Bad Relationship Habits

Women's Dating

11 Bad Relationship Habits (Plus How to Break Them)

Rachel Dack

Written by: Rachel Dack

Rachel Dack

Rachel Dack is a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) and relationship coach specializing in individual and couples psychotherapy. Rachel's areas of expertise include relationships, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and self-esteem.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

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Moving past the dating stage causes your relationship to feel more stable and secure with time. Naturally, you’ll be more comfortable being your most authentic self, which is healthy. The downside of being comfortable, though, is the high probability of engaging in habits that may create space and disconnect in your relationship.

Although there’s no way around the reality that you will get on each other’s nerves sometimes, you can better understand habits that are commonly considered annoying and may decrease attraction in romantic relationships. By being aware of the obvious and not-so-obvious behaviors that can drive your partner away, you can work toward making healthier choices and breaking any bad habits that may interfere with love.

Below are 11 common habits that cause problems in relationships and how to break them:

1. Not Cleaning Up After Yourself

Being messy or sloppy is bound to annoy your partner

, especially if he or she is neater than you by nature. Piles of laundry covering your bedroom floor, dirty dishes sitting in the sink, and overflowing garbage cans are examples of bad cleanliness habits. Whether you’re living together or apart, it’s important to take care of your space, clean up after yourself on a regular basis, and not view your partner as your housekeeper.

Photo of a messy house

Have a conversation with your partner about cleaning expectations and responsibilities, so you know where you both stand and you can get on the same page.

How To Break It: Create new habits around cleanliness, clutter, organization, and household chores. For example, instead of letting laundry pile up for days or weeks on end, pick a certain day of the week for laundry, set an alarm or calendar reminder, and commit to a more proactive and consistent approach. You can utilize the same approach for taking out the trash, vacuuming, etc.

With daily tasks that are important but mundane (like doing the dishes after dinner), remind yourself that you will feel lighter if you can tackle each chore more often rather than waiting until your kitchen gets out of control. Also, if you live together, have an open discussion about household responsibilities and who is in charge of what, so one person doesn’t carry the brunt of cleaning without verbally agreeing.

2. Nagging

Nagging puts you in a maternal role, is seen as bothersome and controlling, and can crush intimacy. It’s natural to feel frustrated and unheard if you ask your partner to do something more than once and your request goes unfulfilled. However, nagging, in general, is an unhealthy habit because it’s ineffective in terms of getting needs met and getting your partner to do what you’d like.

Photo of a nagging boyfriend

Communication is key when asking for something, so try to use “I feel” and “I’d like it if” statements instead of demanding something of your partner and getting mad when they don’t follow through.

How To Break It: Allow yourself to feel frustrated at not getting through to your partner, but work on healthier communication and not being persistent in making the same request over and over again. Nagging generally starts with “you” (“You never take out the trash,” “You’re always late,” or “You need to do X, Y, and Z.”). So change the structure of your statements to “I’d really like it if you took out the trash” or “It’s really important to me that you are on time to our plans.”

Taking ownership of how you feel and what you’re looking for will allow you to communicate without sounding critical, bossy, or controlling. Also, practice being patient, picking your battles, and accepting the reality that you don’t have control over your partner and his or her behavior. Read more of my advice on how to stop nagging here.

3. Clinging

Feeling sad when your partner isn’t with you, calling your partner constantly to check in, feeling let down if your partner has his or her own social life, and texting repeatedly if you don’t get an answer back right away are all examples of clingy habits. While you may be coming from a place of love, forcing your partner to talk to you and spend time with you only creates distance.

Photo of a clingy couple

It’s OK to miss your partner when he or she is away, but don’t let that bring you down. Use it as an opportunity to work on yourself and your other relationships.

How To Break It: Work on your own confidence, self-love, and having a life outside of your relationship. Commit to spending healthy time apart from your partner to further develop your own hobbies, interests, and relationships. Understand some level of space is healthy in making your relationship last.

If your clinginess is coming from anxiety or feeling abandoned, work to resolve these core issues and develop coping skills for self-soothing, stress reduction, and anxiety management.

4. Snooping or Not Respecting Privacy or Space

While snooping and finding nothing suspicious may give you a sense of security, this habit destroys your partner’s trust in you and leads you down the path of surveillance. Snooping may be easier and more tempting in current times due to technology and social media, but not respecting your partner’s privacy is a big no-no, and, oftentimes, once you start this habit, it’s very hard to stop.

Photo of a nosy girlfriend

Ask yourself why you want to snoop and if there are issues you’re ignoring. Also, think about how you’d feel if your partner didn’t respect your privacy.

How To Break It: When you have the urge to snoop, check in with yourself on the why, and remind yourself that snooping isn’t the solution to whatever larger issues are at play. Ask yourself where the urge is coming from and if it’s coming from your partner’s behavior or your own fears or past?

Also, ask yourself how you would feel if your partner snooped behind your back. Instead of giving into the temptation of snooping, confront any underlying fears or issues in your relationship that are leading to a lack of trust.

5. Teasing/Joking

There’s a difference between playful, flirty teasing and teasing that is insensitive, critical, or mean-spirited. Having silly banter and making inside jokes are positive signs, but it can be a slippery slope if humor becomes offensive or is used as a put-down. If the humor in your relationship has turned into taking jabs or intentionally pushing your partner’s buttons, you’ve gone too far.

Photo of a man laughing at a woman

There’s a fine line between playfully picking on someone and intentionally pushing their buttons.

