How to Deal With Hurtful Insults from Someone You Love

It hurts quite a lot to be insulted by someone you care about.

I don’t often insult people just to be mean, but if I decide to, I can cut a person down with only a few well-chosen words. The better you know someone, the easier it is to hurt them. You know all their weaknesses and insecurities. You know the character flaws that they are most ashamed of. And you can use these things against people.

If you’re a mean person, that is.

Luckily for me, I am not a mean person.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my mean moments, but I don’t often set out to hurt people with my words.

I make an effort not to gossip and ‘bitch’ about people. Yes, you know I even hate the word ‘bitch’. When someone is asking me my opinion on someone, I imagine that person standing next to me. I only say things that I would want them to hear. I try to be as nice as I can.

a photo of a sad woman

Every now and then, we all need to vent. There are appropriate ways to do this. Recently, I went through a bad breakup and had to rely heavily on my friends and family to pull me through without losing my mind. Luckily I have great friends and a very supportive family, and I am now ok – without having to resort to unnecessary meanness, pettiness and name-calling.

There were times I was so upset I wanted to call my ex and yell at him and tell him all the terrible things I thought about him. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to make him feel the same pain that I was feeling. But I didn’t do that. What did I do instead? I phoned a friend and vented to them instead.

My poor friend.

For a solid 15 minute block they heard me ramble on and on about my ex and say very constructive things like, “I MEAN he’s JUST and IDIOT… you know? Like YOU KNOW. Like, HOW could he do that? You KNOW?”

My friend didn’t try to justify my ramblings; my friend didn’t try to stop me. My friend simply said, “I know. I know. It’s hard. You’re hurting” until I came to my senses and realised how silly I was being. That’s what a good friend does. That’s what a good person does. My friend’s listening ear allowed me to get my venting off my chest in a (mostly) appropriate way, and I was able to move on without involving my ex or hurting him any further. Good luck and good riddance, I say!

There is no need to be mean.

I have an older ex (both in timeline and age) who had a real tendency for being mean. Ok, what do I mean by that? He would often trot out hurtful insults that had nothing to do with an argument. These insults were designed just to be hurtful. There are a few things we learn never to say to someone. We all have our insecurities. I do not have a thick skin at all. I am so incredibly sensitive that even little insults really cut me.

There is one word you can never use in front of me.

It’s the F word.

FAT.

If someone ever, ever, ever uses that word around me, I am not just insulted, but I shut down emotionally. I have an ex-ex-ex (ok, count ‘em, that’s three so far mentioned in this post) who was highly critical about my appearance. He went so far as to book my hair appointments for me and enlisted one of his female friends to take me shopping, as he didn’t like my ‘look’. He was paying, so I said “sure”.

Over the years, his constant fixation on my appearance had a negative influence on our relationship. I increasingly felt as if I was being ‘sized up’ every time I set foot in his apartment, and that does not make for a relaxing night. After a while I became so insecure that I had to stop seeing him at all. A woman wants to feel beautiful around her boyfriend and a man who does not provide this simple, free incentive is on borrowed time.

What are some tips to deal with insults?

One method is Acceptance

From Psychology Today: ‘Consider three things: whether the insult is true, who it came from, and why. In general, if I respect the person who insulted me, I ought to give thought to the insult and learn as much as I can from it. On the other hand, if I think that the person who insulted me is not worthy of my consideration, I have no reason to take offense at him, just as I have no reason to take offense at a naughty child or a barking dog.’

Another method is to Walk Away

Ever felt that someone is goading you just to get a response? Bullies do this all the time. “Bullies will often take any reaction as encouragement to continue” according to wikihow. There is nothing more satisfying than beating a bully at his or her own game. If someone has thrown something at you to make you react – then not reacting might drive them crazy. It’s a good technique, provided you can discipline yourself.

Another method is Using Humour

This can often deflect the insult and throw your attacker off. Using humour can be a great way to disarm someone. Having said that, it does take a lot of self-discipline and may not always be an option that you reach for in the heat of the moment. From Psychology Today: ‘Sometimes, it might even be appropriate to exaggerate or add to the insult so as to make a mockery of the insulter and, by extension, of the insult. Ah, if only you had known me better, you would have found greater fault still!’

Put downs really hurt but esoterically speaking, only you can make yourself feel bad.

Got that?

Only you can make yourself feel bad… or good.

No one has any power over your emotions, except for you personally.

“On days I am feeling insulted, I walk through the park and see the trees and they look do bland to me, so cold, so dull. I walk through the park when I am feeling elated, and the trees look so grand! So beautiful! But they’re the same bloody trees as yesterday! It’s only my emotional mindscape that makes me feel one way or another.”

By learning to control my emotional reactions – I am learning to free myself.

I have updated this post as well. Here are some further thoughts on dealing with insults – from my post Why am I being criticized? The answer is: people criticize those they admire

13 Comments

  • John says:

    That friend that listened to you ramble must really care a lot about you.

  • Hi, thanks for visiting my blog and If i must say you’ve got interesting articles to read-on here, Nice blog.

