How To Recognize And Respond To Negging In A Relationship (37 Things To Know)

Negging in a relationship is not exactly an effective flirting technique; it usually hurts your partner’s self-esteem. When people neg, they feel insecure in their relationship and have decided to take you on the receiving end of low-grade insults or insults disguised as compliments. A compliment makes you feel better – “Great news on the promotion!”

A backhanded compliment, on the other hand, would hurt your self-esteem. “Great job on the promotion, but you should wear makeup when you go out from now on.” This kind of emotional abuse is never healthy and may mean you are in a toxic relationship. If you experience emotional abuse or emotional manipulation in the form of one of these ways, break up!

Your partner may see an insult as a compliment because they are used to emotional manipulation as a flirting technique, but relationships do not need to be that hard. You are walking on unsteady ground if you think your relationship is vulnerable to this unhealthy behavior. Don’t let anyone manipulate you or shake your confidence in any way!

What Is Negging?

The term negging is used in relationships to mess with your confidence. It’s abuse! The person doesn’t feel bad for saying the wrong thing but expects you to feel insecure and like you deserve to be treated that way. Make sure you do not tolerate this behavior because it is toxic. If you are a woman who has been flirted with this way, there are other men in the sea!

Throw any guy back who shows signs of negging. The top signs of negging will be shown in this article in the many examples we will go over. You need to watch for these signs because any guy who shows these signs is not a keeper. His behavior won’t change with time – unless he wants his behavior to change. If you see the signs, run! You don’t have to “change” him.

Even still, you do not need to wait for him to realize his behavior is wrong and change. If he realizes his behavior is wrong and he’s made a mistake, give him a chance to apologize and change on his own. However, if he makes this “mistake” again, even if he says he is joking, be honest with yourself and let this guy go! He’s the wrong one for you! 

Examples Of Negging 

Healthline offers eight different kinds of negging that you may experience. None of them are pleasant. In fact, if you notice emotional manipulation in the form of toxic behavior like this or are in immediate danger, you need to realize this toxic relationship is bad for you. Get out, especially if you are in immediate danger of anything negative.

Here, we will look at the different types of negging and examples of each one. Just remember that this isn’t fun if you are on the receiving end of the “compliments.” And, you shouldn’t put up with this type of behavior in a relationship, especially if we are talking about a short-term boyfriend or girlfriend. Short-term relationships are usually easy to get out of.

It can be tricky to recognize negging because the person may genuinely not realize what he or she is doing. They often are just trying to control their insecurities by giving you insults, which is not fair, but it does happen. Even if the negging in a relationship is unintentional, it should not be tolerated. These are not fair ways to treat another person in any circumstance.

Backhanded Compliments

These happen when someone makes you feel good a little bit but quickly knocks you down. I must confess that I have a LOT of experience with these. I have someone in my life who loves to give me these little compliments with a bit of criticism splashed in there. It hurts every time I hear one of these because they are hurtful, even if they are unintentional.

I think the person just does not know how to give an honest compliment – something that makes you feel great about yourself. Instead, he or she must make you feel like crap because they want you to stoop to their level. It is not fair or fun for the person getting these compliments. I mean, how do you explain to them that the words they are using are very hurtful?

Things like this can actually bring tears to your eyes because they are just so mean. I mean, don’t you wish that everyone was required in school to take a class on how to be nice to one another as adults? Why don’t they teach more self-improvement classes in grade school? Teach people proper social skills so that they don’t participate in actions like this!

  1. “I love how your appearance used to be so clean and put together.”
  2. “Your hair looks different. I wish I had the guts to do something like that with my hair.”
  3. “Congrats on quitting smoking! Don’t you wish you would have done that before your fingernails and teeth turned yellow?”
  4. “It's cool that you started your own blog. I wish I had time to sit around and do nothing.”
  5. “That dress is so great! Next time, you might consider getting a bigger size or something like that.”

Confession time: All of those examples of negging have been said to me! I’m not even joking a little bit. That’s true. When you hear things like that from your partner, you begin to question whether they truly support you in life and in all of the decisions you make. In a relationship, you should expect your partner to have your back and not hurt your feelings by what they say!

Unfair Comparisons

unfair comparisons

Comparisons that are unfair usually involve another person, and you never come out ahead in the statement or comment. You might be compared to a friend or family member, but whatever the statement or comment is, it will make you feel like crap. You’ll want to just scream at the person saying these things to you because it hurts so bad!

Here are a few examples of unfair comparisons, but if you get the feeling that your partner does this to you on a regular basis, you should reconsider your position in your relationship. You don’t deserve treatment like this! No one does!

  1. “Your sister is so successful. Maybe you should get some business tips from her.”
  2. “Your friend just ran a marathon. Maybe you should ask her to teach you how to exercise like that.”
  3. “Our mutual friend just started her own business. I bet you wish you had success in your life like that!”

Confession Time: I don’t usually stick around to get compared to another person if someone is being mean to me, but I’ve still heard plenty of gossip in my life. I know my immediate family is a big fan of talking about people who cannot defend themselves since they are not present. Because of this, they have plenty of people to compare me to! It’s never fun or fair!

