Universal Habits That Are An Automatic Relationship Killer

It is a universally known fact that relationships take time and effort. Healthy relationships are formed over years under mutual love, care, respect, and intentional work put in by the partners. While it is hard work to form and maintain a relationship, breaking one up is quite easy. Small, seemingly trivial mistakes created due to some very common habits can accumulate over time leading to a massive explosion destroying your relationship. Chances are that you have seen at least some of these universal habits around you.

Whether you are already in a relationship or looking to be in one in the future, it doesn't hurt to know the most commonly seen behavioral traits and patterns that can negatively impact your current or future relationship. We sat down with licensed clinical psychologists Dr. Cynthia King, Psy.D., Founder of FemFwd and Annia Raja, Ph.D., to note down the universal habits that can automatically kill your relationship. Dive in to learn more.

Repeating unhealthy patterns

Not learning from past mistakes can be a pitfall in various aspects of one's life, including relationships. Unhealthy patterns like denial or projecting can have drastic impacts on your relationship. "These are all unhealthy relationship strategies. They set toxic cycles in motion as opposed to setting effective relational patterns in motion," explained Dr. King. "All of these strategies are defense mechanisms. It's hard to connect with our partners if we've built a fortress around our psyche."

According to Raja, projecting can be a destructive habit in a relationship as it often involves criticizing your partner for something that you are actually feeling or struggling with yourself. In this case, instead of dealing with your feelings and owning them as your own, you end up criticizing your partner for something that's not really their fault. "Maybe you're feeling self-conscious about your appearance, so you make a comment about your partner's outfit or makeup, even though they look totally fine," she narrated a potential scenario. She told us that denial also can be damaging in a romantic relationship as it prevents you from acknowledging and addressing important issues that arise. "If your partner brings up a concern or issue in the relationship, and you deny that it's a problem or refuse to take responsibility for your part in it, it can create distance and erode trust between you, and cause ongoing conflict in the relationship," Raja elaborated.

Failing to hold yourself accountable for your actions

According to Dr. King, holding yourself responsible for your actions is a habit that you need to cultivate for a healthy, happy relationship. "A hard truth of being in a relationship is that we have to have a vested interest in keeping ourselves well because we impact our partner", she explained to us. "Holding ourselves accountable is one of the most important ways to stay well. It also shows that we are reliable and mature, which builds trust in the relationship."

When it comes to being accountable in your relationship, it's crucial to do more than just say that you're sorry. If you've made a mistake, you need to show your partner that you're committed to making things right by taking concrete steps to address the issue and doing your best to prevent it from happening again. "If you've been ignoring your partner's emotional needs, you might need to commit to being more attentive and checking in with them regularly," Raja provided us with an example.

It is also very important to avoid the temptation to minimize or justify your behavior. While it can be tough to admit when you're wrong, it's important, to be honest with yourself and your partner about what happened. "This can help you rebuild trust and create a stronger foundation for your relationship moving forward," Raja said.

Inability to see your partner's perspective

People like to feel heard, valued, and understood. Everybody wants a partner who understands them. It's ineffective and a relationship pitfall to stay so focused on your thoughts and opinions that you lose your capacity to be curious about your partner's point of view. "Seeing another person's perspective doesn't even mean you have to agree," explained Dr. King. "It just means that you are providing the felt experience of being seen." Giving space and thought to your partner's perspective of things means that you value them and their lived experiences.

A little empathy can go a long way. By practicing empathy and putting yourself in your partner's shoes, you can gain a deeper understanding of their needs and feelings. Eventually, this leads to a stronger, more compassionate bond between the partners. "By being curious about your partner's perspectives and thoughts, you gain access to their inner world," Raja shared.

