A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

31 Relationship Habits That You Think Are Loving, but Are Actually Dangerous

Updated: Apr. 19, 2024

Although these practices are heavily romanticized in society, they just might be poisoning your relationship. Take heed of these tips from top relationship experts.

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Making your partner your ultimate priority

“Making a partner your first priority before yourself is a ‘spiritual don’t’ because the secret to life is to love another as icing on an already great cake. If you dare to give your power away and make that person more important, you are out of balance in your energy field. You walk a fragile line with yourself, and if anything should happen, or they leave you, or the relationship changes course, then you are a fallen soul with no means to get up. One must love in a healthy way by always making themselves number one in self-care.” – Audrey Hope, celebrity renowned relationship expert. Here are 19 things your marriage counselor already knows about you.

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Trying to save or change someone

“Many times, a person will feel as though they can change or make their spouse their ‘project’ to save or help. Once you stop taking your spouse’s inventory you may feel less resentment and you may feel better about the relationship since the pressure is off you and now is back on the individual’s lap.” – Lisa Bahar, marriage and family therapist.

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Moving in together too soon

“People come to me for advice often because they had a whirlwind few dates, and moved in after a few months of dating. Having made that commitment, they then realize, more fully, who the other person is and they’re not happy. Maybe he or she is too close with an ex, has kids that were never mentioned, has debt, is a freeloader, etc. Always wait a year before moving in together—at least. This may seem like a long time if you’re madly in love, but living together and making a long-term relationship last has more to do with compatibility and shared values than it does chemistry.” – April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert, author of four relationship advice books and the ‘Ask April’ advice column.

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Always picking up the tab

“You may think you are being so good and helping them, but in fact, you are not letting learn to stand on their own two feet. The more you lend them, the more you are making them dependent and discouraging them from becoming self-reliant.” – Elliott Katz, author of Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man.

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Quashing fantasy talk

“Most people buy into the naïve narrative that if your partner shares sexual fantasies that are different than yours (or that may not even include you), then that inherently makes him or her a pervert. Not true. We are all sexual beings, and many of us have healthy imaginations. The bottom line is that fantasizing never hurt anyone. Encouraging talk about fantasies can dramatically increase the depth of intimacy in a relationship so that we both feel safe in sharing who we are with one another.” – Steven Ing, MFT, sex columnist, and author of We’re All Like This.  

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Making too many compromises

“Making compromises always means to take a step back from oneself in order to make the other happy or to make the relationship work. But taking this step backward can mean betraying your own truth, your own desires. It means holding yourself back in going for what you really want. In the end, when both compromise, both will not be fully satisfied with what they agreed upon. Each partner will suffer in his or her own little puddle of mud. So go for what you want, even if it means that you will not spend all the time together.” – Karen Hartmann, an expert at Shoomkloom.

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Frankensteining your partner

“Often, someone in a relationship will secretly (or even worse, not-so-secretly) wish their partner had/said/did certain things, all of which are reflected in other people they know. For example: ‘If only you treated me the way our friend treats his wife, and then if you could do things with me the way my ex did, and then if you could call me pet names like my dad does my mom, then I’d be happy.’ This unhelpful ‘Frankenstein’ approach to stitching together the perfect partner—and thus shaming your current partner—undermines the kind of healthy conversation that can lead to positive outcomes.” – Ing. Add this to the list of relationships warning signs: if your partner is asking you to do these 10 things, it’s time to leave.

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Comparing your relationship to someone else’s

“I’ve seen countless women think they’re ‘encouraging’ their boyfriend or spouse to be better, do better, look better, etc.—even to the extreme of bringing negative comparisons with someone else. Such well-intended remarks don’t encourage or inspire; they demean and undermine the very trust, encouragement, and value in another. Instead, concentrate on a behavior pattern, like lack of focus or time management, that is getting in the way of the very success, health, appearance that you know that person is capable of experiencing. The encouragement of the goodness and potential in them will go much farther and gain greater rewards.” – Maura Sweeney, author, podcaster, international speaker, and trademarked Ambassador of Happiness.

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Scaring them straight

“So many couples champion what I call the MAD rules of Mutually Assured Destruction; in other words, ‘If you cheat, it’s SO over.’ This may seem to work, but only because we were so good at instilling fear that they mastered the cover-up. What this does is usually not keep someone faithful, but rather, to make them really, really good at hiding. Proclaiming from the outset that no possible transgression will ever result in forgiveness is a recipe for relationship disaster.” – Ing. Find out the signs that your partner may be cheating.

