How to Deal With Men Who Put You Down

Men sometimes deliberately use put-downs to erode your self-esteem.Men sometimes deliberately use put-downs to erode your self-esteem.

Everybody occasionally makes a remark that hurts someone else's feelings or can be construed as a put-down. That's just part of living and communicating. Put-downs can be subtle such as, "I like a woman who isn't too smart" or direct, "That dress makes you look fat." However they are phrased, when a man deliberately uses put-downs on a regular basis, he is behaving in a manner that is emotionally abusive. He is using his words to destroy your self-esteem and give him the power and control in the relationship. If a man you are involved with, like a date, a co-worker or a family member, starts putting you down on a regular basis, put a stop to it immediately.

Step 1

Confront the man if he starts using put-downs at your expense. If you are with friends, pull him aside to talk privately, but tell him that you will not tolerate emotional abuse, and a pattern of remarks designed to make you feel inferior constitutes emotional abuse.

Step 2

Define the problem behavior and show him how you want to be treated by telling him exactly which comments you are taking issue with and why. For example, "I don't like it when you make jokes about me being overweight. It seems like you are deliberately trying to hurt my feelings."

Step 3

Establish what consequences will occur if the man starts putting you down again. The most logical consequence for a date is ending the date if the put-downs start again, and breaking off all further contact with the man. If the man putting you down is a co-worker, tell him that if the behavior continues, you will speak to his boss or to the human resources department.

Step 4

Follow through on the consequences you have set. For instance, if you are on a date and the man continues to put you down, walk away. Call a cab, or telephone a friend for a ride home. Failure to follow through on consequences makes you look weak and gives him even more power in the relationship.

Step 5

Avoid the man in the future. Life is too short to spend with someone who habitually verbally attacks other people to make himself feel better. Spend your energy looking for men who are loving and respectful rather than trying to reform men who are not.

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  • When you go on a date, always make sure you have a way to get home alone if the man turns out to be a jerk or something else goes wrong.
  • When confronted about his put-downs, a man might say that you are too sensitive and that he was only joking. Tell him that jokes at your expense are not OK.
  • If the man putting you down is a co-worker, document each case of insulting behavior and turn it over to the human resources department.


  • Repeated emotional put-downs and other forms of emotional abuse are sometimes a precursor to physical abuse.

About the Author

Debra Stang is a licensed social worker and freelance writer. Her work has appeared on, Bella Online, the National Association for Social Workers website, and Open Travel Info. Her brochure for bereaved families, "What to Do When a Crisis Occurs" won a Missouri Hospital Association award.

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