There’s so much relationship advice out there about how to improve your relationship, but what about the things that can harm your relationship or even contribute to a breakup?
Extensive couples research has shown with high accuracy that some behaviours can spell the certain death of a relationship.
So what are some of these surefire behaviours that will destroy a relationship? Check out the list below and if you want to avoid a relationship disaster, stay clear of these.
1. Destructive communication
If you’re communicating in your relationship with high levels of criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling (also known as the silent treatment), research shows that your relationship will likely not survive in the long run.
How you communicate is vital to the health of your relationship, so it’s important to take care of what you say and how you say it.
If you react quickly and feel overwhelmed or angry to the point where you can’t think straight, take a time-out to cool down and then come back together to reconnect. And definitely don’t take to social media to vent your frustrations.
Don’t discuss the hot issue right away, but make another time to talk it through. That way you can learn to quickly move between tension and relaxation in your communication and one upset doesn’t ruin a night or weekend.
2. Unresolved conflict
Couples that are in constant conflict or have never-ending unresolved issues are often deeply unhappy, struggle to be productive at work and suffer from health problems.
If you’re constantly fighting in your relationship it can be a sign you lack good conflict resolution skills or there is something unfinished from the past that needs to be addressed.
A good relationship counsellor will teach you strategies for resolving conflict effectively and help you understand what is being triggered from your past that is getting in the way of your relationship.
Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s often a sign the relationship needs to grow and you can learn more about each other. But you do need to learn how to repair relationship ruptures as soon as possible after an upset or disagreement. This will strengthen your bond and the resilience of your relationship in the long run.
3. Lacking a shared vision
I’m sometimes staggered by the couples I work with when I hear they have no shared plans, dreams or vision for the future.
Developing a shared vision is important so you feel you’re on the same page in your life together.
If you’re making major life decisions without including your partner, you’re sabotaging your sense of connectedness and the security and safety of the relationship.
You can still have individual hopes, dreams and aspirations, but you do need some shared goals that give meaning to your relationship.
4. Avoiding difficult conversations
Many couples get into problems by avoiding honesty in the hope they can avoid conflict. The reality is if you avoid conflict in your relationship, you will often end up in more conflict than you were trying to avoid in the first place.
Being honest about something up front, which may be uncomfortable in the short term, often means you avoid long-term hurt and pain. Use the soft start-up technique to approach difficult conversations.
However, you don’t need to be honest about everything in your life. You have a right to privacy and there is a difference between privacy and secrecy. Secrecy in a relationship can be damaging but privacy is healthy.
5. Withdrawing touch and affection
From the moment you were born you were touched, caressed, held and cuddled. Touch is a basic human need that we all need to survive. In fact, babies that don’t receive touch often have poor health and can even die. That’s how important it is for survival.
If you withdraw touch or affection (including sex) from your partner, it can be a deeply painful experience that evokes feelings of confusion, loneliness and isolation.
Touch is a non-verbal reminder that you care and your partner is important to you.
Touch in your relationship helps you feel affirmed, connected, safe and loved.
6. Threats to end the relationship
One of the most damaging things you can do in your relationship is to threaten breaking up. This is incredibly destructive to the safety and security of the relationship.
Couples that have an ‘on-again, off again’ relationship rarely survive in the long term because the constant threats to the future undermine the very ability to foster security and safety that are the prerequisites for a satisfying relationship.
It’s simple really. No matter how frustrated or angry you maybe with your partner, don’t threaten the existence of the relationship under any circumstances.
7. Harming your partner in private and public
When you are in a relationship you are in the care of one another. And part of this care is making a commitment not to harm your partner in public or private.
Don’t sabotage your partner’s dreams or undermine your partner by sharing private details about your relationship with others. And on the extreme end, it’s vital you never verbally or physically harm your loved one.
Take your commitment of care seriously and do all you can to not harm your partner emotionally or physically to ensure your relationship remains healthy and loving at all times.
I was recently interviewed for The Australian Women’s Weekly on the topic of ways to make or break your relationship. Click the link below to read it:
Are you wondering what are the skills for a healthy relationship? Check out the TEDx talk below for more relationship tips.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.