness, jealousy, controlling behavior, and they may begin looking at your phone or social media in a cyber-stalking sort of way.

14. It’s a sign of their insecurity

As I’ve mentioned a few times, this is them having insecurities.

Now all of us have those in varying degrees. The problem is when they turn them against you instead of looking within, they will never heal.

In other words, they will never improve until they are willing to take a good hard look at themselves.

15. It’s a terrible example if you have kids

The last thing you want is for your kids to grow up seeing your partner treat you this way.

Boys may grow up (if the abuser is your husband) thinking that this is how men treat women. And the cycle will continue.

Girls on the other hand may develop an avoidant attachment style and turn to drugs, alcohol, or promiscuity as a young adult to cope with the feelings of unworthiness.

16. Verbal abusers often turn physical if they aren’t getting what they want

Now if you cower, stay silent, and are otherwise meek in the face of the name-calling, this may not happen.

But in many cases, especially when faced with resistance, the verbal abuser will start to turn physical if they feel their current approach isn’t working.

It goes without saying that if you sense even a little bit that you are in physical danger, get out, get help, and call the domestic abuse hotline – 800-799-7233

17. It can create significant emotional damage over time

If this goes on for years, you can become permanently damaged on an emotional level.

It will destroy your life, rob you of all joy, decimate your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, and send you on a downward spiral that may see drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms.

18. It can create numerous physical issues

Loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and even things like stomach ulcers can all result from dealing with the stress of a partner who is verbally abusive.

19. It’s a form of bullying

Bullies are all driven by insecurity. They want to feel superior over others because of how poorly they see themselves.

As such, make no mistake, this is bullying.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to call your spouse names?

No is the short answer.

This should be obvious, but my wife and I used to do it to each other, so I know it happens. Luckily for my wife and me, we haven’t done this in over a decade. But it was part of the first couple years of our marriage as we learned to navigate our life together.

Whether it’s name-calling (the b-word, a-word, c-word, etc) or belittling (“you can’t do anything right” or “you’re worthless”) or just good old-fashion cursing (“F-you!”), these are TERRIBLE things to say to any human being. But that’s especially true when it’s our spouse or partner.

Our partner is supposed to be the one we can count on. Our rock or our port in the storm.

If instead, we come home from work and walk into the storm, that’s a terrible place to put your marriage or relationship. It’s also a terrible place to put your kids if you have any.

Name-calling can lead to divorce. But it’s not the only way. It’s actually one of the 4 worst things you can do to a spouse or partner according to renowned marriage experts Dr. John Gottman and Julie Gottman.

The Gottmans refer to them as the 4 horsemen and find they lead to divorce or breakup upwards of 90% of the time if not corrected. The 4 behaviors are:

  • Criticism
  • Contempt
  • Stonewalling
  • Defensiveness

I go much deeper into those 4, how they show up, and how to correct them in a recent article. Whether you are the giver or the receiver of any of those, my post can help you navigate through that.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How damaging is name-calling in a relationship?

In short, it’s incredibly damaging.

We are literally devaluing our partner right in front of them. We’re telling them that they don’t matter, and making them feel insignificant and inferior. It creates a toxic relationship.

I personally wouldn’t want to make anyone feel that way. But I especially wouldn’t want to make my wife feel that way. And yet, a decade or more ago, I used to do just that. And she did it to me too.

But beyond just making the other person feel bad, it builds resentment. When that happens, as it did with my wife and me, it makes the person receiving it want to retaliate.

After a while, like conflicts in the Middle East, who started it, who treated the other worse, or who’s turn it is to apologize becomes unclear and forgotten. Then it’s just an eternal war between the partners.

But ultimately, this form of spousal bullying can lead the receiving partner to anxiety and depression according to a recent study by Martin Teicher, MD, Ph.D. published by Harvard.

For anyone to experience depression is a tragedy. But when it’s caused by the person who is supposed to love us the most, that’s a devasting destruction of trust. It can take years of tough times before the relationship gets rebuilt, if it gets rebuilt at all.

How does name-calling affect someone?

Name-calling makes us question ourselves and our feelings of self-worth.

Now after a while, the love we once felt for our spouse or partner diminishes as does the value of their words. But initially, saying mean things can be devasting. Our self-esteem plummets and then we’re even more vulnerable.

Once that happens, it can lead the way for other types of abuse.

Think back to when you were in grade school, middle school, or high school. That kid who went around calling people names was what? That’s right. They were a bully.

In short, our words matter.

I don’t even like name-calling as a joke. Because I believe that words subliminally affect our subconscious and in turn, can cause us to believe it; even if it was said in jest.

