6 Destructive Relationship Patterns to Avoid at All Costs

by The Relationship Guy
July 25, 2017

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In this post, we’re looking at 6 destructive relationship patterns to avoid at all costs.

“The only way a relationship will last is if you see it as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.”

Tony Robbins

Unless your mom and dad had a great relationship and made a point of teaching you the tricks of the trade, you’ve had to go at it alone.

The challenge with this approach is that it typically involves a lot of trial and error, and heartache before you start learning the important lessons. And trust me, there are always lessons to be learned when it comes to relationships.

In my experience, one of the most challenging parts of a relationship (and the most important areas to learn skills in) is dealing with conflict.

It doesn’t matter how much we love someone, we are still unique individuals with our own perspectives and take on life, which will eventually lead to some form of misunderstanding and conflict.

There is no way around this.

But conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just part of life.

It is how we deal with conflict that matters.

The truth is there are many approaches for dealing with relationship conflict; some work and some don’t.

Many also just appear to work, but don’t.

Not really.

These types of approaches might feel like they working because they make you feel better in the short term but usually at the cost of the long-lasting happiness and joy in your relationship.

The danger with these, what I call the common 6 destructive relationship patterns, is that they are very subtle and insidious.

What do I mean by that?

What I mean is that because these approaches are so seemingly innocent on the surface, it is easy to step into the trap of using them to deal with conflict in our relationships.

It’s only when it becomes a pattern we resort to over time and our intimacy levels and romance start paying the price, that we can see the real danger of relying on conflict management methods such as these.

In the short run however they don’t seem to do that much damage.

And that’s exactly where the danger is.

So, if you have any choice and say in the matter, I would seriously encourage you to consider using different methods to resolve any conflict you have with your partner.

But avoid the following destructive relationship patterns because they WILL hurt you over time.

So what are these 6 destructive relationship patterns?

  1. Using gifts as a cure-all
  2. Relying on hints being effective type of interaction
  3. Threating the relationship
  4. Passive-aggressive behaviour
  5. Tit for tat
  6. Failing to take responsibility for your own personal happiness

Avoid these common 6 Destructive Relationship Patterns:

Using gifts as a cure-all

On the surface, this seems like a very harmless approach to resolving conflict, but I assure you that over time this will erode the romance and intimacy in your relationship.

It’s also very easy for this approach to become a pattern as it seems so logical and even fair to some extent.

But what is this pattern look like exactly?

Here is one or two examples.

Got caught having an affair?

Simply take your partner on a vacation to a tropical island to make up for it.

6 Destructive Relationship Patterns

Is he mad at you for allowing your mom to move in without a conversation?

Just let him get that sports car he’s wanted for a long time.

Covering up relationship difficulties with cash and exciting diversions never solves the problem because the same problem always comes back; just a little stronger next time.

A much better approach is to actually talk about whatever the problem is, and work through the specific challenge you’re facing.

By doing this you have a much bigger chance of creating more trust (or at least recovering some) and closeness to your partner.

Relying on hints as an effective type of interaction.

If you didn’t know this or have never heard of it, let me be the one to break it to you – men and women communicate differently!

And that makes for some interesting times and conversations.

Look, sometimes, your partner just won’t get the message. That happens.

But other times, they get the message but resent that you’re dropping hints as opposed to just expressing how you feel openly and honestly.

So they just ignore your message. And that’s probably worse than not getting it.

As a rule of thumb, men suck at reading minds.

But, women aren’t that great either.

Therefore the best way around this is to actually just get rid of relying on hints and talk openly and honestly about issues.

6 destructive relationship patterns

If you’re feeling a certain way and you can’t seem to get rid of it unless you talk to your partner, then make the time and talk.

Don’t text. Leave Facebook out of it. Just make a date and talk heart to heart, face to face.

And do so with a willingness to listen and understand first.

Apologise if you must.

Commit to whatever.

Whatever you do, get it out.

Avoid sweeping any lingering feelings under the carpet and definitely avoid relying on hints (and mind-reading) to interact.

Instead, just take responsibility for your own desires and needs and state them openly.

Just make sure you do so respectfully.

At the end of the day, you can’t hold your partner responsible for something they’re not even aware of.

It’s not fair on either of you or your relationship.

Threatening the relationship

This doesn’t work with all people, and only the most insecure people would tolerate this tactic for long.

When you threaten the relationship as a way of getting what you want, you destabilise the relationship.

It basically puts the other person on notice that they can’t do anything wrong without the possibility of you leaving them.

This “forces” them to “behave” and keep you happy otherwise you leave them.

