Sex & Relationships

Experts Say These 20 Things Won't Happen In A Strong Relationship

Remember: There's no such thing as a perfect relationship.

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It's not uncommon to experience an uncomfortable moment in your relationship, on occasion. But if it keeps happening, you might start to question the strength of your relationship or if you're doing OK as a couple — and with good reason.

Experts say ongoing feelings of unease are worth looking into. As Rori Sassoon, a relationship expert and author of The Art of the Date, tells Bustle, discomfort in a relationship is often a sign something is missing between you and your partner, whether it's trust, good communication, or respect. It might also be a sign of another underlying problem, entirely.

To identify where this "off" feeling is coming from, Sassoon recommends asking your partner to chat, and assuring them that it's OK to be entirely honest. See if they've been sensing it, too. And from there, talk about ways to improve your relationship, like how you might be able to communicate more clearly — and see if that creates a stronger sense of connection, over time.

There's no such thing as a perfect relationship, and ongoing problems certainly can't be fixed overnight. But if any of the habits listed below sound familiar, especially if they keep cropping up, it's time to check in, reevaluate where you stand as a couple, and make a few changes.


Your Partner Doesn't Have Your Back

If your partner constantly sides with everyone else, and never seems to have your back, eventually you'll start to feel "isolated, disrespected, and undervalued," Alonna Donovan Makinson, MA, LPCC-S, a couples counselor, tells Bustle.

If it's a one-time thing, fine. But if they always let you down, it may indicate "your partner isn’t prioritizing you in the relationship," Donovan Makinson says, or that you need to work on your connection.

The next time it happens, let them know how you feel. "A caring partner will try to empathize with your feelings," she says, "seek to understand their role in contributing to your discomfort, and work towards repair."


They Attack Your Character

Even if it happens in the heat of an argument, it's pretty much never OK to exchange nasty words, or attack each other's character.

"How each of you handles anger and conflict is an indicator of whether [the relationship] will last," Lesli Doares, MS, LMFT, a couples consultant and coach, tells Bustle. "Name-calling and other forms of contempt are highly disrespectful to both you and the relationship."

While it's possible to practice communication skills and learn how to argue in a less toxic way, Doares says, consider leaving the relationship if nothing changes.


They Exclude You

If you and your partner have a strong connection, chances are you'll be spending a lot of time together. They'll naturally want to invite you to events with family, friends, and coworkers, Doares says, and you'll want to do the same.

Of course, it's healthy to spend time apart on occasion. But take note if you're left hanging the majority of the time. As Doares says, if it's something you can attend, your partner should, at the very least, extend an invitation.

"Not being given that option is an indicator of how your partner views the relationship," she says.


You Can't Speak Your Mind

As Donovan Makinson says, "A healthy relationship provides the safety necessary to feel comfortable with disclosing vulnerable information to a partner."

So if that's not the case, try to make a few changes. "Let your partner know up front when you want to disclose something that makes you feel uncomfortable," she says. "That way, it'll allow them the opportunity to respond with care, which increases safety in the interaction and makes it easier for you to revisit difficult topics in the future."

If they aren't OK with that, or they make you feel bad about being open or honest, move on.


They Make Decisions For You

Being a couple means making a lot of decisions together, which is why it should never feel as if your partner is calling all the shots, or as if you're being swept along in their life. Or vice versa. "It’s an indication of how the two of you are separate, not a couple," Doares says. "It’s also disrespectful."


They Dismiss What You Say

Even when you struggle to see eye-to-eye, your partner should still attempt to see your point of view, and not immediately dismiss what you say. "Managing differences is a huge component of healthy relationships," Doares says. "Learning how to do this effectively is the way forward." But unless you're both committed to doing so, the problem will only keep coming back.


They Make Negative Comments About Your Family

It's not uncommon to go to a family get-together as a couple, and then vent for a while afterward about the annoying things your uncle said. But your partner shouldn't launch into a free-for-all, where they bash your family incessantly, or seemingly hang onto problems.

It's not only rude, Sassoon says, it's also a sign they probably aren't watching what they say because they aren't planning on sticking around very long. Or that they have a problem they aren't talking about, and instead are choosing to take it out on you inadvertently.

These habits are incredibly toxic, and will only get worse as time goes on.


They Hold Onto Grudges

It can be tough to let go of hurtful things from the past, but it's necessary to do so if you want a strong relationship. Holding onto a grudge "blocks communication and conflict resolution," Michael Ceely, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist, tells Bustle. So, if either of you struggles to move on — and especially if you cling onto the small stuff, he says — your relationship may be in trouble.


You Struggle To Compromise

If it seems like you and your partner are never able to reach a compromise or meet each other halfway when it comes to solving problems, that's yet another red flag.

Holding onto the need to be "right" will only lead to more frequent arguments, Ceely says. It's also a sign you are viewing each other as adversaries, instead of part of a team.


