13 signs your partner is testing the limits of your relationship

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Our boundaries are the invisible lines we draw in the sand. The trouble with invisible is that we can lose sight of where that line is.

It’s actually more common than we would like to admit.

Our do’s and don’ts get gently pushed, and we all too often end up accepting things we never dreamed we would. 

Sometimes people test us. They want to know what they can get away with before we put our foot down. So they set out to break the rules.

Here are some of the signs that your partner is doing just that.

1) They pester you rather than taking no for an answer

You know what this reminds me of…

When a kid wants ice cream and their mom says no.

By the 100th time, the parent’s willpower may start to waver before they relent and finally say ‘Fine!” just to shut them up.

But this childish tactic has no place in adult relationships.

Poking you until you give up is not how healthy negotiations take place.

It’s a selfish move that puts their own desires first, as well as a blatant disregard for your boundaries.

2) They try to flatter and persuade you to do things you don’t want

Don’t be fooled, this is pressure, plain and simple.

But they know that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So they switch up their tactics and try to incentivize you instead.

They employ sweet talking in the hopes of getting you to agree to something.

The fact remains:

You are your own person.

You get to decide what you do and do not want to do. It’s up to you alone to choose what feels good for you and what doesn’t.

Yes, it’s reasonable to expect to discuss the things that impact both people in a relationship. That’s a natural part of compromise and cooperation.

But afterwards, no, means no. End off discussion.

3) They make threats to get their own way

If all else fails, a partner may resort to flat-out ultimatums to try to win.

This is a power exercise. They are trying to see whose holds more sway in your relationship.

“If you decide to go on that boys’ trip, don’t expect me to be here waiting for you when you get back”. Or, “if we don’t get married by the end of the year, it’s over”.

It can be tempting to try to throw your weight around to get what you want. But in the long run, it never works.

A relationship based on threats is never going to work out, not without a whole lot of resentment building up.

4) They seriously sulk whenever their needs and wants don’t come first

The message is loud and clear:

Your desires and preferences come after theirs.

If you don’t go to the restaurants they want to eat at, watch the movies they enjoy, or do the activities that they like —  they’re not happy.

They may even say it’s “fine”, but their behavior tells you otherwise.

Because as soon as they don’t get their own way over something, you get the silent treatment.

They may be a bit frosty with you, or suddenly withdraw affection.

It’s essentially a punishment tactic.

5) They expect you to do far too much for them

The tricky part is what is too much?

That’s exactly why it becomes an exercise in testing the limits.

Because they can start to normalize their expectations of you so that you also take responsibility for things you shouldn’t.

It could be practical tasks that you’re sucked into. For example, maybe you’re expected to constantly pick up after them, or do all the cooking and cleaning.

It may be that you are always drawn into doing them favors that never get returned. Or it could be emotional labor where their demands are too high.

For example, they try to make you responsible for keeping them happy.

6) You’ve already put your foot down, but they’re still not listening 

Boundaries only work when there are real consequences, not idle threats.

You may have made your boundaries abundantly clear, but your partner isn’t paying attention.

They still continue to push and disregard them. They may well be calling your bluff.

They want to know if you’re all talk or if you’ll stop them from getting away with the things that bother you.

7) They make their jealousy and possessiveness your problem

Extremely insecure people in relationships can turn to toxic strategies to try to give themselves greater peace of mind.

That often involves trying to exert control, sometimes in subtle ways to begin with.

If your partner:

  • Wants to know where you are all the time
  • Expects you to check in throughout the day
  • Tries to dissuade you from spending time with other people
  • Makes shaming comments about how you behave or what you wear, etc.

…it’s not ok.

Sometimes we feel compelled to fix someone else’s issues and do what we can to make them feel better.

But part of having decent boundaries is about knowing what is and what is not your responsibility.

Ultimately, you are both responsible for yourselves and not each other.

8) They try to make you jealous

Jealousy can also pop up in a relationship as a way of emotionally “testing” a partner.

Essentially they want to see just how much you care, and getting a reaction out of you seems like a good way to do that.

In their mind, if they can provoke your little green-eyed monster, it must mean that they are important to you.

Of course, the problem is that this is an unhealthy and downright disrespectful tactic, as we’ll see next.

9) They disrespect you to see what you’ll put up with

The sneaky thing about someone overstepping the mark is this:

They start out small and build from there.

The disrespect may not even feel like blatant disrespect in the beginning.

But they slowly add to it’s daily dose, so that you develop some sort of immunity to noticing it along the way.

Here are some common ways of pushing and testing your partner that happen in all too many relationships:

  • Talking down to you
  • Not valuing your opinions, thoughts, and feelings
  • Putting you down in front of others
  • Flirting in front of you
  • Talking about how hot someone else is to you, or in front of you

These are little tests to see if you stick up for yourself or let them get away with it.

10) They say really mean stuff but claim it’s just a joke

A little bit of teasing in a flirty way can be sexy in a relationship.

Some couples thrive on banter to keep them on their toes.

But cutting comments, criticism and rude behavior are far from funny.

When something hurts your feelings it’s not simply in jest. Humor is all too often used as a passive-aggressive form of attack.

We disguise negative feelings or frustrations toward someone in the guise of “joking around”.

If your partner serves up put-downs under the justification that they’re just kidding, it’s unacceptable.

11) They intentionally pick fights with you

Partners might pick an argument for all sorts of reasons, but none of them are healthy. 

They might want to vent frustrations from their day that have zero to do with you.

They might have a bone to pick with you but lack the communication skills to go about it in a constructive way.

It can also be a strange cry for attention. For example, if they’re bored or jealous then the drama of a fight puts the focus back on them.

12) They have inappropriately close connections with other people or exes

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with us having close and loving relationships outside of our romantic partnerships. In fact, it’s good for us.

That includes family, friends, community, and perhaps even colleagues.

But connections become inappropriate as soon as they cross a line.

Most people consider it an emotional affair if their partner gets too close to someone else, even if they’ve not physically cheated.

They may be secretive with this person, go above and beyond for them, share too much intimacy with them, and have sexual chemistry with them.  

13) They try to guilt trip you and make you feel bad

There are already quite a few passive-aggressive and manipulative moves on our list.

And here’s another to add to our collection. 

One of the most dangerous sides of someone testing your limits is that they often prey on kindness.

You want to make your partner happy after all.

So when you do anything that they’re not keen on, they might try to pull on your heartstrings.

When they’ve finished with you, you’re left feeling guilty. You may even be the one who apologizes when you’ve done nothing wrong. 

When people turn to guilt trips they often try to twist the facts. Then all of a sudden, you’re the one in the wrong for simply having boundaries.

Don’t be a doormat

Here’s the problem:

If you compromise on the basic levels of respect, effort, and independence you should expect in any relationship, it’s a slippery slope.

Because sadly, once someone sees that they can get away with pushing you, don’t expect them to ever stop.

Rather than keep the peace, wish-washy boundaries simply lead to unstable and unsustainable connections.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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