It is such an easy and cowardly card to play, that we don’t have to say much about it except that it won’t end well if you’re using this tactic in your relationship at the moment.

The truth is that using drama to get your way just advances the intensity and regularity of more drama in the rest of the overall relationship.

You might get your way in the short term, but there is a huge cost and eventual price to be paid.

Passive-aggressive behaviour

This is another type of dropping tip, only the hint is less clear, and you’re also punishing your partner along the way by withholding your love (if a lady) or stonewalling them (if a guy).

But that approach creates a lose-lose situation.

You don’t get to share how you’re feeling, and end up remaining upset or angry about that.

But additionally, because your partner doesn’t know how you’re feeling, and isn’t getting the hints (cold shoulders and silent treatment), you also end up being upset about that.

Consequently, you end up being angry at yourself, your partner, and the fact that you’re stuck.

Everybody loses and nothing moves forward.

A much better way to deal with how you’re feeling is to be considerate and assertive enough to inform you, your partner, how you feel and what you need.

You need to be very clear, however, especially with men.

If you just need him to listen, say that from the start.

Otherwise, our brains will go into overdrive and we’ll try and fix your problem; creating another in the process.

And if you’re a lady, go with what you man is telling you.

Don’t pry for more and definitely do not try and fix the issue for him!

That will leave him feeling incompetent which is worse than whatever it is he’s been feeling.

When you treat him as “your knight in shining armour” (or he feels that way), you’ll have a bigger problem on your hands … an Ogre.

6 destructive relationship patterns

Punishing your partner beneath the radar isn’t easy and definitely not as effective as you think. You’re more likely to get similar treatment in the near future.

Tit for tat.

You’re familiar with this one.

You screwed up by not attending his last rugby game of the season so he uses that as a reason to miss the barbecue with your parents.

Listen, whenever you’re making use of previous negative actions committed by your partner as a reason or excuse to behave poorly yourself, resentment will most likely be the outcome.

And trust me when I’m saying, no amount of “but, you did the same thing” will save you here.

Your partner won’t care and they will resent you for not supporting them.

The opposite is true, too.

Keeping track of the good deeds and refusing to do any other things for the partner until they’ve evened the score does not produce an environment that fosters relationship development.

Also, men and women keep score differently, a topic for another time perhaps, which means you’ll most likely end up with the wrong score to be evened anyway.

It doesn’t work.

6 destructive relationship patterns

As a good rule of thumb, simply avoid playing this silly game and apologise when you messed up and move on.

A marriage or relationship is not about keeping score anyway.

The Ancient Scriptures talks about true love not keeping score of wrongdoings.

It forgives, let go, and moves on.

Maybe you need to consider the wisdom of that.

Failing to take responsibility for your own personal happiness.

Do you blame your spouse for perhaps not making you happier?

Do you blame your spouse for your emotions that are negative?

If she goes out with her friends for a night on the town, do you pout and blame her for making you feel bad?

If he goes hunting with his mates, do you withhold your love by giving him the silent treatment (passive-aggressive) because you felt lonely at home without him?

If you do, you might want to know that we call that co-dependency – the need for someone else to fill in your blanks, so to speak.

But here’s the thing, and this will save you a lot of heartache and miserable days at home on your own when your partner is out,

Your emotions are your own responsibility and your partner’s emotions are their responsibility.

You have to control your own state and levels of happiness.

You cannot rely on someone else, your spouse, kids or friends, to make you feel good. It’s up to you.

You need to build certain things into your life to create the emotional states you want to experience.

That way, YOU control how you feel ALL the time and not just some of the time.

Take Away Thoughts

Avoid the use of these relationship killers.

Understand that your partner isn’t always capable to be on their A-game. And neither are you.

Some days are better than ours.

It’s simply a fact of life that can save you many tears.

Unrealistic expectations combined with destructive patterns will hurt you in the long run.

The key to a relationship that is successful is the capacity to communicate openly and fairly.

And to do that you need to take responsibility for your own feelings.

At the end of the day, relationships are way easier when you avoid doing things that will damage them over the long haul!

Avoid them and build healthy relationship dynamics and you’ll enjoy a happy life together.

If you would like more insights, please reach out to me and ask me your question in the comments section below.

Talk soon.

About the author 

The Relationship Guy

Gideon Hanekom is the founder of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) which focuses on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor almost 10 years ago. He also completed graduate studies in Psychology and is currently pursuing postgraduate Psychology studies at Massey University. He has been married to his wife for over seventeen years and is the dad of two children. His articles have been published on Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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