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Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFTSally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT
A blog about mental and emotional health

4 Well-Intentioned Behaviors That Can Damage a Relationship

Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT Updated: Mar 27th 2013

Being a good spouse is not always easy and most people really want to do their best as a spouse.

couple not talkingThere are, however, some things that spouses do to try to be helpful that can actually make things worse. Check over this list and see if you fall into any of these bad habits.

1. Offering advice

When your spouse comes to you with a problem, it is often so easy to figure out how they can solve it, right? Wrong. Offering advice often gives the message that you are not really listening or that you don’t care. It is much better to listen and be a “sounding board” or a “shoulder to cry on” rather than offering solutions.

After you have a good understanding of the problem, then you might be able to make some suggestions but not unless you get a clear request or indication that your input is desired.

Playing the “Devil’s Advocate” falls into this same category. As a good spouse, you want to be on your partner’s side rather than letting them know what is wrong with their argument. Unless they ask for you to give them the arguments that they may encounter, don’t offer it. Your relationship is the most important thing to consider here. Believe in your choice of a mate. You married a smart person and he or she will eventually figure things out. They just need someone who is on their side.

2. Being too positive

Positivity is important in any relationship. Looking at the goodness and what is right is so much better than dwelling on the negative and what is “missing”. Wanting to get your spouse from a negative place by encouraging “looking on the bright side” or forgetting about upsetting things is not always helpful, however. Sometimes you have to deal with the sad, disappointed, frustrated or angry feelings.

If you rush to change a mood, you risk the possibility that your partner will feel that his or her needs and feelings have been discounted. You also might risk the chance to experience intimacy and learn from your partner and the relationship. Hear your partner out before trying to change the mood or tone. Ask a lot of questions that get him or her to talk more with you about whatever is bothering them.

3. Protecting by not sharing complaints or important information

The temptation might be to ignore problems rather than to deal with them. After all, what someone does not know can’t hurt them, right? Not so.

Secrets can be very destructive to a marriage. Hiding things from bills and finances to affairs can damage the trust and integrity of a relationship.

Not being open about important things that bother you can also lead to distance in a relationship. Keeping the peace does not always lead to a healthier relationship.

4. Putting your partner’s needs higher than your own and not taking good care of yourself

There are a lot of women…and men… in relationships, that devote significant energy to making their spouse and their families happy. While this feels like the right thing to do so much of the time, the danger of burnout is high.

Those who do a lot in a relationship also often find that their expectations for reciprocation are not met which leads to hurt and disappointment.

You know what they say on airplanes, don’t you? Put on your own oxygen mask before putting one on someone else‘s. The same is true in relationships. Take care of your own physical and mental health and you will be a much better partner.


Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT

Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT has been a therapist for over 30 years, specializing in work with couples, families and relationships. She has expertise with clients both present in the room as well as online through email, phone and chat therapy. She has written numerous articles about solving couple and relationship dilemmas. Many of them can be found on her website, Counseling Relationships Online, or her blog, Relationship Dilemmas.

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