10 subtle habits that secretly harm relationships

Dr Randi Gunther, a clinical psychologist and marriage counsellor from Southern California, sheds light on common behaviours that can unintentionally harm relationships.

Couples often seek her help after repeated negative interactions have strained their bond. Many partners are unaware of the gradual erosion of their relationship until significant damage has occurred.

1. Fixing Instead of Preventing Issues

In long-term relationships, partners might overlook minor issues until they become major problems. Addressing concerns early prevents escalation and preserves the relationship’s health.

It is easier to manage smaller issues before they become overwhelming. Proactive communication and addressing minor discomforts can save a lot of heartache in the future.

2. Highlighting Negatives

Couples sometimes focus more on each other’s flaws than their strengths. This shift from appreciation to criticism can erode the positive foundation of the relationship.

Constantly pointing out what is wrong can overshadow the good aspects of the relationship.

It is important to balance criticism with appreciation, regularly acknowledging what you love and respect about your partner.

3. Criticising Loved Ones

Criticising people important to your partner can create unnecessary conflict. Even if the criticism is justified, it can push your partner away and cause tension.

Dr Gunther advises against finding fault with individuals who hold significance to your partner. This behaviour can lead to defensiveness and protectiveness, creating a rift between partners.

4. Rehashing Without Resolution

Repeatedly arguing about the same issues without finding a solution can be detrimental. It’s crucial to address the core problems rather than engage in unproductive disputes.

These unresolved arguments often leave both partners feeling unheard and frustrated. Identifying the root cause of these conflicts and working towards a resolution can foster a healthier relationship dynamic.

5. Neglecting Quality Time

Spending quality time together is essential. When partners prioritise other activities over each other, they must find ways to reinvest in their relationship to keep it strong.

Quality time helps in maintaining a connection and understanding each other better. Shared activities and interests can reinforce the bond and provide opportunities for meaningful interactions.

6. Invalidating and Mocking

While playful teasing can be harmless, hurtful comments that belittle your partner can cause significant damage. Maintaining a tone of respect and support is vital.

Mockery and invalidation can undermine your partner’s confidence and sense of self-worth. It’s important to communicate with empathy and understanding, ensuring your partner feels valued.

7. Resisting Change

Healthy relationships thrive on mutual growth and adaptability. When partners become rigid in their thinking and resist change, it can hinder the relationship’s progress.

Openness to new experiences and perspectives enriches the relationship. Embracing change together can lead to personal growth and a deeper connection.

8. Shifting Blame

Effective communication involves listening and understanding without interrupting. Deflecting blame onto your partner disrupts constructive dialogue and resolution.

Taking responsibility for your actions and acknowledging your partner’s feelings can foster a more supportive environment. Blame-shifting often leads to defensiveness and further conflicts.

9. Keeping Secrets

Open and honest communication is the cornerstone of a strong relationship. Keeping secrets can undermine trust and lead to misunderstandings and conflict.

While privacy is important, secrecy can be damaging. Transparency about significant issues and concerns is crucial for building trust and ensuring a healthy relationship.

10. Using Alcohol to Escape

While alcohol can be part of social activities, using it to avoid relationship issues is harmful. Excessive drinking to escape intimacy and connection is a serious concern.

Dr Gunther notes, “I have never seen a quality relationship endure when one or both partners use excessive alcohol to avoid connection.” It’s important to address the underlying issues rather than resorting to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Recognising and addressing these subtle behaviours can help couples strengthen their relationships. By making conscious efforts to change, partners can nurture a healthier, more supportive bond.

Dr Gunther’s insights highlight the importance of early intervention and proactive communication in maintaining relationship health.

These changes can prevent small issues from becoming insurmountable and keep the relationship strong. Implementing these strategies can revitalise the connection and foster long-term relationship health.