Forming unhealthy comparisons

Even though it is human nature to assume that the grass is always greener on the other side when it comes to relationships, this mindset can set you up for failure. This is because comparisons stem from the preconceived notion that other peoples' relationships are better than yours. With this prejudice, you are only going to focus on the negative side of your partner and the positive side of others. The truth is that you will never know the ins and outs of other people's relationships as much as you know yours. This is not fair to either your partner or yourself. "It's important to stay focused on what you do have and not the fantasy you wish you have," Dr. King explained to us.

When you constantly compare your relationship to others, it can create feelings of inadequacy and insecurity in yourself and the other person, causing you both to question the strength of your bond. This can lead to a cycle of negativity and criticism that can ultimately erode the trust and intimacy in your relationship. "When negative comparisons go really far, this can also be a red flag for potential emotional manipulation and abuse," Raja warned. If any of your needs are not being met by your partner, you might need to reflect on your expectations from the relationship and convey your dissatisfaction to your partner.

Failing to prioritize your relationship

A relationship, like every other aspect of life, needs time, effort, and care to grow. When you prioritize your relationship, it sends the message that you are serious about your other half. In addition to this, when you spend more time getting to know your partner, you are intentionally building the strong foundation required for a healthy and long-time relationship. "It creates the space to get to know our partners even more and to have shared experiences," Dr. King told us.

According to Raja, when you fail to prioritize your relationship, your partner feels neglected, which leads to them feeling lonely in your union. They feel unimportant and undervalued. These feelings build up to resentment and your partner distancing themselves emotionally. If your current life goals do not allow you to prioritize your relationship, the best course of action is to have an open conversation with your partner and explain your situation to them. Together you can choose the next course of action. This can help all the parties involved avoid a lot of mental agony and frustration.

Lack of forgiveness

Being unforgiving is really harmful and toxic in romantic relationships. It creates a negative and hostile environment where past wrongs are constantly being brought up, rehashed, and weaponized in conflict. This makes it really hard for both partners to feel safe and supported. "When you refuse to forgive, you're essentially blocking any chance of moving forward or resolving issues, which is a pattern that poisons any potential for healing and growth," Raja told us.

It's important to realize that being unable to forgive is more about you and your feelings than it is about whatever wrongdoing occurred between you and your partner. This is especially true when your partner has done all the things necessary to make it up to you. "Lack of forgiveness often means that we are holding on to things and keeping score. This will lead to resentment," Dr. King warned. "Resentment breeds mistrust and conflict."

While Raja agreed that sometimes it's helpful and healthy to process the past dynamics of the relationship and can be a wonderful way to build a better path moving forward, she confirmed that needlessly bringing up the past on a consistent basis can be incredibly hurtful and self-destructive.

Lack of open communication

Good communication is the cornerstone of healthy relationships. In order for your needs to be met and for your partner to meet your own, you need to clearly and openly communicate what those needs are. Miscommunications are one of the major reasons that lead to arguments in a relationship. With open communication, partners can reduce unnecessary relationship stress.

The difference between "We have a busy Saturday coming up. Maybe we can find time to hang out after dinner?" and "We haven't been able to spend time with each other lately. I really miss you. I'd like to spend a few days on Saturday with you. Given how busy Saturday is, what time seems reasonable to you?" can be more than you imagine in a relationship with busy partners. "It may seem subtle, but the second comment is much more clear. It communicates the need in an honest, open, and vulnerable way," clarified Dr. King.

Raja explained to us that when you fail to communicate openly, you miss opportunities to connect with your partner and address issues before they escalate. This can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and emotional distance. By communicating honestly and openly with your partner, you can strengthen your bond and build a deeper level of trust and intimacy.

Keeping secrets from your partner

Trust is a key factor in any healthy relationship. You have to be able to trust and feel safe with your partner. Keeping secrets from your partner degrades this trust and safety in the relationship and can be the one-way business-class ticket to destroying your relationship. Secrets could manifest in many ways in a relationship ranging from lying about your finances to half-truths during arguments.

