If you thought a nagging partner was bad, you haven’t seen negging yet.
“I was with a guy once and we were all in a car and he was, like, ‘You can sit on my lap, but you might be too heavy,’ ” Alex Stewart, co-host of the podcast “Swipe Fat,” told The Post. Stewart, whose show is about dating as a plus-sized woman, said she ended up hooking up with him afterward — but the comment made her feel awful about herself.
“I think it makes you vulnerable to the insecurities you already have,” she said. “And then you’re in this mind frame of, ‘OK, well, he’s the only guy I can get.’ “
We’ve all felt emotionally manipulated in relationships, and even flirting can bring out the worst behavior in people. But now toxic dating trends such as “ghosting” and “love bombing” have been joined by another destructive behavior that has become even more mainstream: “negging.”
The dating strategy works when someone purposefully gives a backhanded compliment or makes a potential significant other feel bad about themselves in order to lower their self-esteem. The ploy subconsciously tricks the recipient into being more open to someone’s advances.
Former UK “Love Island” contestant Danny Bibby took it to another level this week when he openly admitted to using a manipulation tactic that can be summed up as “negging.” In a recent episode, Bibby argued with on-screen match Lucinda Strafford about their relationship progression.
“I knock you down a couple of pegs, have a little banter with you,” he told her.
He further explained why he felt their relationship hadn’t been working: “You’re like a matte black Lamborghini that I want to drive, but I put the key in, and it just doesn’t work. I’ve changed a couple of parts, and it still doesn’t work. It’s still in the garage.”
Yikes. Bibby’s behavior of making hurtful comments towards his love interest got the dating term trending on Twitter, but it’s not even a new technique.
In 2015, the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw described negging as men making deliberate rude remarks towards women, such as “impertinent comments about their clothes or hair – expecting to pique their interest and undermine their confidence at the same time.”
In other words, it’s all about control. If the goal of a male pursuer is to make a woman desire his approval, then it makes sense to sneakily weave criticisms into the conversation.
Lindsay Hayden, a psychotherapist at NYC Counseling, said that people who use the tactic likely do it to gain control and, in turn, feel better about themselves — all while having a negative impact on the other person.
“Negging will likely affect someone’s self-esteem, even if they walk into the situation or relationship with their self-esteem relatively intact,” she told The Post. “This can lead to a person doubting themselves and feeling crazy, much like how it feels to be gaslit by someone.
“There isn’t a situation I can think of in which this wouldn’t be harmful behavior,” she added.
Even worse, it’s often disguised behind casual flirting. Telling someone that they look “better than usual” is negging. Calling someone “pretty for their size” is negging. Pointing out a flaw, even in a friendly manner, is negging.
“People do that all the time, like, ‘You’re pretty for a big girl’ or ‘I don’t usually go for big girls, but I like you,’ ” said podcaster Stewart. “So I can agree with them, like, ‘I don’t deserve you. Thank you for giving me a crumb.’ “
New Yorker Ali Weiss, 28, believes that while anyone can participate in negging, the offenders are primarily male.
“I think negging has always been around,” said Weiss, who hosts “Tales of Taboo,” a podcast where she discusses intimate, “juicy” topics. “Nothing turns a woman on more than a man who can’t make up his mind about her.”
Weiss told The Post she’s seen this play out on other women, especially on those who are objectively hot women or are used to getting what they want.
“I think it can happen with both genders, but I do find that more often than not, it’s coming from men,” she said. “Despite what we see on social media or what we believe as a society, men are actually the more insecure sex, so it goes hand in hand.”
A 1965 study conducted by social psychologist Elaine Walster found that men saw women with lower self-esteem as more attractive. That can be explained for two reasons: It is more likely that a confident partner will expect more in their relationship and people tend to gravitate towards partners they find attainable.
And it turns out negging has an even longer history — it goes as far back as some of the earliest romances in literature. Writer Dolly Alderton argued that “Pride and Prejudice” character Fitzwilliam Darcy was notorious for his negging tendencies. That checks out: Darcy told a friend that the 1813 novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, is “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” and then later confessed that he is in love with her, despite her background and family.
That can be disastrous for a person faced with such manipulative behavior. Hayden said invoking negging on someone who already struggles with low self-esteem can send them spiraling.
“The person on the receiving end will often feel confused. They will naturally want to cling onto the compliment,” Hayden pointed out. “If you have someone who has relatively high self-esteem — and has done a lot of work on themselves to get there — these comments will still be damaging.”
However, all hope should not be lost, at least for those who can actually realize that negging is at play.
Said Hayden, “They will be able to disarm the negging — knowing it says more about the other person and doesn’t take away from their [own] worth.”
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