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Idealizing your partner

“In the beginning, many new couples view their partners through rose-colored glasses. Though a few extra compliments and some over-idealizing are normal, placing your partner on a pedestal can be emotionally dangerous. As soon as your partner falls into becoming an ordinary ‘human’ (flaws and all), you will set yourself up for great disappointment. Also, a partner who is over-idealized may come to expect it and be disappointed—and even angry—if you don’t maintain the facade.” – Elaine Zukerman, author of relationship self-help books, certified life coach, and psychology professor.

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Sharing everything about your relationship on social media

“Your relationship is part of your personal life, so it should be staying personal and private to you. If you share every moment of your relationship on your Facebook or Instagram page, you are leaving nothing sacred between the two of you. Think about stepping it back a bit if this is one of your habits.” – Samantha Daniels, owner of the matchmaking service, Samantha’s Table, former divorce attorney, and founder of The Dating Lounge. Here are other things you should never share on social media.

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Playing games

“Some couples play mild psychological games of being ‘unavailable’ and ‘hard-to-get’ in the beginning to instill intrigue and higher desirability. Though this may work in the short term, once the relationship is more established it can be dangerous to the future of the relationship. Learn to improve your confidence and communication by setting bottom line boundaries.” – Zukerman.

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Never fighting

“Avoiding conflict leads to bitterness and resentment in the long-term. This leads to significant problems in the relationship because we cannot fix a problem we don’t know exists. Bringing up issues also demonstrates trust in our partner and the relationship. Avoiding an argument may be well-intended, but it is rarely beneficial. On the other hand, relational research suggests that assertiveness is a powerful predictor of relationship satisfaction and effective problem-solving.” – Jim Seibold, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. When you do fight, make sure you don’t do these things afterward.

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Telling your partner a lie in order to spare their feelings

“In a long-term relationship, there will be moments where circumstances can be misconstrued and emotions conflict with logic. In order to move past doubt, each partner has to have a well-established, longstanding history of trustworthiness. Every time you choose to tell a lie instead of hurting your partner in the moment, you leave yourself vulnerable to being seen as a liar. No lie is worth jeopardizing your mate’s sense of trust in you.” – Alison Cohen, Licensed Marriage Family Therapist.

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Being jealous

“Jealousy has been romanticized in our culture. It’s common to believe the other person must really love you to care so much about who you talk with. Instead, jealousy shows a lack of trust and respect. It’s about domination and control.”- Cynthia D’Amour, MBA, love strategist.

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Getting “comfortable”

“When you start living your life on repeat (waking up, getting the kids off to school, going to work, returning home, eating dinner, watching TV, going to bed…). days turn into months, months turn into years. You can start to feel stuck in your life and wonder why. When a couple clings to the safety of routine they stop growing. Couples who have goals and revisit these goals with plans on how to achieve them inspire one another and bond over these desires.” – Lisa Concepcion, Relationship Expert and Founder of LoveQuest Coaching.

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Giving make-up gifts

“Maybe you get some expensive jewelry or a new car as an apology after fighting. Is this a generous person or someone who is trying to prove to you the abusive behaviors that happened during the fighting didn’t really happen? After all, they must love you a ton to give you such a generous gift! Beware of expensive distractions.” – D’Amour. Gifting after a fight is probably one of the relationship tips your grandma or grandpa gave you. Here are 7 tips from your grandparents to keep, and 5 you definitely shouldn’t.

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Sharing every irritant

“Sharing every little thing that bothers you [even in an effort to be a frank communicator] creates a negative tone to the relationship, which makes positive growth difficult. My rule of thumb: if you won’t remember what it was when you wake up tomorrow morning, it probably wasn’t worth mentioning.” – Mark E. Sharp, PhD and psychologist at the Aiki Relationship Institute.

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Taking great lengths to “keep you safe”

“Your friends find it charming that your significant other always picks you up whenever they can—or expects you to call right away if you are going to be a few minutes late. Is it love? Maybe not. When someone treats another like a child and keeps them on a very short leash, it’s a potential form of abuse.” – D’Amour. Here are the signs you can trust your partner.

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Always cheering your partner up

“Life has ups and downs, and unpleasant emotions are part of that. When someone always tries to cheer their partner up (often because they can’t tolerate seeing them in pain), they often end up sending the message that their partner’s emotional reactions are invalid, which is a real connection killer. They should instead learn how to communicate support in such situations.” – Dr. Sharp.