"Context is so important," Dr. King explained to us. "It's not fair to expect our partners to be able to meet our needs if they are only working with only half the story." Raja also agreed that keeping secrets about, say, finances or infidelity, can invoke a sense of mistrust in your partner that might be hard to recover from. "While there can be some exceptions from time to time, keeping secrets about big things on a consistent basis usually leads to an erosion of trust and honesty in your relationship," she confirmed.

Lashing out at your partner

Lashing out constantly is a toxic trait that can really hurt your partner. More often than not, when you lash out, you are reacting from a place of intense emotion, like anger or frustration. This can lead to hurtful things being said or unfair, disrespectful, or even emotionally abusive behavior toward your partner. If you're constantly reacting with anger or aggression, your partner will start to feel afraid of your anger or become fearful of triggering any emotional reaction from you. It goes without saying that this is a horrible dynamic for anyone to feel in a relationship. "Your partner may start to withdraw or shut down," Raja drew a portrait for us. "Alternatively, you may find yourself getting into more and more arguments that escalate faster and further over time."

According to Raja, ongoing patterns of lashing out in a relationship are really damaging and, when taken to extremes, can even be a red flag for emotional abuse. "If you find yourself constantly reacting with anger or aggression, it's important to take a step back and reflect on your behavior," she said, providing a blueprint for reflection. "Are you being fair to your partner? Are you respecting their boundaries and needs? Are you communicating in a way that is respectful and empathetic?" She also noted that it may be worth seeking out the help of a therapist or counselor who can help you develop better communication, emotional regulation, and conflict-resolution skills.

Being distracted from your partner

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to explain that being distracted while being engaged in any activity is a bad habit. In this age where devices are basically an extension of the self, it can be really challenging to hold your attention to anything. Dr. King explained to us how this habit can destroy a relationship. A healthy relationship requires quality time and attentiveness from everyone involved. Attentiveness is an essential component of attunement. Attunement is the ability to "tune in" to our partner's emotional state. "That's how we feel seen and heard in relationships. If you are distracted, you don't have the ability to attune," she said to us.

As per Raja's observations, when you're distracted by work, technology, or other obligations, you may miss important moments of love, connection, and intimacy with your partner. "You quite literally miss cues and information when you are distracted," Dr. King agreed. This habit can eventually lead to feelings of neglect and disinterest, causing your partner to feel unsupported and unimportant. Moreover, being distracted from your relationship signals to your partner that they are not important or that they aren't your priority. This can lead to them feeling disrespected in the relationship — and that is a dangerous territory to leave your partner in.

Failing to appreciate your partner enough

Appreciating and validating your partner is very important to maintain a healthy relationship. Raja told us that when you don't take the time to show your partner that you appreciate them, it can make them feel like they're not important to you, or that their efforts are going unnoticed. Over time, this can cause your partner to feel undervalued and resentful, which can lead to various kinds of hurt feelings and conflict.

Dr. King acknowledged that it's very common to focus on the negative and to only provide that kind of feedback to our partners. This creates a higher ratio of negative interactions than positive ones. This depletes our emotional bank account. "We need to feed our emotional bank account by also sharing the positives and ways in which we appreciate our partner," she confirmed. Another great benefit to verbally appreciating your partner is that it incentivizes them and they will be more likely to repeat this behavior in the future.

Trying to change your partner

Your partner is an individual with their own thoughts, feelings, and desires. While it can be natural to want to help your partner improve certain aspects of their life, it's essential that you respect their autonomy and not try to control them. If there's something that you're bothered by, it's more productive to communicate your concerns and work together to find a solution that works for both of you, rather than focusing on changing your partner. "It's important to accept your partner for who they are, rather than trying to mold them into the person you want them to be," Raja told us.

Trying to change your partner can lead them to resent you and eventually drive a wedge between you. It can also signal that you don't fully accept your partner for who they are, which can foster feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. "As a therapist, one thing I have learned is that change has to come from within the person. Trying to change your partner will lead to resentment and fatigue," confirmed Dr. King. "When we are in a partnership, we need to realize and accept that we are partnering with an individual that has their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors."