A healthy relationship is built on respect. In a respectful relationship, both people acknowledge each other’s feelings and needs. They are willing to talk through problems calmly, and they are both happy to make reasonable compromises from time to time.
Unfortunately, disrespectful behavior is common in relationships. Disrespect can have serious consequences, so it’s important to know the signs of disrespect and how to handle a partner who doesn’t treat you well.
In this article, we’re going to focus on romantic relationships. If you’d like to learn more about how to handle disrespect in friendships, you might find our list of signs that your friend doesn’t respect you helpful.
- What is disrespectful behavior?
- Signs of disrespect in a relationship
- What to do if your partner disrespects you
- Common questions
What is disrespectful behavior?
In a respectful relationship, both people feel safe, accepted, and valued. If your partner’s behavior often makes you feel unimportant, worried, neglected, ignored, or insecure, there is probably a lack of respect in your relationship.
Disrespectful behavior is often damaging to a relationship and also impacts your mental health. It can leave you feeling resentful, insecure, anxious, or depressed. In some cases, disrespectful behavior can be abusive. Over time, a disrespectful partner can undermine your self-esteem and self-belief, particularly if they often criticize you or your decisions.
Signs of disrespect in a relationship
Some types of disrespectful behavior, such as mockery, verbal abuse, or forgetting special events that your partner knows are important to you, are blatant and quite easy to spot.
But some forms of disrespect are more subtle and harder to recognize. For example, turning up 10 or 20 minutes late for a date may not seem like a big deal, but if it keeps happening, your partner might not have enough respect for your time.
Here are some signs of disrespect in a romantic relationship:
1. They ignore your boundaries
A disrespectful partner may not care about your boundaries and limits. For example, if your girlfriend or boyfriend knows that you feel uncomfortable with public displays of affection but still tries to kiss you when other people are around, they are overstepping your boundaries.
2. They make unreasonable demands on your time
In a healthy relationship, both people understand that their partner is entitled to time alone and with others. A disrespectful partner might not accept that it’s normal for you to have a life outside of your relationship. For example, they may become annoyed if you want to spend time with your friends.
3. They snoop
Your partner does not have a right to look at things you’d rather keep to yourself, such as your text messages, your emails, or the amount of money in your bank account. Even if you’re in a long-term relationship or married, you are entitled to privacy.
4. They flirt with other people
Flirting with other men or women outside of your relationship is usually a sign of disrespect. For most people, knowing that their partner is flirting with someone else is embarrassing and awkward.
5. They don’t respect your opinions
In a good relationship, both partners realize that everyone is allowed to have their own opinions and that it’s OK to disagree. If your partner often dismisses your opinions as stupid or ignorant, they probably don’t see you as their equal.
6. They don’t listen to you
If your partner tunes you out or only half-listens when you speak, they probably don’t care very much about your thoughts, feelings, or opinions. Someone who respects you will be interested in the things you say and will listen, particularly if you’re trying to tell them about something that’s important to you.
7. They criticize or insult you
Put-downs, backhanded compliments, and hurtful criticism have no place in a respectful relationship. Your partner doesn’t have to agree with all of your life choices or opinions, but if they care for you, they will try to avoid making harsh comments.
8. They often talk about people they find attractive
Even when you’re in a committed relationship, it’s normal for you and your partner to notice and admire attractive guys or girls. But many people feel insecure or annoyed when their partners say that they find other people handsome or beautiful. If you’d rather not know when your partner notices other men or women, they should respect your wishes.
9. They take you for granted
Respectful partners appreciate the help you give them. They don’t assume that you’ll always be around to make their life easier. For example, if you often make dinner for your husband or wife, they should say, “Thank you,” even if you’ve been married for many years.
10. They compare you to other people
In a healthy relationship, both partners appreciate each other’s unique traits. They don’t compare their partner to other people because they know that comparisons can trigger insecurities.
11. They are too close to their ex-partner
Some people remain on good terms with their ex-partners. You don’t necessarily need to worry if your partner’s ex is still in their life.
But if your partner talks to their ex all the time or hangs out with them regularly, they are both failing to respect your current relationship. You may feel as though your partner’s ex gets too much of their time or attention.
12. They make big decisions without consulting you
A respectful partner will realize that big decisions in a relationship, such as where to live, should be made jointly. When a partner makes a big decision without you, they are saying, “I don’t value your opinion, so I’m going to take charge and do whatever I want.”
