Intimate relationships thrive on emotional safety. The more each partner feels they can turn towards each other, seek shelter in each other from the storms of life, the greater the security. When I work with couples, I look for not only their relationship strengths but the unmet needs showing themselves in the myriad of ways (often not obvious) that they can. Infidelity in a relationship can be a significant fracture in a line of micro-fractures leading up to that point.
As important as it is to know how to build and strengthen a relationship, it’s also critical to understand what can severely undermine it. In John Gottman’s book , What Makes Love Last: How to Rebuild Trust and Avoid Betrayal, he talks about the damage of a lack of trust in one another and how that actually comes about. Heavily based on research done in his “love labs,” Gottman has created a list of the most unhelpful behaviors that can lead to the demise of your relationship.
10 Ways to Betray Your Relationship (Other Than Infidelity)
- Conditional Commitment: You or your partner are keeping your eyes open for something “better.”
- A Nonsexual Affair: Consider any actions taken with someone other than your partner that you would be uncomfortable with them seeing. This is your signal that you are crossing the line.
- Lying: Being dishonest will erode the safety in your relationship. Whether it’s straight forward deceit or lies to avoid conflict, they can be toxic.
- Forming a Coalition Against the Partner: Whether it’s a parent or friend, ganging up on your partner will not be received well. The relationship can feel less collaborative and more “you against me.”
- Absenteeism or Coldness: Failing to prioritize each other at a time of emotional needs can have a devastating impact. Whether failing to support during highly stressful events or consistently missing opportunities to turn towards each other during the rigors of life, both are destructive.
- Withdrawal of Sexual Interest: Though some couples report that a decrease in sex isn’t harmful to their satisfaction together, if it’s not addressed productively it can be wounding.
- Disrespect: What encapsulates this for me is a quote by John Gottman…”A loving relationship is not about one person having the upper hand – it’s about holding hands.”
- Unfairness: Going back on promises made on big life decisions is one of the biggest ways couples can feel slighted. Other common issues are around finances and housework.
- Selfishness: When one partner lives mostly in a “me” vs “we” paradaigm, me-centered behaviors can negatively impact the relationship.
- Breaking Promises: A pattern of disappointments around broken or unfulfilled promises can undermine trust between the couple. The person engaged in breaking promises can inadvertently send the message, “You don’t matter.”
Most couples begin their relationships wanting it to work. Their intentions are good. Just as it takes time to build confidence and safety in each other, the unraveling of trust can happen over a long period as well. Staying aware of doing things to strengthen your relationship, as well as staying aware of things that can destroy the relationship are doing your due diligence in being the best you can be together.1