Have most of your romantic relationships failed? If so, some of your relationship behaviors may be quite toxic. If you’re unaware of these harmful relationship habits, you can’t address them. Could some of the things you do in romantic relationships be sabotaging your chances of success? Read on to learn more about some of the biggest unhealthy habits and mistakes people make in romantic relationships, and how to break them.

Needing To Control

If you’re looking for a perfect relationship, your hunt will be endless. Perfect relationships don’t exist. You’ll never find a partner without physical flaws and personality deficits. Imperfection is part of the human condition. Look for a partner that you can accept despite, or even because of, their imperfections. Don’t try to change or control your significant other. You can’t change them into the person that you want them to be. If you don’t like your partner as they are, let them go.

You should also avoid trying to control or micromanage the times you share with your romantic partner. If you follow a very strict schedule, you’re likely to add stress to the situation. Instead, try to compromise regarding what you’ll do together. It’s perfectly all right to go with the flow and change your plans if necessary. Try to be relaxed, fair, and open-minded about what you do together.

Being Passive-Aggressive

When you’re in a romantic relationship with someone you care about, it can be tempting to always go along with what they want, even if you don’t like it. You want your significant other to like you and enjoy your company. Thus, it can be tempting to say ‘yes’ when you would really like to say ‘no.’

Why do people do this? When you say ‘yes’ when you’d rather say ‘no’, you probably do so because you don’t want to upset your partner. You may also be inclined towards agreeing for the sake of an easy life when in reality you disagree entirely.

If you’re dishonest about your feelings, resentment will start to build up towards your partner. If you feel resentful towards your significant other, this will show in your behavior. Here are just a few examples of resentful behavior:

• Irritability
• ‘Forgetting’ to do things you’ve promised to do
• Procrastination
• Gossiping to others about your partner taking you for granted

If you don’t want to do something, you should let your partner know. You ought to do this kindly and politely, yet firmly. If you don’t agree with your partner, inform them without being angry or confrontational. Having a kind but direct approach will help you to avoid passive-aggressive behavior in a relationship.


If a disagreement in a relationship is threatening to escalate, it can be tempting to stop communicating until things calm down. The same can be true if your partner won’t see or do things your way. Refusing to communicate with your significant other is often described as stonewalling, sulking, or giving the silent treatment.

Do you tend to stonewall your partner? If so, they’re likely to become very angry and frustrated, at least initially. After a while, they may begin to withdraw from you. In other words, they’ll you to sulk for as long as you like. Unsurprisingly, psychological researcher Dr. John Gottman describes stonewalling as one of the harbingers of impending breakup or divorce.

If you value your romantic relationship, always take the time to listen to the one you love. If you’re worried about having a terrible argument, look for more constructive ways to communicate with them.

A Defensive Stance

Do you have a defensive attitude when you feel criticized or vulnerable? This is something people do to protect themselves from feeling hurt. Defensiveness can occur in all types of relationships. However, defensiveness in romantic relationships may lead to their ultimate demise. Defensiveness is another sign that your relationship is doomed to fail, according to Gottman.

When you’re defensive, you close yourself off to open communication. Instead, you react by becoming distant, critical, and even angry. When you do this, your significant other won’t know what they have said to hurt you. They’ll only know that you’re angry. Instead of becoming defensive when you feel hurt, be honest with your partner about what has caused you to feel emotional pain.

Being Contemptuous

Contempt is another of Gottman’s Four Horsemen. Indeed, contempt is, perhaps, the most harmful element a relationship can have. When you treat your partner with contempt, they’re almost guaranteed to feel hurt by your behavior. That’s because when you’re contemptuous towards others, you’re implying that you find them or their behavior revolting. You’re also indicating that you think you’re better than them.

How do you stop showing contempt towards your significant other? According to Gottman, you should express what you really want in an authentic yet constructive way. In other words, you can always kindly assert your desires instead of focusing on what you dislike about your partner or their behavior.

Being Too Stubborn

Admitting you were wrong from time to time can feel shaming, but it shouldn’t. Everybody is wrong sometimes. If you were never wrong, how would you learn from any mistakes that you make? Children in classrooms learn from their mistakes. So why do people struggle to confess to relationship errors?

A bulldog being stubborn
Don’t be so stubborn | Unhealthy Habits in a Relationship and How to Break Them

Never admitting that you’re wrong implies that you blame your significant other for every disagreement you have with each other. Constantly blaming your partner may make you seem very arrogant from their perspective. It could also undermine your entire relationship, and increase the odds of it failing.

Being Too Jealous

While it can be normal to sometimes feel jealous in relationships, it’s not healthy to express it in a way that makes your significant other feel controlled or undermined. For example, imagine the new staff member at your local bar flirts with your partner all night, and you feel jealous about it. If you react by telling your significant other that they can’t go to that bar again, they may feel that you mistrust them. If there’s a lack of trust in your relationship, is it really worth pursuing? It’s not uncommon for relationships to end because of jealousy.

So how should you handle any jealous feelings that may arise? It might help to consider the fact that your significant other has chosen to be with you, and nobody else. If you trust your partner, it shouldn’t matter if others are attracted to them. What’s more, there’s nothing wrong with admitting you felt jealous when someone flirted with them, as long as you don’t behave negatively due to those feelings. Telling your partner about your feelings allows them to reassure you.

It might also be a good idea to think about the honest reasons for your jealousy. For example, it could be that your self-esteem is below par because you feel unattractive. You can always work on addressing those insecurities. For instance, you can start going to the gym if you feel bad because of weight gain. Taking action to combat any insecurities will help you feel less jealous and more self-confident.

Character Assassination

Do you tend to criticize your significant other more than you should? Criticism is the fourth major relationship killer that Gottman mentions. What is criticism in relationships, and why is it so dangerous? Essentially, criticism is conveying a complaint as a character defect in your partner.

If you criticize your significant other a lot, they’re likely to become distant towards you over time. Most people don’t enjoy it when other people perpetually point out their flaws instead of focusing on their positive attributes. Concentrating on your partner’s character weaknesses is unlikely to make them feel loved.

How can you be less critical of your significant other? Again, it’s simply a matter of asking politely but directly for what you do want without attaching any labels or adjectives to your partner. For example, you can respectfully ask them to help you with certain chores around the house. There is no need to call them lazy.

Keeping Score

Sometimes, couples tend to keep score. Keeping score describes maintaining a mental record of who is giving more. For instance, you may notice that you’re making a lot more trips to the grocery store than your partner. You might also decide to mention it the next time they complain that you’re reluctant to mow the lawn. It can seem incredibly petty and spiteful if you often remind your significant other that you’re giving more than they are in the relationship.

Why does keeping score seem childish? If you take notes regarding who is giving what, then what you give isn’t unconditional. It comes with strings attached. You aren’t giving because you want to. You’re giving to get something back. Is giving only to get not another form of taking? If so, what’s the antidote to this? Give because you want to and it gives you joy. Never give with the expectation of getting something back.

Everyone Has Bad Habits

Does what you have read about toxic relationship habits alarm you? Are some of your behaviors toxic? It is normal to have a few toxic traits and habits. Thus, you shouldn’t panic unnecessarily if you see them in yourself. Nobody is perfect at relationships. Everybody gets some things wrong at times. Many people struggle for years to get things right.

The important thing is to recognize your own toxic relationship habits rather than pointing your finger at the flaws of others. Only when you recognize your negative traits can you work on changing them. Remember that changing harmful relationship behavior will take time, and be kind to yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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