I have a friend who, when he was younger, was called Butthead by everyone including his now-wife. To the best of my knowledge, he doesn’t go by that now. But even back then, and even though it was always said as a cute nickname, I can’t imagine it didn’t hurt; at least a little.

But in the big picture, think of your heart as a big water pitcher.

Initially, it’s filled with love when you first meet your partner and fall in love. As life goes on, mistakes happen, and especially when destructive behaviors start, slowly that love starts to get poured out the pitcher. In its place, other emotions begin to fill it.

Emotions like: anger, rage, loathing, apathy, and eventually hate.

The pitcher is finite; meaning it can only hold so much. Once the love is gone and it’s filled solely with those other emotions, it’s often too late to save the relationship.

So the trick is to catch this behavior early enough and turn it around while there is still some love there.

The good news is that most troubled relationships can be rekindled and brought back to life. In a recent article, I walk you through the exact steps my wife and I took in 2013 to get our marriage back on track.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

My husband calls me names and swears at me – is that bad?

The short answer is yes. That’s bad.

In fact, it’s a terrible way to behave towards anyone; especially our wife. Ultimately, while it’s most likely a behavior he learned, it’s being driven by 2 things:

  • Insecurity
  • A need to control (which in turn is actually driven by insecurity)

The person who name-calls, belittles, calls you bad names, or yells and screams at the person they are in a romantic relationship with is insecure. They are afraid. Now, of course, if you’ve done something worthy of making them feel insecure, like cheating, it’s understandable.

That doesn’t excuse that behavior, but at least we know why they are doing it.

To get your husband to move past this behavior, we have to get to the root of it. If it’s new behavior, what’s changed? Does he have a new job, is a child on the way, and he’s feeling stressed out?

But if he’s always been that way, it’s time to stop allowing it. Allowing is enabling, and the longer you allow it, the harder it will be to stop.

We’ll get into some specific action steps below, but the most important thing is to not just give it back to him. As Gandi once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

So we don’t get him to stop by behaving the same way towards him.

What is the meaning behind name-calling in a relationship?

When it comes to relationships, name-calling can be a toxic and hurtful behavior that can damage the emotional well-being of both partners. Name-calling is the act of using derogatory, insulting, or belittling language to refer to someone else, either in private or in public.

The meaning behind name-calling in a relationship can be a way of expressing frustration, anger, or disappointment towards the other person. It can also be a way of asserting power and control over the other person, or a way of deflecting blame and responsibility for one’s own actions.

However, no matter what the intent behind name-calling is, it is important to understand that it is never acceptable behavior in a healthy relationship. Name-calling can cause emotional harm to the other person, and can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem.

It can also damage the trust and respect that is essential to any strong relationship.

If you are the victim of name-calling in a relationship, it is important to recognize that this behavior is not your fault, and that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.

You can try to address the issue with your partner by explaining how their words make you feel and setting clear boundaries around what is and is not acceptable behavior in your relationship.

If you are the one engaging in name-calling, it is important to take responsibility for your actions and to recognize the harm that your words can cause. You can work on developing healthier ways of expressing your emotions, such as through active listening, empathy, and assertive communication.

Ultimately, the meaning behind name-calling in a relationship is that it is a harmful and destructive behavior that can undermine the trust, respect, and love that are essential to any healthy partnership.

By recognizing the impact of our words, and working towards more positive and respectful forms of communication, we can create stronger and more fulfilling relationships that are built on a foundation of mutual love and respect.

What are some examples of name-calling in a relationship?

Name-calling in a relationship can take many forms and can be directed toward a partner’s appearance, behavior, intelligence, or character. Here are some examples of name-calling that can occur in a relationship:

  • Insults about appearance: calling a partner “ugly,” “fat,” “too skinny,” or making derogatory comments about their physical features.
  • Insults about intelligence: calling a partner “stupid,” “dumb,” or making fun of their educational or career achievements.
  • Insults about behavior: calling a partner “lazy,” “irresponsible,” or “selfish,” or criticizing them for their habits or lifestyle choices.
  • Insults about personality: calling a partner “crazy,” “needy,” “clingy,” or “moody,” or making derogatory comments about their personality traits.
  • Insults about family: making derogatory comments about a partner’s family members, or using their family background as a way of insulting them.
  • Insults about gender or sexuality: making derogatory comments about a partner’s gender identity or sexual orientation, or using gender-based insults to demean them.
  • Insults about mental health: using mental health conditions as a way of insulting a partner, such as calling them “crazy” or “psycho.”