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Saying that you can’t live without them

“You are so completely smitten and ga-ga over them that you want to spend every waking minute together. It’s dangerous because it puts way too much pressure on the partner to be their partner’s perfect person, but it also shows a severe flaw in the obsessive partner. You see, if I cannot function without my husband, then I have not learned to be self-sufficient and must rely on another to bring me happiness. That is simply not possible or healthy.” – Stacey Greene, author of Stronger Than Broken. On the other side of things, here are the signs your partner sees you as just a fling.

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Taking on the other’s happiness as a responsibility

“We all want our significant other to be happy with us, but it is a dangerous habit to fall into when you believe it is your responsibility to make them happy. Personal happiness is an individual choice. Taking on the role of making someone else happy will only lead to two unhappy people.” – Monte Drenner, licensed counselor, master certified addictions professional, and life coach.

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Venting to your friends about your partner

“If you’re constantly ear polluting your friends with your relationship drama, chances are you know something isn’t right and you’re seeking validation. You are avoiding dealing with the issues with the person who is creating them.” – Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, researcher, and author.

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Spending lots of money to make the other over

“Instead of a dream come true, a generous gift can be a nightmare in the making. Whether it is a new wardrobe in a style that’s not you or being sent to a wellness spa so you can finally get in shape, gifts that don’t reflect your preferences and desires may indicate overly controlling behavior.” – D’Amour.

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Believing things like “I could never stand to lose you”

“Making these kinds of proclamations sets you both up for a potentially difficult time because not all relationships last forever. Second, on a more realistic note, you were probably OK before you met this person, and you will be OK, should he or she walk out of your life. And third, this kind of relationship is just too intense, and that kind of intensity will not last. Relating these kinds of messages to your partner might make him or her think you are dependent on them. Dependency in a relationship is far from healthy, and when a person believes you need them, they may be reluctant to disappoint or break up with you—perhaps staying with you out of pity. On the other end, he or she might feel they can treat you any way they like because you just aren’t going anywhere.”- Jesse D. Matthews, Psy.D, PA & DE licensed psychologist. You’ll also want to make sure you stop saying these things to people in your life.

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Always being dressed well and done up

“I’ve watched a few women, all of whom had their own unique talents, style, abilities, interests, and flair, attempt to mold themselves into a certain image they believed their husband or boyfriend desired. One in particular, a stunning nurse who earned her PhD, repeatedly and alternately dressed up or down, wore makeup or not, and expressed or repressed herself in public—all to please what she perceived her partners desired. Rather than imagining what another wants, and turning into a chameleon, partners need to be as mindful and respectful of themselves and their identities as they are mindful and respectful of others. It’s that ebb-and-flow, that interplay of personalities, that helps foster and maintain healthy, vibrant, loving, and often fascinating relationships.” – Sweeney.

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Planning the future

“Thinking about the future is great when you’re planning to get married, start a family, or go on a big vacation. However, if you and your partner spend too much time fantasizing about the future, you may be missing out on what’s happening in your lives right now.” – Jeannie Assimos, Chief of Advice at eHarmony. Here are some bad relationship habits you need to let go of.

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Wanting to be together 24/7

“When you spend too much time together, you become enmeshed and start to lose your own identity. You may stop doing things you like to do, you may kick friends or family to the curb, and your entire life becomes about that person. It’s an all-or-nothing mentality, and that isn’t healthy. Should it last, you will eventually wake up and realize how much of yourself or your life you have lost. And if it doesn’t last, you may find that you’re left with nothing.” –  Dr. Matthews.

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Deeming your partner your “best friend”

“This isn’t always bad, but in most cases, a person has a best friend already. It may not be healthy to forsake other friendships because you now have someone new and you just don’t need them anymore. If you invest everything into your relationship and your partner becomes your everything, you are likely neglecting other areas of your life or other important relationships. First of all, it’s healthy to have a variety of friendships, so you want to avoid letting friends go. And secondly, the majority of romantic relationships do end, and the majority find it difficult to maintain that ‘best friend’ status when it’s all said and done.” – Dr. Matthews. Here are the signs experts say mean you’re in a healthy relationship.

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Loving someone “unconditionally”

“Love should have conditions, namely that you’ll love your partner as long as they treat you with basic respect and dignity. If someone abuses you (verbally or emotionally), then sticking with them because of some ‘unconditional’ love is unhealthy.” – David Bennett, certified counselor, relationship expert, and co-author of seven self-help books.

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Saying, “You complete me”

“You are the only one that can complete yourself and this is daunting.” – Isabel James, founder of Elite Dating Managers. You’ll also want to make sure to keep an eye out for the 9 subtle signs you’re in a toxic relationship.