let's talk about microaggressions in relationships

Let’s Talk About Microaggressions in Relationships

Relationships

Tamika Lewis May 16, 2022

There are many things that can happen between partners and result in resentment. But microaggressions in relationships can often be overlooked and, if left unchecked, can bring frustration and hostility toward each other.

Oftentimes, people will connect the term microaggression to settings like workplaces or schools. However, they can sometimes be a part of a romantic relationship, and it may happen unintentionally. Even long-distance relationships can be hurt by them. But instead of looking for ways to get over a bad breakup because unintentional negative attitudes between partners have caused you to separate, you should address them.

What Is a Microaggression in a Relationship?

A microaggression is derogatory, negative, and hostile actions or speech that relays one’s bias against a particular group of people. Although it may seem hard to distinguish it from passive-aggressive behavior, it can, too, cause different anxiety symptoms that need to be treated by therapists.

In a romantic partnership, they can often be unintentional, but they leave the recipients feeling stereotyped and disrespected. Even when you believe you won’t have to deal with racism, like with your romantic partner, these things can still happen.

What Is Another Word for Microaggression?

Psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce was the first to use this term in the 1970s with a focus on microaggressions based on race, and many people think that they indicate implicit biases. According to the Perception Institute, the definition of an implicit bias is to have negative or misconceived attitudes toward some or a group of people.

Assuming stereotypes about certain groups or individuals without a conscious knowledge is also considered an implicit bias. Feelings and conceptions can be considered implicit if we mistake their nature or we are simply unaware of them. A bias is when we have an aversion or preference toward an individual or group of people rather than assuming a neutral stance.

That is why the term implicit bias is used to define an attitude toward groups of people or when we associate different stereotypes with them without doing it consciously. This may happen to black women in the workplace and can be the cause of unintentional work stress, which should be treated through therapy for women of color.

black girl before therapy
We can be subjected to implicit bias on a daily basis

The Research Results of Microaggressions in Relationships

Leaving issues like these unattended in a relationship can result in many negative outcomes. Besides having to deal with stress and finding ways to calm yourself down, you may end up separating from your partner and even suffer negative effects on your mental health.

Research conducted by five different counselors in 2014 claims that putting up with racist microaggressions may cause black women to suffer from depression, lack of behavioral control (one of the signs that you are mentally exhausted,) and anxiety.

Know That There Are Verbal and Nonverbal Implicit Biases

There are different things that can be deemed as microaggression in a romantic partnership. These include:

  • If you are in an interracial relationship, and your partner makes mocking jokes or remarks that include sexist or racist undertones.
  • If they are patronizing you due to your age or disability.
  • Nonverbal implicit biases, such as placing air quotes around different words that originate from your native language.
  • Impersonating or mocking stereotypical gestures of your culture.
  • Crouching repeatedly in order to speak with a disabled partner in a wheelchair.

These are all signs that you are not having a healthy exchange with your partner.

Know Hot to Notice Microaggressions in a Partnership or Marriage

There’s a difference between passive-aggressive comments directed at you and microaggressions. Passive aggressiveness includes scorn used when one of you is upset and is uncomfortable with clear communication or doesn’t know how to be vocal in an assertive way. But if you notice that your partner is using comments that reinforce stereotypes or stigmas of a marginalized group you belong to, it’s a microaggression. This may be done intentionally or unknowingly.

Gaslighting Is a Form of Microaggression

Recently, one other term describing the creation of self-doubt in a partner has re-emerged – gaslighting. Based on the movie from 1944, “Gaslight,” starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten, has been reused since the mid-2010s. It involves two parties – the one who is committing gaslighting (persistently placing a false narrative) and the gaslighted, struggling to maintain their autonomy. If you recognize this in your romantic relations, it’s when you should walk away from a relationship.

Two young men teasing a woman
Gaslighting is perhaps easier to recognize

Just Communicate, so It Doesn’t Affect Your Love Relationship Any Further

No matter how unwilling or unintentional these microaggressions are, they can impact and lower the quality of a relationship. When you combine it with the struggle to deal with all the bad in the world, you may be facing some serious mental health issues and be in need of a counselor for women.

However, you may instead be experiencing these implicit biases outside of your romantic partnership, and it can be more easily overcome with the proper support from your partner. In either case, a clear understanding and assertive communication are the keys to overcoming any misunderstandings.

Share With Your Partner That You Didn’t Understand What They Mean

When you want to explore something new in your romantic partnership or want to address any issues you have with each other, it’s important to have healthy communication. Be open about everything, and avoid using microaggressive language – it’s the most certain way to regard your partner’s feelings.

Keep in mind that you also shouldn’t be aggressive if your significant other states some issues and you do not fully grasp the meaning at first. Be direct, calm, and understanding, and state that you didn’t understand what they meant. Don’t make assumptions, and let both of you repair any damage by talking.

If you are in a marriage and you already have kids, it’s also vital to understand why self-care is important. While neglecting yourself and being overworked and tired may be the cause to behave microaggressive towards your partner, you should avoid it and be straight and vocal about how you feel. It’s just like redefining motherhood.

It’s Important for Your Love Life to Consider Your Boundaries and Set Them

While the word “boundaries” may sound limiting to some, setting them can only benefit both parties involved and strengthen your bond. While you shouldn’t pose gender or any other stereotypes about your partner, it’s also important to communicate responsibilities. All chores and other tasks should be split based on equity.

Take Time to Talk About Popular Topics, Because It Is Important for Both

You may want to reserve some emotional energy for extending to your significant other when talking about topics important to you. It may be about systematic racism or debate about sexism in everyday situations. Feminism, racism, and toxic masculinity – are all important topics, and if you spare some time and energy for them, it may prove to strengthen your bond even further. You can even explain why a woman of color that goes into therapy specifically looks for a therapist of color.

Couple talking to a therapist
Communication is the key, but if all else fails, look for women's counseling

How Do You Overcome Microaggression?

First of all, to successfully help yourself overcome any type of microaggressions in your life, you need to understand them. When you understand them, it will be far easier to recognize them and avoid a negative reaction. Before you react, you should also consider the consequences and in what way they will affect your relations with your loved one. Keep in mind that there’s a cost of keeping everyone happy, and consider if it is worth the effort.

Healthy Communication About Everything You’re Doing Will Prevent a Hostile Environment

It may happen that partners ignore implicit biases on a daily basis or perhaps even mistake them for something else. But the concept of ignoring such issues can only cause further damage. It may create a dent between two people, make them lose respect for each other, and even wreck someone’s personality.

Communication is the key to overcoming this – bring the problem out directly and calmly. The partner that is performing any sort of microaggression may be just the one with insecurities, and they should be made aware that they are degrading their significant other.

A woman and a man talking
It's important to be vocal about issues on time and look for a solution

If You Like, You Can Talk to Counselors for Women

If you are a woman that believes she is experiencing implicit biases from their significant other, you can always book a call with a therapist doing women’s therapy. Women of Color Therapy offers a trauma-informed and culturally competent perspective when conducting counseling for women. We believe that being constantly under implicit biases called microaggressions can be a source of discontent and even cause a lack of self-respect. That’s why we advise you to take action and communicate your issues or search for “counseling for women near me” and contact us so we can help you overcome them.

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