Key Behaviors That Can Harm Your Relationship, Science Reveals.

Relationships are complex and require effort from both partners to thrive. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for a successful relationship, scientific research has identified certain behaviors that can significantly harm and even kill a relationship. By understanding and avoiding these detrimental key behaviors that can harm your relationship, couples can work towards building healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

key behaviors that can harm your relationship, science reveals
key behaviors that can harm your relationship, science reveals

The study was conducted by psychologist and University of Nicosia professor Menelaos Apostolou in an effort to understand why some people ended relationships and why others did not. It was published in the peer-reviewed journal Evolutionary Psychology. Apostolou first posed the topic to a group of 233 Greek-speaking students from Cyprus, asking them to list some of the behaviors of their partners that would make them less likely to commit to a long-term relationship.

key behaviors that can harm your relationship, science reveals

Apostolou reports that the initial set of students had an average age of between 30 and 31 years old and was nearly evenly divided between male and female responses. Of the population, about 39.1% were single, 26.4% were married, and 27.2% were in relationships. After gathering the required data, Apostolou combined the results into data points and showed them to a second set of 536 adult students, asking them to select the ones that would most likely cause them to decide not to pursue a relationship further. Although women made up a higher percentage of the 321 participants, the composition of the second group of students was identical to that of the first. The participants’ average age was approximately 31 years old, with 40.3% of them in relationships, 36.6% single, and 17% married.

key behaviors that can harm your relationship, science reveals
key behaviors that can harm your relationship, science reveals

More significantly, 28% of respondents in the second group identified as parents, which would be crucial information once all the data was tallied. After finishing the second study, Apostolou was able to pinpoint 88 behaviors that could be detrimental to a relationship and further categorize them into six clear-cut groups to have a better understanding of the main causes of relationship breakups. The following six variables were the most likely to cause a relationship to end:

My partner does not care about me; my partner does not treat our children well; my partner tries to control me; my partner shows interest in other men/women; my partner exhibits abusive behavior; and my partner has undesirable traits. Here are the full details and summary of them.

1. Lack of Communication

lack of communication amongst couples
lack of communication amongst couples

Effective communication is the foundation of any strong relationship. When partners fail to communicate openly and honestly, misunderstandings and resentment can build up over time. It is crucial to express feelings, needs, and concerns in a respectful and non-confrontational manner. Active listening and empathy are also essential components of effective communication.

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2. Contempt and Disrespect

key behaviors that can harm your relationship, science reveals: contempt and disrespect
contempt and disrespect

Contempt and disrespect towards a partner can be extremely damaging to a relationship, hence it is amongst those key behaviors that can harm your relationship. Contempt and disrespect includes belittling, mocking, or dismissing the feelings and opinions of the other person. It is important to treat each other with kindness, respect, and empathy, even during disagreements or conflicts.

3. Lack of Trust

key behaviors that can harm your relationship: Lack of trust
key behaviors that can harm your relationship: Lack of trust

Trust is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. When trust is broken, it can be challenging to rebuild. Behaviors such as lying, betraying confidences, or being consistently unreliable erode trust over time. Honesty, reliability, and keeping promises are crucial for maintaining a strong foundation of trust.

4. Neglecting Emotional Intimacy

emotional neglect
emotional neglect

Emotional intimacy is the deep connection and bond between partners. Neglecting emotional intimacy can lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection. It is important to prioritize quality time together, engage in meaningful conversations, and express love and affection regularly.

5. Lack of Support

lack of support
lack of support

Supporting each other through life’s ups and downs is a vital aspect of a healthy relationship. When partners fail to provide emotional or practical support, it can lead to feelings of isolation and resentment. Showing empathy, offering encouragement, and being there for each other during challenging times can strengthen the relationship. Try to work on this as one of the key behaviors that can harm your relationship.

6. Constant Criticism

Constant criticism
Constant criticism

Constant criticism and nitpicking can wear down a relationship over time. It is important to provide constructive feedback in a loving and supportive manner, rather than constantly pointing out flaws or mistakes. Celebrating each other’s strengths and focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship can foster a healthier dynamic.


While these behaviors can harm relationships, it is essential to remember that no one is perfect, and occasional slip-ups are normal. The key is to recognize and address these harmful behaviors when they occur and work towards healthier alternatives. Seeking professional help, such as couples therapy, can also be beneficial in navigating and resolving relationship issues.

