People can say things they don’t mean when they’re angry, hurt, or stressed. Sometimes you can be understanding and just let it slide. But if you’re in the middle of a fight and your partner says something hurtful like, “I don’t love you,” that’s not something you can easily shake off. Chances are, their words will linger in the back of your mind long after they’ve apologized. So what does it actually mean if your partner says they don’t love you when they’re angry?
“This is something that comes up quite often,” Linda Stiles, LSCSW, a counselor who specializes in marriage and relationships, tells us. “People do say things they don’t mean when they’re triggered, emotional, or upset. While it’s not something to write off, it’s likely that the hurtful words are not just what they seem.”
For instance, when one partner says hurtful things in the heat of the moment, they may be trying to get the other to understand their feelings. They could be feeling hurt, sad, lonely, or powerless. While it’s really not a good reason to say mean things, that’s just their way of expressing themselves.
According to Stiles, think of it like a child saying “I hate you” to their parents. “The child doesn’t really mean that; it’s just a way of expressing strong emotions in the moment,” she says. “Sometimes this reflects behavior and emotional coping patterns that were modeled in our family of origin. But there are many other factors to consider.”
So here are some other things it could mean if your partner says they don’t love you when they’re angry, according to experts.
1. They’re Hurt By Something You Did
“When people say things such as ‘I don’t love you’ that could be a way to unleash the hurt that they are experiencing in the moment and say it as a way to get back at their partner so that they can also hurt,” Candice Cooper-Lovett, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist, and owner of A New Creation Psychotherapy Services, LLC, tells us.
According to her, it’s a method of fighting that’s ineffective and unhealthy. More often than not, you end up coming out of it more wounded than you were before. The best thing to do in this situation is to take a break from the argument and gather your thoughts. When you’re both cooled off, Cooper-Lovett says it’s important to have a conversation about what they really meant when they said they didn’t love you.
2. They’re Frustrated By Something In The Relationship
It’s painful to hear that your partner doesn’t love you, even in a moment of anger. But as Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, licensed clinical professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship Therapist, tells Bustle, try as much as you can to take it with a grain of salt. “When we’re angry or reactive, we leave our rational brain and are in survival mode,” Slatkin says. “Even though we may be extremely frustrated with the relationship, it may come out harsher than we intend.” It’s important to remember that feelings come and go. There may be some moments when you don’t even like your partner. But as Slatkin says, “That doesn’t necessarily define our true feelings.” When things are calmer, tell your partner how their comment made you feel. If they look genuinely remorseful and they appologize, accept it. Chances are, they mean it.
3. They’re Emotionally Immature
When your partner says they don’t love you, it can be a sign that they’re emotionally immature. As Lesli Doares, couples consultant and coach, tells us, “They don’t know how to handle their emotions, so they give themselves permission to lash out. This is true of name calling and any other hurtful things they express when upset.”
If this is the case, they likely developed a pattern and do this consistently. The reality is, you can only be understanding for so long. As Doares says, “It’s perfectly acceptable to request that your partner alter how they act when they’re upset.”
It’s also helpful to learn their triggers and try to avoid “emotionally charged interactions” as much as you can. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid arguing at all. You just need to be more mindful when you’re in the middle of a fight. If you feel like it’s becoming too intense, it’s OK to take a step back, cool off, and then finish your discussion later.
4. They May Be Toxic
If your partner says mean things to you when they’re angry, take note of how often this happens. As Christine Scott-Hudson, marriage and family therapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells us, you may be dealing with a toxic situation. “Verbal abuse is a repeating pattern of verbal attacks towards another person, including criticisms, insults, derogatory comments, sarcasm, and put-downs that systematically harms the recipient,” she says.
Your partner repeatedly telling you that they don’t love you, may be a form of emotional abuse. An emotional manipulator may even use this phrase as a way to control you and get you to do what they want. So it’s important to be very aware of what you’re dealing with. “The red flags you ignore in the beginning of your relationship will be the reasons for your relationship’s downfall,” Scott-Hudson says. “If your partner is verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive, do not ignore the signs. You can’t love them hard enough to change them.” You may want to consider looking for help.
5. They Really Don’t Love You Anymore
“A lot of times anger can be dangerous in relationships because we’re acting on impulse,” Cooper-Lovett says. So if your partner says they no longer love you or they want to break up during every bad fight, that should be cause for concern.
At this point it’s become a pattern and it’s hard to believe that there isn’t any truth to it. Your partner may be afraid to say it, so they bottle it up and only let it out when they’re mad. If this is the case, you have to make a decision about what you want to do. As Cooper-Lovett says, “If the person you’re with doesn’t love you or says it in moments of anger, my belief is that in anger we speak the truth and it’s hard to take words back.”
If you’ve talked about it before and nothing has changed, you may want to consider asking for help. A couples therapist can help your partner deal with their feelings in a healthy way or help you figure out where the “I don’t love you” actually comes from.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
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