6 'Sweet' Gestures That Can Actually Damage Your Relationship

by Kristine Fellizar
Red rose for a girlfriend. Romantic couple sitting in a cafe drinking coffee and enjoying in convers...

Spending all your free time with your partner and texting back and forth throughout the day are things you would think are good for your relationship. For some couples, it can be. But according to experts, there's a fine line between gestures that are good for a relationship and ones that are toxic. Being mindful of these things can prevent you from doing any real damage to your relationship.

"We sometimes think that toxic behaviors are sweet and romantic because in the beginning it may feel that way," Dr. Laura Dabney, M.D., a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, tells Bustle.

For example, people who are controlling may appear like they just want to take care of you. At the beginning, you may even like how they check in all the time, how they want to know where you're going, and how they want to see you every chance they get. If you haven't been treated like that by anyone before, it can make you feel really special. But at some point, those "romantic" gestures can become overwhelming and toxic.

"Attractive behaviors are often very similar to toxic behaviors, and there is a fine line between the two," David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert, tells Bustle. So here are some seemingly romantic gestures that may be damaging your relationship, according to experts.


Dropping In Unexpectedly

You'll see this in movies all the time. Someone will be "in the neighborhood" and will just casually drop by at the other's apartment or work just to say hi. They may even take it a step further and bring you lunch or some flowers. That kind of gesture can really stay with you at first. But as Mary J. Gibson, relationship expert at DatingXP, tells Bustle, some people value their space and time alone. This is especially true when they're at work. For some, dropping by out of nowhere can raise some serious red flags. Even if you have good intentions, it can make your partner feel like you're invading their space.


Being Very Protective


There's nothing wrong with being protective over your partner. If you love someone, it's good to show that you have their back. But according to Gibson, it can get irritating pretty quickly when you're constantly trying to fight their battles for them or your suspicious of other people's motives. "Remember you're a partner, not a parent," she says. "Your partner doesn't need to be protected from the world." It's OK to be supportive and encouraging. It's also OK for your partner to know people that you don't. You want to make sure you're actually being protective and not possessive or controlling.


Being Your Partner's Therapist

Everyone gets stressed and they may need someone to talk to. According to Diana Venckunaite, certified life and relationship coach, there's nothing wrong with being that person for your partner. But "the trouble begins when you cross the line into becoming the emotional outlet for your partner," she says. It's essential to create emotional boundaries in your relationship. You can't take on your partner's feelings as if they were your own. That's way too much for one person to handle. Instead, Venckunaite says, "You can be their support by listening and supporting them in a compassionate way. You already have enough on your plate and don't need to take on more emotional turmoil that's not even yours. "


Saying "I Love You" Too Soon


It can be really refreshing to finally find someone who expresses their love for you early on. But as Christine Scott-Hudson, marriage and family therapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle, "Early professing of love is a red flag for a method of manipulation called love bombing." When someone love bombs you, they'll act like the ideal romantic partner early on. They'll compliment you all the time, express their love for you early on, and will make grand romantic gestures. While this can be great, it's also very shallow. They'll never take the time to get to know the real you or show you their true self. You can't really form a true lasting connection to someone without that. So as Scott-Hudson says, "Slow things down, keep your eyes wide open, and keep your logical brain online. Slowing down your relationship will not hurt a genuine partner. They'll be happy to wait for a chance with you."


Gift Giving After Fights

Pretty much every couple will fight. It's normal and healthy for a relationship. How you resolve these conflicts is key. "There’s nothing wrong with apologizing with a bouquet of flowers in hand," certified relationship expert Adina Mahalli, MSW, tells Bustle. "But using gifts to side-step communication difficulties leads to unhealthy conflict resolution and unsettled arguments that may be damaging to your relationship." Gifts can help temporarily, especially if that's your partner's love language. But it can never replace a sincere, "I'm sorry." Chances are, you'll just keep fighting about the same issues over and over again.


Making Everything About Your Partner


At the beginning of a relationship, it's sweet to want to spend all of your time with your new partner. But when you stop hanging out with your friends, abandon your hobbies, and stop doing things that you used to do in order to nurture your relationship, that can cause problems down the line. "This total focus change from taking care of yourself to jumping into someone else will likely leave you unfulfilled," Venckunaite says. "This will only end in you not knowing who you are and what you like. It will also create a dependence on your partner for your happiness."

There's nothing wrong with being protective or wanting to be with your partner as often as you can. These gestures aren't necessarily bad. It's just important to set boundaries and recognize when you may be doing too much. If you're mindful of your behavior and make adjustments as you go, you can have a healthy long-term relationship.