Constructive Criticism

Normally, constructive criticism is meant to help you improve in some way. You might have your boss compliment what you are doing well, but he also will explain the things you need to work on. This way, you know you are not a complete failure. Instead, your boss notices the things you do well, and he wants you to do an even better job by changing a few things!

When it comes to negging, “constructive criticism” does not help; it just hurts. They may try to come across as helping by hurting, but all they are doing is giving you flat-out insults. This section should be called criticism because there is nothing constructive or helpful that comes from these things. The words are just plain mean and shouldn’t be said in the first place. 

Here are a few examples so that you can see if you have experienced this in your life.

  1. “That article didn’t turn out well at all, but I know you didn’t understand it at all.”
  2. “I wonder what you were thinking when you walked out the door in that dress, which makes you look very big for such a small girl.”
  3. “Your taste in music is making me nauseous.”
  4. “You really should have worn a bra with that dress. It looks awful.”
  5. “I can see why your boyfriend flirts with other girls if this is how you dress.”

Confession time: I feel blessed that my man does not give my feedback like this, but I can’t say the same for other people in my life. They freely insult me and let me know the things that I am doing wrong or how lofty I spend my time. I get the feeling that my family doesn’t understand what I do for a living, and this makes me want to scream at them, but I don’t. 


This one is my favorite. I know WAY too many people that fit this bill. If your partner always has to prove you wrong, you might have a topper in the group. This just sucks all around because you just cannot win in a conversation with a topper. They will always know the right way to respond to anything you say – negative or positive. 

  1. “Did you break your arm? That’s nothing! I’ve broken both my arms in the past!”
  2. “It's cool that you are getting married, but I have bigger news! I’m pregnant!”
  3. “I know exactly what you mean because that’s happened to me before!”
  4. “I know you think that’s bad, but I’ve been there, and it’s not that bad.”
  5. “I believe you will get through this because I did, and look how great I am!”
  6. “Did you run a 5K marathon? I just finished a 10K one in New York!”

I have a family member who is the topper of all toppers. I’ve never seen anything like it. However, if you are in a relationship with someone who acts this way, I feel for you. From personal experience, it’s nearly impossible to have a conversation with someone like this, so how are you going to spend the rest of your life with someone who always tops you?

Insults in Disguise

insults in disguise

Oh, how we love these, right? Don’t they just make you want to scream? Really, the people who say these things just love talking bad about other people. And they like doing it to their faces. They don’t hide their feelings or mask what they are saying. These insults are carefully worded. Not only that, but they are just evil. Usually, the person’s motives are awful and mean.

  1. “That was a pretty good article. Where did you get all of the information?”
  2. “I love your new book. Who wrote it with you?”
  3. “Does anyone ever ask you if you are expecting a baby soon?”
  4. “Are you really going to eat all of what is on your plate?”
  5. “I was going to give you this dress, but don’t you think it’s too small?”

There’s really no need for a confession here. If you didn’t figure it out, yes, all of those questions have been asked of me. I always love the one about me being pregnant! Everyone appreciates someone indicating that you are fat or have a big belly; it REALLY makes your day and brings you joy and happiness, right? Ha! Maybe I just need new friends!!

“Just Joking” Phrases

You’ve got to love these phrases. I mean, why do they even need to be hurtful and say these things? Just because they can say, “Just kidding?” That really doesn’t make the hurtful comment any better or any nicer. I think people like to tear others down because it makes them feel better about themselves. Don’t allow your partner to talk to you like this, even if he is kidding!

Here are a few examples to get you started.

  1. “Wow! I can’t believe YOU, of all people, went back for second helpings! Just kidding!”
  2. “I guess you really do weigh that much if the scale nearly broke! Lighten up!”
  3. “Sometimes, I think you want me to cheat by the way you dress! Just joshing with ya!”
  4. “I wish sex was better or like our friends were talking about – amazing! Kidding!”
  5. “Do you think we should introduce someone new in the bedroom? Just a joke!”

To be honest, not all of those have been said to me, but you get the picture. Basically, the person saying these things can say what they want because they’ll claim it was all harmless afterward. However, this is hurtful behavior! Anyone would agree with that. True, you will have a great conversation starter with your friends – “Guess what he said?!?”

Misguided Regret

With this type of action, you will feel guilty when something was totally not your fault. You might get told that something is your fault when in reality, it wasn’t. They might accuse you of doing things that you never did. YOU might accuse them of saying something they claim was never said. This, in turn, makes you look like the bad guy.

  1. “I never said that!”
  2. “You are making that up!”
  3. “It’s not like that really hurt your feelings!”
  4. “What I said was not that bad!”
  5. “You are just too sensitive.”

Do you want a personal example? I didn’t realize my family was celebrating my sister’s birthday until it was pretty late in the week. I spent all day Saturday knitting her a scarf that I knew she’d love. She opened the package on Sunday and said, “I don’t wear scarves!” Lovely, right? Then, when Christmas rolled around, I had knitted everyone a scarf but her.