13. They don’t compromise
It’s unlikely that you and your partner have exactly the same tastes and preferences, so you should expect to compromise occasionally in your relationship. For example, if one of you wants to take a vacation by the sea, but the other wants to stay in the mountains instead, you’ll need to compromise to find a vacation that sounds fun for both of you.
However, disrespectful partners don’t like to compromise. They believe that their feelings and opinions are more important than yours and might start an argument whenever you suggest alternatives.
14. They are critical of your family and friends
Your partner doesn’t have to like all of your family and friends. In some cases, there might even be a good reason why they don’t get on with someone in your social circle. For example, if one of your relatives is often rude towards you, it would be natural for your partner to dislike them.
However, a respectful partner generally won’t criticize your family or friends. Instead, they will accept that you are close to other people and trust your ability to make good decisions about who you want to see.
15. They hide you from their family and friends
If your partner keeps you hidden from their family and friends, they might be embarrassed by you or your relationship. This behavior is disrespectful because it will probably make you feel like a shameful secret rather than a valued partner.
16. They refuse to listen to your concerns
Ideally, you should be able to talk about any worries you have about the relationship. When you have a difficult conversation with your partner, they should take you seriously. If your partner minimizes your concerns, ignores you, refuses to apologize for their hurtful behavior, or shuts the conversation down, their behavior is disrespectful.
17. They can’t fight fairly
Most couples argue from time to time. But if your partner often resorts to name-calling, insults, or other unhelpful tactics during arguments, their behavior could be a sign of disrespect.
Here are some examples of disrespectful communication during an argument:
- Stonewalling (refusing to talk about a topic and withdrawing from the conversation)
- Bringing up past insecurities, resentments, or events that have nothing to do with the problem you’re discussing
- Body language that shows contempt, such as eye-rolling or loud sighing
- Threatening to end the relationship if you don’t stop talking about the problem
18. They don’t care about your well-being
Watch out for behavior that suggests your partner doesn’t care about your well-being. For example, if your partner drives too fast even when you ask them to slow down or encourages you to smoke when you’ve been trying to quit, they are putting your safety and health at risk.
19. They lie or hide things from you
A person who respects you will be honest because they know that most people don’t want their partners to deceive them. A disrespectful partner might lie to you if it makes their life easier, even if they know you’d prefer to hear the truth.
20. They use you
Some people use their partners for something, such as money, a place to stay, an unpaid therapist, social status, professional connections, or sex.
A person who is using you doesn’t respect you. They don’t want to build a genuine, caring relationship—they only want to benefit themselves.
Here are some signs that your partner is taking advantage of you:
- They ask for lots of favors without offering much in return. They may act unusually nice or be very attentive when they want something in the hope that you’ll be more likely to say yes.
- They are very keen to meet any influential, successful, or rich people in your social circle.
- You spend a lot of time listening to their problems and supporting them emotionally, but they don’t seem to care when you want to talk about your feelings.
- They get angry or defensive if you ask for a healthier balance in your relationships, e.g., they become annoyed if you ask them to go 50/50 on bills.
- They aren’t interested in growing your relationship or committing to you. For example, they might not want to meet your friends, or they might change the subject when you ask them whether they want to make the relationship exclusive.
21. They have inconsiderate personal habits
Nobody is perfect. We all have a few annoying quirks. But a respectful partner will try to keep their bad habits in check, especially if you ask them to be more considerate. For example, if they tend to leave their wet towels on the bathroom floor when they stay at your house, a caring partner will try to be tidier if you ask them to clean up after themselves.
22. They share your secrets or gossip about you
Respectful partners know that some things should be kept private and that it’s not appropriate to share everything you tell them.
For example, if you tell your husband or wife about something traumatic from your past, they should not share the details with their relatives. Or if you tell your spouse about something embarrassing and upsetting that happened to you at work, it would be disrespectful of them to laugh about it with their friends.
There is an exception to this general rule: If your partner doesn’t know how to support you and is worried about your emotional or physical safety, it makes sense for them to ask a trusted friend, relative, or mental health professional for advice.
23. They don’t keep their promises
Caring partners don’t promise more than they can deliver because they don’t want to risk causing hurt and disappointment. Disrespectful partners may break promises because they don’t care how you feel when they let you down.
