Insight Is 20/20

Exploring the pervasive, and unperceived, patterns that govern our lives

5 Ways to Ruin a Romantic Relationship

Destroying a relationship is easier than you may think.

Conventional wisdom suggests that relationships end for complex reasons, but the truth is that relationships end for pretty simple reasons. I've highlighted five factors below that inevitably lead to the end of a relationship if they become a long-term pattern. Be careful, because relationships are fragile!

1. Emotional over-reaction

A quick defense isn't always the best offense, so take a moment to think about the consequences to your reaction. When your partner says or does something that makes you feel angry, sad or insecure, try telling yourself not to over-react and to hear your partner out without interruption, as well as telling him or her that you need time to think before you comment back. Couples often don't understand that, when things get stormy, the best way to proceed is to do something counter-intuitive. Instead of saying what's on your mind, go to your separate corners to reflect alone: creating physical space may help determine whether what was said is accurate or was said impulsively without much meaning. The ultimate point is to discuss it after you both have cooled down.

2. Nagging

Choose your battles with your partner, because acting like a nagging mother or harping on an issue will only push the two of you apart. Poll a few close friends or relatives on the issue: if everyone agrees it's a problem, then asking the partner to change it is justified. Another effective tactic is to ask your partner whether they think you nag them: if they say "yes," apologize for past nagging and consciously work on changing that behavior. Check yourself by paying extra attention to the way you talk to your partner over the next week. If you catch yourself nagging, apologize immediately and distract yourself by engaging in another activity. Ask your partner to point out your nagging in a nice voice the next time you do it so that it doesn't start a fight.

3. Insecurity

Men and women both want the same thing: someone confident and strong, not someone they need to reassure like a toddler. The truth is that insecurities often don't reflect how your partner sees you in reality. If you try to turn your partner into your therapist, you'll burn them out and they will start to detach from you. Instead, come out of the ‘insecurities closet' by making a list of your primary insecurities, such as weight/body issues or fears of undesirability, and tell your partner that you're aware that your insecurities are probably having an impact on your partner. Apologize if you've spent too much time or energy complaining. If this is your problem, start journaling or seek out a trained psychotherapist who can zero in on this problem behavior.

4. Codependency

In a push to fuse with their partner, some people will forget about their own interests, hobbies and goals—things that may have attracted their partners in the first place. To break codependency's false bond, make a list of how and with whom you spent your free time prior to your relationship—a worthwhile exercise. Try monitoring the amount of alone time you have, as no couple should be spending all their free time together. Pursue an activity on your own, such as going to the gym or take a fun class at your local community college. If you've lost touch with friends you genuinely care about in favor of spending time almost exclusively with your partner, regain your identity by making an effort to meet a friend or two for an activity or a meal.

5. Compulsive behaviors

A significant increase in the frequency of substance use, shopping, impulsive purchases, or socially going out will often make the other partner extremely anxious, destabilizing the relationship, causing arguments, and ultimately causing it to end. If this problem applies to you, your compulsive behaviors should be addressed immediately upon your awareness of them. Own up to your excessive behavior, tell your partner you are taking steps to put a stop to it, and ask your partner how your actions have impacted them to validate their feelings. To address a shopping compulsion, for example, use cash in lieu of credit cards, curbing the likelihood to spend money on impulse purchases. Consider visiting the self-help section of the bookstore to educate yourself on your specific issue, or seek out the help of a therapist or support groups.

Relationships require that both partners be vigilant about attending to their own individual needs, as well as the needs of the overall relationship (e.g., showing each other attention and showing appreciation of each other through generous and kind behaviors). The five factors above that destroy relationships are totally preventable, so put your behavior on notice and understand that there are no true guarentees when it comes to love.

PLUS: Check out my book on how to stop repeating the same old, dysfunctional patterns in your relationships, Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.

 

Seth Meyers, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health.

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