By being aware of these six key behaviors and actively working to avoid them, couples can create a solid foundation for a lasting and fulfilling relationship. Remember, relationships require ongoing effort and commitment, but the rewards of a healthy and thriving partnership are immeasurable.

Frequently Asked Questions on Key Behaviors That Can Harm Your Relationships

1. What are some common behaviors that can harm a relationship?

Some common behaviors that can harm a relationship include lack of communication, dishonesty, disrespect, controlling behavior, and neglect.

2. How does lack of communication harm a relationship?

Lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings, unresolved conflicts, and feelings of neglect. It can also prevent partners from understanding each other’s needs and feelings.

3. Why is dishonesty harmful in a relationship?

Dishonesty erodes trust, which is essential for a healthy relationship. It can lead to feelings of betrayal and insecurity, ultimately damaging the foundation of the relationship.

4. What is the impact of disrespect on a relationship?

Disrespect can make one partner feel devalued and unappreciated, leading to resentment and distance in the relationship. It can also erode the emotional connection between partners.

5. How does controlling behavior affect a relationship?

Controlling behavior can make one partner feel stifled and restricted, leading to feelings of resentment and a lack of autonomy. It can also prevent healthy communication and compromise in the relationship.

6. Why is neglect harmful in a relationship?

Neglect can make one partner feel unimportant and uncared for, leading to feelings of loneliness and disconnection. It can also create distance between partners and weaken the emotional bond.

7. What can I do if I recognize these behaviors in my relationship?

If you recognize these behaviors in your relationship, it’s important to address them openly and honestly with your partner. Consider seeking couples therapy to work through underlying issues and improve communication and understanding.

8. What are some common behaviors that can harm a relationship?

  • Constant criticism and negativity: Focusing on flaws and negativity breeds resentment and erodes trust.
  • Lack of communication and emotional expression: Bottling up feelings or avoiding difficult conversations weakens emotional connection.
  • Dishonesty and betrayal: Breaking trust through lies or infidelity can be devastating to a relationship.
  • Controlling behavior and possessiveness: Trying to control your partner’s actions or social circle fosters insecurity and suffocation.
  • Disrespect and insensitivity: Ignoring feelings, making hurtful jokes, or taking your partner for granted damages emotional intimacy.
  • Unmet expectations and resentment: Holding unrealistic expectations or failing to acknowledge your partner’s needs leads to disappointment and bitterness.
  • Jealousy and possessiveness: Excessive suspicion and controlling behavior create tension and distrust.
  • Financial mismanagement and secrecy: Dishonesty or irresponsible spending with money can cause significant stress and conflict.
  • Lack of effort and taking each other for granted: Neglecting to nurture the relationship leads to disconnection and feelings of being unappreciated.
  • Inability to resolve conflict constructively: Avoiding conflicts or resorting to aggression hinders healthy communication and problem-solving.

9. How can I tell if these behaviors are harming my relationship?

  • Notice if you or your partner are experiencing frequent arguments, emotional withdrawal, decreased intimacy, or a general sense of unhappiness.
  • Pay attention to changes in communication patterns, like increased negativity, defensiveness, or avoidance.
  • Consider if there are underlying issues like stress, insecurities, or past experiences impacting your behavior or your partner’s.
  • Seek feedback from trusted friends or family if you’re unsure how your actions might be affecting your partner.

10. What can I do if I recognize these behaviors in myself or my partner?

  • Open and honest communication: Talk to your partner about your concerns and listen openly to their perspective.
  • Take responsibility: Acknowledge your own contributions to the problem and be willing to change.
  • Seek professional help: Consider couples therapy or individual counseling to gain tools for healthier communication and conflict resolution.
  • Focus on personal growth: Work on understanding your own emotions, triggers, and communication styles.
  • Practice empathy and understanding: Try to see the situation from your partner’s perspective and acknowledge their feelings.
  • Prioritize quality time and connection: Dedicate time for nurturing your relationship through positive interactions and shared activities.
  • Strengthen communication skills: Learn active listening, expressing yourself clearly, and resolving conflicts constructively.
  • Celebrate each other and express appreciation: Regularly show your partner you care through words and actions.

Remember, addressing harmful behaviors takes time, effort, and commitment from both partners. If you’re willing to work on it together, you can overcome challenges and build a stronger, healthier relationship.

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