Why You Shouldn't Tolerate Negging In A Relationship

We've seen in it movies (and probably also in real life). When someone you like is being rude to you, you're told by your friends that they are supposedly interested in you. As twisted as that logic sounds, over time, this idea of back-handed compliments or rude sarcastic comments veiled as flirtation has sort of been normalized in dating culture. In fact, it's not uncommon for friends or work colleagues to treat one another the same way. 

Psychologists and relationship experts have a term for this — they call it "negging." Negging is when someone you're getting to know romantically or even a friend or colleague offers backhanded compliments to you while flirting or says undermining or dismissive things to you as a form of alleged constructive criticism. As sex therapist Jesse Khan explained to Women's Health, "The idea is that by insulting the person you're 'flirting' with you'll make them desperate to change your opinion of them and win your approval." 

When you're getting to know someone for the first time, it's not always easy to notice the signs of negging, especially if low-self worth brought on by such comments have you questioning yourself. But negging is actually a form of emotional manipulation and it should not be tolerated. In long-term unions, it might even be an early sign of abuse in the relationship. Here's what negging can do in the long run. 

Negging normalizes disrespect

Dating coach Sabrina Zohar discussed negging in a TikTok and said that it is actually a sign of disrespect. Speaking with The Independent, Zohar explained, "It's passive aggressive and not exemplifying clear and direct communication, plus it normalizes disrespect and allows someone to show that in a way that's not as outward. It is incredibly toxic behavior."

Many of us deal with low self-esteem at different points in our lives, and if being around a particular person is making you constantly question your worth or accomplishments or you find yourself wanting to win their approval all the time, you may want to take a step back and analyze that relationship. Is the person using negging as a form of manipulation? Do they seem to be offering you compliments but are they always sandwiched between insults? 

More often than not, the person who engages in negging could be suffering from low self-esteem themselves, according to Zohar and they're using those backhanded compliments or dismissive comments as a way to make themselves feel better. Or they could be employing the tactic in the dating world simply because someone else told them it works as a pickup line. In some cases, negging can be used as a flirtation tool to stand out from the crowd or show confidence. Whatever the reason, negging isn't something you should tolerate. This is how you can spot and put a stop to negging in your relationship. 

Spotting the signs might take some effort on your part

If you are in a long-term relationship where negging is involved, noticing the signs might take some intentional effort on your part. Even if you've just started dating someone, the person negging you could make you believe that there's nothing sinister about their comments. In fact, they can turn around and make you feel like you're imagining things or being dramatic. Clinical trauma professional Silvi Saxena told Women's Health, "Those who neg are likely very good at acting as though they were trying to be kind if you call them out on being hurtful." 

Despite this, however, it's important to speak up and set some boundaries. A good barometer for you would be to assess how you feel around the person. Does talking to them leave you feeling worthless, hurt, angry, or confused? Possible comments to watch out for include, "I didn't know a short girl like you could pull off a dress like that," or "I don't know how I'd feel if my success came from pure luck like it did for you." Noticing the signs in the first step.

If the person is someone you can cut out of your life (an acquaintance or someone you just started talking to on a dating app), consider doing that. If not, confront them about their hurtful behavior and tell them you'd like them to change how they treat you. You don't have to tolerate being in an emotionally abusive relationship.