4 Destructive Behaviors That Ruin a Relationship

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Have you had a series of relationships that all ended badly? Were they all marked by emotional turbulence and a cycle of breaking up and making up? If you see a recurring pattern in all of your intimate affairs of the heart, maybe you shouldn’t be blaming lady luck but start looking inward, into your own behavior.

Destructive behaviors are not gender-specific. Men and women have them and they can bring down many a relationship more than infidelity or addiction. These actions and attitudes make for unhappy marriages or partnerships fraught with anxiety, depression, contempt and anger that cause physical and emotional distress.

Here are conducts and attitudes that, if left to fester, will undermine whatever love and respect remain and ultimately destroy your union.

Four Types of Destructive Behavior


1.5 stars

…is a general attack on the partner’s person. It is character assassination, passing judgment and demeaning the person. In criticizing your partner, you are showing that you are the better, more superior person. You might defend yourself by saying you’re only being truthful. But telling the truth doesn’t belittle and it isn’t hurtful.

Relentless criticism leads to contempt, resentment and withdrawal from the partner. The criticizer is contemptuous of the other person for not being up to standards and the criticized builds and harbors resentment. The end result is withdrawal from the relationship.

Voicing a complaint is not criticizing. When you complain, you are addressing a specific issue and not attacking your partner. You still show respect and understanding in your choice of words and in the manner of conveying your message.


eye roll

…is a mocking remark done intentionally and consciously. It is said to be a more polite form of criticism because it is expressed indirectly. But it is just as destructive. Sarcastic remarks are snarky in nature, delivered to convey scorn and ridicule for the partner. The sarcastic person may feel witty but the partner is hurt and constant sarcasm can damage open communication between you.

If you treasure your relationship, avoid sarcasm by consciously playing your words in your head before speaking out. If it sounds snarky, don’t say it. Check your body language, too. The eye rolls and sneers are giveaways that are as hurtful as words.

Tuning Out

destructive behavior


…is the act of disconnecting from your partner emotionally and psychologically, even if you are physically together. Relationship analyst John Gottman, PhD calls it stonewalling, an avoidance strategy that one partner resorts to when overwhelmed by negativity in the relationship. Gottman calls it one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, a deadly non-communication technique that can end a relationship.

Tuning out is a way to soothe the self after a barrage of criticism or avoid conflict in an unhappy relationship. The object of stonewalling feels frustrated and ignored while the person who stonewalls is doing it for self-protection.  When you and your partner have been tuning each other out for a long period, it’s time to seek professional help that will aid you in developing communication strategies that will strengthen, not weaken, your union.



…is the need to always be by your partner even if it’s not physical presence. It’s knowing the whereabouts of your loved one 24/7, texting and calling more times than is considered socially acceptable and getting nervous or angry if there is no immediate response. Clinginess can be suffocating to the other person who may want some personal space. Being clingy is not a sign of love; it’s actually a sign of insecurity and attachment. It is also an effective way to ruin a relationship and drive your partner away.

Prevent being clingy by developing your own interests, cultivating your own set of friends and learn how to manage your anxiety.

You may also like 10 Quotes about Letting Go

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