24. They are unfaithful
In an exclusive, monogamous relationship, cheating is extremely disrespectful behavior. If your partner is unfaithful to you, they are undermining the commitment you have made to each other.
What to do if your partner disrespects you
Disrespectful behavior from your partner can have major consequences for your well-being and relationship, so it’s best to address it quickly. In some cases, you might be able to work with your partner to solve the problem. But keep in mind that a partner who often disrespects you may not be someone you want to stay with.
Here are some steps you can take if your partner disrespects you:
1. Consider whether or not your partner is abusive
Some disrespectful partners are abusive, so it’s a good idea to learn the signs of abuse and how to get help. As a general rule, abuse is a pattern of behaviors that someone uses to gain control over another person. Abuse can be physical, emotional, financial, or sexual.
You can learn more about the different types of abuse and how to deal with it from The Hotline. They can help you work out whether or not you are in an abusive relationship and what to do next.
2. Communicate clearly about the problem
It’s possible that your partner doesn’t know that their behavior makes you feel disrespected. For example, if your partner grew up in a family where lateness was normal, they might not realize that you may feel hurt when they don’t turn up on time for your dates.
In this type of scenario, you might be able to solve the problem just by telling your partner how you feel. If you think that your partner has been thoughtless rather than mean or unkind, give them the benefit of the doubt.
For example, you could say, “I know you’re pretty laidback about time, and you aren’t the kind of person to worry about sticking to a schedule, but when you’re 20 minutes late, it feels like our dates don’t matter to you.”
You might like this article on how to improve communication in a relationship.
3. Write your partner a letter
Some people find it easier to share their thoughts and feelings or set boundaries in a letter or text instead of opening up in person. When you write your letter or text, bear in mind that there is nothing to stop your partner from showing it to someone else. It may be best to talk about sensitive topics, like sex or finances, in person.
4. Set boundaries
If you set boundaries and make it clear what you will and won’t tolerate in a relationship, your partner may stop their disrespectful behavior. If your partner cares about your feelings, they will listen and do their best to change.
To make your feelings and needs clear, use this formula: “When you _____, I feel _____. In the future, please _____.”
Here are some examples of boundaries:
- “When you make jokes about my hair or clothes in front of other people, I feel self-conscious and embarrassed. In the future, please don’t make jokes at my expense.”
- “When you try to read my texts, I feel uncomfortable and start to think that you don’t trust me. In the future, please don’t go through my phone.”
- “When you flirt with another woman/man in front of me, I feel embarrassed and disrespected. In the future, please don’t do it.”
If your partner oversteps your boundary again, you could try restating the boundary and telling them what the consequences will be if they disrespect you again. For example, you might say, “If you say something mean about my mother again, I’m going to hang up the phone.”
5. Suggest relationship therapy
If you and your partner are both committed to the relationship, couples therapy could help you to fix it. Couples therapy can teach you to communicate more effectively and sort out problems as they come up, which can lead to a more balanced, respectful relationship.
We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and are cheaper than going to a therapist's office.
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6. Know when to end the relationship
Not all relationships can or should be fixed. If your partner keeps disrespecting you and refuses to change their behavior, think about ending the relationship.
Relationships should make your life happier and easier. A partner who makes you feel unsafe, unwanted, or insecure probably isn’t right for you.
An abusive partner might react badly when you leave the relationship. If you need to break up with someone who has been abusing you, consider getting some support from The Hotline. They can help you put together a plan that will keep you safe during and after the breakup.
You’ll find more useful tips in this article about different ways to respond to people who disrespect you.
Can you love someone but not respect them?
According to most dictionary definitions, love and respect are different. Love is defined as a feeling of deep affection for someone, and respect is a feeling of admiration for a person’s character or actions. But in practice, a healthy, loving relationship involves mutual respect.
How do you know when you’ve lost respect for someone?
When you lose respect for someone, you no longer value their opinions or trust their judgment. You may start to question whether they are the kind of person you want in your life. If you lose respect for a romantic partner, you might also find them less attractive.
Which comes first, respect or love?
It depends on the situation. For example, you may respect someone’s character, then come to love them as you grow closer. Or you might quickly fall in love with someone, then come to respect them for their personality or achievements later. Respect and love can develop at the same time.