They Don't Apologize

It's important to know how to apologize to each other, as well as how to take the temperature of the room, so to speak.

When you do both of these things, it's no longer necessary to walk on eggshells. You're also "more cognizant of a bad mood you might be projecting, or slight moments of potential insensitivity," Michele M. Paiva, a licensed psychotherapist, tells Bustle. "In an unhealthy relationship, partners usually have to come to some conflict place in order to get an apology or even awareness of an issue."


They're Constantly On Their Phone

While it may not seem like a big deal — especially compared to other things on this list — it isn't great if you and your partner are constantly staring at your phones, instead of looking up and being present.

It could be a sign you're emotionally checked out, or even being slightly passive-aggressive, Paiva says, meaning you're using your phones as a way of avoiding a tough conversation, or "getting back" at each other.

Of course, it's OK to answer texts or chill out while scrolling through Instagram, but if the phone-checking occurs so often it starts to feel like there's a great divide between you, talk about it ASAP.


They Seem Distant

In a similar vein, if your partner seems distant, check in with them immediately. Creating space to talk can mean finding out what's on their mind, and potentially fixing a problem before it gets worse.

But if it seems like you're the only one who's willing to make effort, you may be saving yourself a lot of time by calling things off now, and finding someone who is more invested.


They Don't Hear You

If your relationship is strong, you'll get the sense that your partner is actually digesting what you're telling them, Paiva says, instead of your words going "in one ear and out the other." Because remember, there's a difference between hearing someone, and actually listening to what they say.

Listening is a skill you can both work on improving over time. And once you do, you'll feel like your relationship is a thousand times stronger.


Jealousy Takes Over

Jealousy happens, and a touch of it here and there isn't that big of a deal. But let's say your partner receives a text from their ex. What kinds of emotions does it stir up? If you immediately assume the worst, and feel like your relationship is in jeopardy, take note.

The anger and distrust that stems from unchecked jealousy will quickly drive your relationship into the ground, Paiva says. So push back against it by creating boundaries, and talking with your partner about how you feel.


You Feel Insecure

Speaking of jealousy, if your relationship is solid, you likely won't encounter many situations that make you question the future of your relationship. To use the ex example again, your first thought won't be, "Oh no, my partner is going to leave me for them," just because they texted to say hi.

It can take a lot of work to get to this point as a couple, but it's worth the effort to know that you've got a solid connection, and little everyday moments like these won't shake you.


They Don't Treat You Equally

If you get the sense your partner views you as "less than," in any way, call it out immediately. Have a discussion about what equality and respect will look like in your relationship, Sara Stanizai, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. And go from there.


There Are Constant Comparisons

In a strong relationship, both partners will encourage each other to find success. So take note if your partner responds with jealousy or anger whenever you get good news, or when things seem to be going your way.

"This can look like being passive-aggressive when you share your wins," Stanizai says. "It can look like jealousy that you are getting attention from others." The root of this is insecurity, she says, and that's all sorts of toxic.


They Overreact

If your partner constantly overreacts, or lets their emotions get out of control, you may eventually learn to avoid bringing up potentially tough topics, Dana C. Avey, MS, MA, BC-TMH, ADS, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle, for fear that it will create conflict or start an argument.

And it's easy to see why that's no good. If your partner's bad moods control the whole atmosphere of your relationship, it'll be difficult to feel safe, much less maintain a strong connection going forward.


They Resist Therapy

If you do notice ongoing problems in your relationship — like your partner overreacting 24/7 to the smallest of inconveniences, and taking their frustration out on you — it may be worth looking into couples therapy. This is a great way to unpack and understand bad habits, and learn how to communicate more clearly.

Take note, though, if your partner doesn't want to go. It may mean they aren't fully invested in your future as a couple, or that they lack the maturity to do whatever's necessary to create a stronger relationship.


They Same Problems Keep Coming Back

In unhealthy relationships, couples are typically unable to effectively resolve conflict and examine the real issue at hand, Daryl Johnson, Ph.D., a psychologist and couples therapist, tells Bustle, which often means having the same arguments over and over and over again.

That said, the problem is rarely what you end up arguing about. If you're arguing about the dishes, Johnson says, the real issue might be much deeper, like an inability to work as a team or share responsibility. And it's important to catch that difference, ASAP.

Let problems like these serve as a jumping-off point for a conversation. While not all issues can be resolved — and when that's the case, it is OK to walk away — you can work to build a stronger relationship by acknowledging what feels wrong, and then making a mutual effort to fix it.


Rori Sassoon, relationship expert and author of The Art of the Date


Alonna Donovan Makinson, MA, LPCC-S, couples counselor

Lesli Doares, MS, LMFT, couples consultant and coach

Michael Ceely, LMFT, licensed psychotherapist

Sara Stanizai, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Prospect Therapy

Dana C. Avey, MS, MA, BC-TMH, ADS, licensed marriage and family therapist

Daryl Johnson, Ph.D., psychologist and couples therapist