Over the years I've discovered, both personally and professionally that most relationships can tolerate a reasonable amount of stress. No one is perfect or should be expected to be. On the other hand, I've identified 10 specific behaviors which are highly likely to ruin your relationship. You could call these the "deal breakers."
Most of us want to be good to our romantic partner. We want to show them love and respect and make them happy, but sometimes our emotional issues get in the way of our doing the right thing.
If any of the following behaviours apply to you, it might be a good idea to contact a counselor or therapist to help you to understand what's going on and to make some changes, before you lose your relationship.
1. Selfishness. The whole point of a relationship is to share your life with your partner. This means sharing your thoughts, feelings, time and possessions with them. If you're withholding, your partner will feel shut out and will wonder if you really care about them.
Consistently putting your needs and feelings ahead of your partner's will not endear you to them. Being selfish leads to alienation and disconnection and breaks down the intimacy in a relationship.
2. Contempt. The reason to be with someone is because you care about them. This means that you should also like them, respect them, enjoy their company and be glad to know them. Ideally, you should be best friends as well as lovers.
Contempt is the opposite of what a healthy relationship requires. When a partner experiences your contempt, they'll be hurt, angry and confused. What they need, instead, is for you to be proud of them and to make them feel good about who they are.
3. Shaming. People are very sensitive to shame. Being in a relationship is supposed to build each person's sense of self-worth and increase their confidence. Making the other person feel stupid or small is extremely destructive, and if you humiliate your partner in front of other people, consider this to be the kiss of death for the relationship.
4. Unrelenting nagging. People want to feel like their relationship is their refuge, their "safe space." If you continually nag your partner, they'll feel harassed and will want to withdraw from you. In a loving relationship, your partner will respect you and gladly respond to your needs and feelings. If they refuse to listen to you, nagging isn't the answer. Couples therapy might be.
5. Undermining or failing to be supportive. Your partner should feel like they can depend on you. They should trust that you'll encourage them when they need a boost and that you'll be there for them when they're down. If you aren't supportive, your partner will feel abandoned.
Furthermore, if you constantly let them down or if you behave in ways which cause them to doubt their abilities or their value, they'll start to feel that being in a relationship with you is actually worse than being on their own.
6. Extreme controlling. One of the advantages of being an adult is that we finally get to be autonomous and self-regulating. Most adults relish this independence and don't want it taken away. If you're very controlling toward your partner, they'll feel oppressed and become resentful.
7. Unfavorable comparisons. Your partner wants to believe that you're with them because you see them as a unique individual with wonderful qualities. When you compare them unfavorably to other people, they become demoralized. It's unlikely they'll want to stick around with someone who makes them feel this way.
8. Never being satisfied with anything. One of the nicest things about a relationship is the feeling that someone gets when they realize they can make you happy. It gives your partner great pleasure and a sense of empowerment to know that something they've done has lifted your spirits or has improved the quality of your life.
If nothing is ever good enough for you and your partner feels like they can't ever make you happy, they'll end up feeling helpless and hopeless around you. They'll become frustrated in the relationship, and this will ultimately lead to its demise.
9. Lack of commitment or cheating. A major reason for being in a relationship is to feel loved and secure. If you refuse to commit, you'll cause your partner to feel vulnerable and unsure of your true feelings. Their growing anxiety will lead to conflict.
If you flirt too overtly with other people or worse yet, are unfaithful, you'll undermine any trust that has developed between you. Your partner might stay on but if they do, they'll be extremely upset and you'll invariably hear about it, either directly or through their passive-aggressive (indirectly angry) behaviour.
10. Abuse (verbal or physical). Some people believe that being in a relationship gives them license to take out their hurt or angry feelings on their partner. This is utterly wrong-headed. Loving someone means that you should treat them at all times with consideration and respect.
There is no place in a relationship for any sort of abuse. When abuse is present, by definition, it's a bad relationship. You have every right to become angry or upset with your partner on occasion, but it's never acceptable to be abusive toward them.
Many women believe that screaming at their husband isn't abuse in same the way as a man hitting a woman is. They're wrong. Going off on your partner, whether by yelling or hitting, is a deal breaker and will eventually destroy the love between you.
If you treat your partner with kindness and respect, you'll maximize the possibility of a happy, enduring relationship. If you find, however, that you're exhibiting any of the above behaviours, your relationship is likely in trouble and it's time to take stock.
Follow Marcia Sirota on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rcinstitute