I bought her some bath products she wanted instead. She was so upset with me and hurtfully asked, “Why didn’t I get a scarf?” I said, in kind of a rude tone, “On your birthday, you told me you didn’t like or wear scarves!” She said that she would never say a thing like that and that it was so rude of me to accuse her of saying that. I think he’s not totally human! Ha!



Oh, how we love people who do this! They turn everything around to make you feel horrible for bringing it up! I mean, it’s not your fault, so why should you feel any sort of guilt for bringing it up? The answer is: You should not. They are just cruel people who don’t know how to have healthy social skills with others. If your partner is mean, you should discuss this with him or her.

Here are a few examples to show you what redirection is all about.

  1. “I bought that self-help book for you because I thought you’d like it. Geez! It’s not my fault!”
  2. “That was mean of her to say that, but she does have a pretty good point!”
  3. “Although you contributed, it was really your friend that should be given all of the credit for that project!”

Do you remember the topper that I mentioned? Well, when I once discussed the “topping” with her, she flipped out, cried, and got so angry. She’s very sensitive, obviously! She denied ever acting this way and really got angry about the whole situation. When someone redirects, they often get angry at you for bringing something up about them. Watch out for violence!

What To Do About Negging

So, we’ve covered negging pretty well. You should know now whether your partner is negging you or not. You’ve read the definition of negging and seen it in action with many examples. Now, it’s time to understand how to respond to negging. It’s important to know how to do this because this person is not going to change on their own, especially if they don’t know about it.

Because these people are sensitive and will react negatively, you have to be careful how you respond to negging. You don’t want them to get violent or abusive! If they do, please reach out to the authorities right away. If this is your spouse, leave your residence with your children and find a safe shelter to stay in for the night. Let them cool off, and notify law enforcement.

Since you won’t know for sure how they will respond when you try to discuss this problem with them, we will go over a few different ways to respond to someone who is negging you. Up to this point, you should know if your partner is negging you on a regular basis. Do they say hurtful things to you? Do you feel like crud after one conversation with your partner?

Don’t stoop to their level

It’s so easy to just give them what they are dishing out, right? You want to let them know that they are a jerk for saying those things to you. You can probably think of plenty of things that are wrong with them and choice words that you could contribute to the conversation to make them feel as bad as they should. You have every right to be mean right back but don’t. 

Tell them that they are hurting you

They may not realize the harm they are causing. They may have no clue they are jeopardizing the relationship by their actions and words. If you don’t speak up and let them know, they will just continue saying hurtful things. Explain what’s going on. Refer them to counseling if the two of you can go together. Perhaps a third party will be able to sort out and explain things better.

Ask for a change in behavior

Explain that in order for you to stay in the relationship you need a change to happen. Tell them what you expect. Explain the actions that they are doing that are harmful to your relationship and ask that they work on those things. If you see marked improvement, you’ll know that your words of correction worked, and you should offer much appreciation.

End things

Breaking up or ending things is never a popular option and should be a last resort, but with this kind of treatment, it’s hard to give you another option. You are being abused emotionally if you are constantly being spoken to like this. If you are in a short-term partnership, you don’t really even have to offer much explanation. Just say it’s not working out like you thought it would.

If things are more serious in nature, you’ve probably already tried counseling and asking for a change to happen. If nothing has worked so far, it’s time for a bigger adjustment. This means that the two of you need to part ways. If we are speaking about a marriage or long-term commitment, you might want to just separate for a specific period of time to see if it’ll work.

In the long run, you must do what’s best for you. If you have children, you must think of their feelings and what they are being exposed to. If they hear their parents speaking to one another like this, what kind of example are you setting? Think about what’s best for your family! Make sure you end the negging in your life, as it has no healthy place!


What are some examples of negging?

When someone tries to upset you by paying you an insult instead of a compliment. They might compliment you by talking about how pretty you look, but also talk about what a process your weight loss journey probably was! This is not the best way to win you over!

How do you tell if a guy is negging you?

If you feel like emotional abuse has taken place or are upset by something the guy said, you should walk away. He may laugh it off, acting like he was just joking, but this isn’t the best way to make you feel good about yourself. Girls should not put up with this talk.

Is negging flirting?

Some guys have this idea that they can win girls over by making them uncomfortable with insults followed by compliments. So, yes, they believe it is part of the process of flirting, but does it work? Maybe, but it shouldn’t! It’s a mean idea!

What to do when someone is negging you?

If you’ve been in unhealthy relationships where negging happened, you should know that it isn’t fun. It shakes your confidence and makes you self-conscious. Your partner is trying to control your feelings by what is being said. This means that you should get out of the relationship!

What are some backhanded compliments?

Girls who wear their hair like that have a great amount of self-esteem! A backhanded compliment may make you feel a little good, but they are really an insult meant to shake your confidence. If you are on the receiving end, you’ll know that they hurt your self-esteem.

In Summary

Relationships are hard work, and they begin even tougher if your partner thinks it is okay to break your confidence by turning compliments into insults. You deserve to be with someone who does not insult you or hurt your feelings. Negging is not hot, so just say “NO” or “NEXT!”

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