How To Break It: Understand your partner’s limits, and never use humor around your partner’s insecurities. Treat your partner’s sensitivities, vulnerabilities, and insecurities with love, respect, compassion, and acceptance, and save the humor for lighter topics and inside jokes. Make sure you’re laughing together (and not at each other), and never use humor as a weapon.

6. Not Taking Care of Yourself

Feeling comfortable in your relationship is a good thing, but not taking care of yourself emotionally, physically, and psychologically, or, as they say, letting yourself go, are bad habits. Examples include not working out regularly, not staying on top of your physical health or any medical or mental health issues, being a workaholic, and engaging in unhealthy or destructive habits around food, drugs, or alcohol.

Also, operating on the mindset that your partner is there to meet all of your needs is a dangerous habit.

Photo of a lazy man

Taking care of yourself will not only give you confidence, but it can help improve your relationship.

How To Break It: Reflect on your self-care habits, and take an honest look at how you’re treating yourself and your body. Reflect on what needs improvement, and set small goals for yourself while being realistic and compassionate to yourself.

For example, if your habit is to put off going to the dentist for years on end because you hate going, so you avoid it, think about what you need to meet the goal of going for regular cleanings. Or if you’re too exhausted to work out, so you neglect your physical health needs, can you creatively carve physical activity, like yoga or walking with a friend, into your day? Create new habits around your health to ensure you can show up for yourself and for your partner.

7. Waiting for Your Partner to Initiate Sex or Affection

Waiting for your partner to make the first move in the bedroom or initiate everyday gestures of affection sets unfair expectations in your relationship. This habit is bound to leave your partner thinking you aren’t into him or her and feeling rejected or confused. It makes sex and intimacy feel like a game or burden and no longer fun, natural, and exciting.

Photo of a couple flirting

Sex and intimacy shouldn’t be a game, so try to create daily habits of affection to show your partner that you care.

How To Break It: Create new daily habits for affection. For example, start each day with a loving hug, hold hands while walking the dog, or kiss hello and goodbye. If you’re feeling sexually aroused or turned on by your partner, allow yourself to go for it versus trying to control or deny the urge. Give yourself permission to connect with your partner in sexual ways without taking a submissive role in which you wait to be pursued.

8. Taking Your Partner for Granted

Forgetting to express gratitude and love, neglecting to nurture your relationship, or frequently making plans and decisions without communicating with your partner are all unhealthy habits. If your partner states that he or she feels your relationship is one-sided and you’re not making an effort to give and be romantic, you’re likely taking him or her for granted.

Photo of a sad woman

Think about what your partner has done for you and what makes them happy, and then let them know you appreciate it with a small gesture.

How To Break It: Bring in some daily gratitude by reflecting on how your partner makes you happy, enriches your life, and shows you love. Consider the unique qualities you appreciate in your partner and what he or she does to show up for you. Then articulate your gratitude through a positive statement at least once a day, and try to increase the number of times you say thank you.

9. Being Critical and Trying to Change Your Partner

These habits are common causes of breakups and divorces. While it’s natural to ask for small changes (examples include putting the toilet seat down or not texting friends while on a date with you), trying to change your partner at his or her core and carve him or her into your dream partner is toxic.

Also, there are many things about a person you cannot change, so trying is a waste of time and energy. What’s more important is accepting who your partner is and figuring out if you are a good fit.

Photo of a woman trying to change her boyfriend

Like it or not, there are some things you’re never going to change about a person, so make sure your expectations are realistic.

How To Break It: Acceptance is the glue to a healthy relationship. To keep your love alive, choose to see the good in your partner, ensure your expectations are realistic, and accept what you cannot change. Choose to love your partner for who he or she is (quirks, flaws, and all). When your critical inner voice speaks up and tells you to judge your partner, confront it by choosing to focus on acceptance and love instead.

10. Spending Too Much Time on Technology

If you’re constantly glued to your phone, computer or television, quality time with your partner will be minimal. Your partner may feel unimportant if you’re giving the bulk of your attention to your devices, engaging in selective listening, and not being present in the relationship.

Photo of a couple on their phones and ignoring each other

Being on your phones all the time can drastically affect the bond you have with your partner.

How To Break It: Set rules around your technology use. Ditch technology during meals, dates, time in the bedroom, and serious conversations. Eliminate distractions by putting your phone down and on silent and giving your full attention to your partner. Create new habits to be sure you are connecting, listening, and communicating openly and attentively.

11. Being Controlling

If you’re dominating decisions, such as what to eat, what to watch, who to hang out with, how to spend money, etc., you’ve picked up some bad habits around control. While these decisions may appear to be minor, the pattern of being controlling is a problem. Relationships require teamwork, collaboration, and compromise, so facing power struggles over decisions or not giving your partner a say is likely to cause relationship damage.

Photo of a controlling boyfriend

Make sure you both have a say in what to eat, what to watch, and how to spend money, among other things, to prevent relationship damage.

How To Break It: Controlling behavior is generally a symptom of anxiety, so instead of micromanaging your partner, get to the bottom of your anxiety and use healthy coping skills. Create a new habit of checking in with yourself, observing yourself, and confronting your urges to control your partner. Take a deep breath instead of communicating in bossy and judgmental ways, and remind yourself it’s healthy to let your partner have a say.

Remember, You’re in Control of Your Habits

By balancing being your authentic, comfortable self with the awareness of behaviors that lead to satisfying relationships and behaviors that can cause damage over time — you can take accountability for your role in making your relationship satisfying and long-lasting. You can also ensure that you’re addressing and resolving any underlying issues that are leading to the above habits.

Although habits can be challenging to break and take time, effort, and patience, it’s possible to take control of anything that’s getting in the way of your relationship and replace bad habits with new ones.

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