It’s important to recognize that name-calling is never acceptable behavior in a healthy relationship and that it can have long-lasting emotional consequences for both partners.

If you are experiencing name-calling in your relationship, it’s important to reach out for help and support, whether that’s from a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional.

What to do if you are doing the name-calling in your relationship

Name-calling is a hurtful behavior that can cause serious damage to a relationship. If you find yourself engaging in this behavior, it’s important to take action to stop it.

Here are some steps you can take:

  • Take responsibility for your actions. It can be difficult to admit that you are engaging in name-calling, but it’s an important first step in addressing the behavior. Acknowledge the hurt that you have caused and take ownership of your actions.
  • Identify the triggers for your behavior. Are there specific situations or emotions that lead you to engage in name-calling? Understanding the triggers for your behavior can help you anticipate and avoid them in the future.
  • Find alternative ways to express yourself. Name-calling is often a result of feeling frustrated, angry, or hurt. Instead of resorting to name-calling, try to express your feelings in a more constructive way. For example, you could say “I feel hurt when you do that” instead of calling your partner a hurtful name.
  • Seek professional help if needed. If you are struggling to control your behavior, or if you and your partner are unable to resolve the issue on your own, consider seeking the help of a professional. A therapist or counselor can help you work through the underlying issues that are contributing to the behavior.
  • Apologize and make amends. If you have already engaged in name-calling, it’s important to apologize and make amends. Acknowledge the hurt that you have caused, take responsibility for your actions, and make a commitment to change your behavior in the future.

Remember, changing any behavior takes time and effort. It’s important to be patient with yourself and your partner as you work to address the issue of name-calling in your relationship.

What to do if you are being called names in your relationship

Being called names in a relationship can be hurtful and damaging. If you are experiencing this behavior, it’s important to take action to protect yourself and address the issue. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Set boundaries. Let your partner know that name-calling is not acceptable and that you will not tolerate it. Be clear about the consequences if the behavior continues, such as ending the relationship.
  • Communicate your feelings. Let your partner know how their behavior is making you feel. Use “I” statements, such as “I feel hurt when you call me names,” rather than attacking or blaming language.
  • Seek support. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or professional about what you are experiencing. They can offer support and help you work through your feelings.
  • Consider couples counseling. If you and your partner are both committed to addressing the issue, couples counseling can help you work through the underlying issues that are contributing to the behavior.
  • Take care of yourself. It’s important to prioritize your own well-being. Engage in self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends and family.
  • Decide whether the relationship is healthy for you. If your partner is not willing to change their behavior or if the behavior continues despite your efforts to address it, it may be time to end the relationship for your own well-being.

Remember, you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness in your relationship. It’s important to take action to protect yourself and address the issue of name-calling if it is occurring.

Which type of abuse includes name-calling and belittling?

Ultimately what we’re talking about here is clearly verbal abuse.

There’s no indicator that verbal abuse leads to physical abuse. And yes, it’s not as bad as sexual assault or physical violence. But that doesn’t mean it’s not devastating to the partner receiving it, but even to the partner giving it.

After all, none of us were born wanting to harm anyone.

Doing harm, verbally or otherwise, is a learned behavior. Often the verbal abuser was themselves a victim of verbal abuse growing up. That may be all they knew as a child. And even if, as an adult, they recognize it’s bad to behave that way, it’s still familiar.

And many of us tend to repeat familiar behavior patterns even if we know they are bad for us. As an example, children of smokers are upwards of 21% more likely to smoke themselves compared to children of non-smokers, according to a recent study.

Being drawn to familiar behavior patterns is technically called Repetition Compulsion.

In a recent article, I explore more about what that is, why we do it, and, more importantly, how to break free of those patterns to get your life back.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Final thoughts

In this article, we took a deep dive into something many couples face and deal with; name-calling from their spouse (or to their spouse).

No one likes being called names, belittled, or sworn at, especially from the person who is supposed to love us unconditionally and more than anyone else.

But the truth is that anyone in long-term relationships, even the best partner or spouse can find themselves engaging in that behavior under the right circumstances.

So today we answered all the top questions and talked about some solutions for both people. Ultimately, we answered the question is it OK for your partner to call you names with a resounding no. That’s never OK.

But with some work, almost any marriage can be saved and turned into a happy marriage.

Jeff Campbell

Lucky Ibeakanma

Monday 17th of February 2020

Definitely wrong. Nothing destroys a relationship more than that. Better stay away from each other than tow that line.

Jeff Campbell

Tuesday 18th of February 2020

I agree! Thanks for being here and taking the time to comment!