  • alycevayle says:

    Thanks for your comment Kim! I’m always at the variety of blogs I find on wordpress. I’m trying to post almost daily – it takes a lot of work!

  • Tori says:

    Hi I really appreciated this article. I’m in a relationship with someone I care so dearly about, but he is unable to communicate his feelings and it’s been having a big effect on my happiness. After he calms down he blames me for things that aren’t true and tonight he really tore me down. I’m not sure if you have any advice for that… But your words really helped me get my head back.

    • Alyce Vayle says:

      Thanks so much for your comments, Tori.
      I wrote the post about someone I cared about who always seemed to tear me down with his words. I came to realise that it was something in himself he was lacking – something that I could never give to him. People who are confident in their own capabilities and lives do not need to tear people down, they are too big for that. When we criticise someone else, it is an unfulfilled part of ourselves that we are trying to legitimize. Tearing down the person next to you is really just a distraction.
      Good luck with your relationship and remember to value and love yourself, with all your heart.
      —Alyce

  • yamilet says:

    my bf jst dumped me fr another gurl nd he said we should be friends bt later on he jst started insultin me and sayin hurtful stuffs abt me and d wort part of all is dat he always ignors me like i never existed in his life and dat hurts alot plzz i nid ur advice i cant stand him anymore he’s being a jerk to me nd i rili love him

    • Alyce Vayle says:

      Hi Yamilet,

      Thanks for your comment. I think you know what your answer is. Your “boyfriend” has told you that he only wants to be friends, and he’s insulting you. You need to get over him and find someone who loves and appreciates you for YOU. There is someone out there for you – trust me – and I don’t think it’s this guy. When you open your heart up and start to love and value yourself more, you will attract the right person into your life. As for this guy – start to ignore HIM and see if that changes things. Good luck and thanks for your comments.
      —Alyce

  • Savannah says:

    This was such a lovely post! Thank you for sharing!

    I’m wondering what your take would be on a situation that I’ve been struggling to handle.

    I’m currently in a musical, and we’ve been working on it for about a month now. I have one friend who signed up to work backstage today. I consider her to be one of my closest friends, and have for a couple years, but all she had to say was negative.

    She kept commenting on how bad my dancing was (in front of others, which added insult to injury), and then started laughing about it like it was a joke. Later she ragged on the production as a whole and said how disappointed she was in it, even though we’re still in rehearsal, so we’re not supposed to have everything right yet.

    It made me feel very hurt because I thought she was my friend and I want her to be proud of me. We’ve (the cast and crew) all worked really hard in the last month to try to put on a good show and we truly are doing our best.

    Part of me thinks that the fact that she auditioned for this same show and did not get in is partially why she’s lashing out so much, but I’m not sure how to respond to that. I have been trying to go easy on her, because lately, she’s been saying many rude things because she’s hurting. I keep giving her the benefit of the doubt, but I feel like if I continue to make excuses for her behavior, I will only end up resenting her.

    It would be different if this was new, but she’s been making backhanded comments all throughout our friendship; today’s were just the most overt.

    For example: this summer, she said–also in front of others–that I looked like Squinch from the Sandlot because I had such big teeth. Another time, she said that I sang weird, “like an old lady”, whatever that means. I know these sound like silly things to say, but they were all things that, like you mentioned, she knew would hurt me. They were also all things that she said in front of other people, and then acted like they were jokes so that I couldn’t be mad.

    Before, I could somewhat convince myself that I was being overly dramatic and sensitive and making it up in my head, but today it was more obvious than before that I wasn’t and I don’t know what I did to make her want to hurt my feelings. (It stands to mention that all of these other things happened before she didn’t get into the musical, so I know that it isn’t just about that.)

    It would be great to hear your perspective. Do you think I should tell her how I feel?

    • Alyce Vayle says:

      Hi Savannah-

      Well, let me congratulate you first on the fact that you seem to have been dealing with a rather “hot” situation with maturity and poise so far – and I agree that this is the tactic you should continue to take from here on in. As you’ve said in your letter, she’s only been able to secure a backstage placement and may be feeling envious of the fact that you were able to secure a more in-demand role. The fact that she is openly criticizing you does indicate that she is carrying pain inside. Your response to the situation will be dictated about how much you value your friendship. If you see value in remaining friends, aim to be compassionate – jealously is a natural part of life and by “rising above” you will be able to be compassionate, and maintain the friendship if that’s what you want.

      If you don’t want to remain friends – then just ignore her. I don’t think confrontation will get you a desirable result at this stage. Tread carefully and with heart and justice will be done. Perhaps she needs more help than you.

      —All the strength

      -Alyce

  • Lata says:

    I am suffering A hellish life.insultation bad word before all n publicly have been usd by my husband to me.a great insultation.torture.very unstable attitude.he fails to wipe out some one special from his life.cant love me.if i try to wipe out dat special one he became violent .what should i do

    • Alyce Vayle says:

      Hi Lisa

      It sounds to me like you may be clinging onto a situation that is no longer serving you. Realise your true value and surrender to what happens next. There’s never an excuse for violence. Take care of yourself.
      With love –Alyce

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