7 Under-the-Radar Signs of Disrespect That Could Mean Bad News for Your Relationship

Photo: Getty Images / Fabio Formaggio / EyeEm
Mutual respect is crucial to the success of any healthy relationship, so when there’s a lack thereof, there's also an opening of risk. Certain disrespectful behaviors—like lying or cheating in a monogamous relationship—are pretty clear to identify. However, a number of common signs of disrespect in a relationship are harder to spot.

According to relationship and well-being coach Shula Melamed, MPH, disrespect in a relationship can manifest as one person in a relationship not regarding another as deserving of "the same reverence and consideration that they would want for themselves." Therapist Christiana Awosan, PhD, LMFT, adds that disrespectful behavior—especially if it’s continuous and goes without an apology—can be a red flag because the slighted party might start to wonder if their partner even likes them. Needless to say, that's not the best feeling in the world, let alone one you'd like to feel within the framework of your romantic relationship.

Experts In This Article

To save yourself from getting to a point of no return where you experience such a feeling, being able to identify signs that your partner may be disrespecting you is key. Read on to learn seven not-so-obvious behaviors that may indicate this to be the case.

7 low-key signs of disrespect in a relationship pros say you should be aware of

1. Avoiding or shutting down during serious conversations

An inability or unwillingness to have vulnerable conversations might point to a partner's lack of consideration for you and your point of view, says licensed clinical social worker and relationship therapist Darcy Sterling, PhD.

However, if someone communicates that they just can’t talk right now, asks to set up a different time to chat, then follows through, it's not disrespectful behavior, says Dr. Awosan. By setting a different time to talk, your partner is letting you know that your needs are important to them, too.

2. Communicating delicate topics at inopportune times

This may mean that your partner isn’t balancing your needs in addition to theirs, says Dr. Sterling. For instance, if your partner wants to talk to you about something sensitive and sees that you’re stressed or knows you’re going through a tough time, a better approach might be for them to ask you for a time when you’re better able to deal with a tough topic.

3. Not allowing space to cool down

If someone asks for space to clear their head, the respectful thing to do is to abide by that, says Dr. Sterling. Let’s say you’re in the middle of a heated argument with your partner and communicate you’d like to talk about this later, then get up and walk away. They respond by following you around, demanding that you resolve the issue now. “The mechanism here is that lack of consideration,” says Dr. Awosan, adding that this is disrespectful because it crosses a boundary you set for your own well-being.

4. Using harsh tones

“It’s not what you said—it’s how you said it.” This phrase rings true because the way someone says something, and not the words they used, more closely reflect how they’re feeling. Dr. Awosan and Dr. Sterling share two examples of when someone might be using not-so-comforting tones: condescension (like when someone tells you they’re sorry you feel that way) and sarcasm (when someone’s reaction to your earnest concern is, for example, “Oh, my God—I’m the worst person in the world" plus an eye-roll).

5. Not being open to the others' interests

“If you've told somebody several times that there's a way that you want them to engage with you, and they're not able to meet you there, that's a sign of disrespect,” says Melamed. This type of behavior potentially hits on inconsideration for your basic, communicated needs in favor for prioritizing their own.

6. Sharing information that you told them in confidence

To be sure, sharing the right amount can be tricky—especially in a dynamic where more than one person is involved. Folks might want to harmlessly vent to friends about what they’re going through, but Melamed says doing so can become problematic if a partner previously asked for said information to be for their ears only. If this request is disregarded, it's a sign they're not concerned with your feelings, which is a sign of disrespect.

7. Expecting to be put first, no matter what

This may be one of the more nuanced signs of disrespect in a relationship, but you might be in dangerous territory if your partner gets upset with you for not being always available to them, Melamed says. She adds that it may also mean that your partner believes their time is more important than yours—because they may not be fully considering other aspects of your life, like family responsibilities, work duties, or self care.


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