20 Relationship Tips: What you should not do

Here are some relationship tips with a twist. Many relationships have been ruined by some of the behaviours described below. Before reading the list, bear in mind that we all make mistakes. So don’t feel guilty if you’ve only done something once or twice. It’s when some of the following become a habit that the problem starts.

There is no need to beat yourself up even if you have done some the following often. The purpose of this post is not for you to despair, but to identify which behaviours you’d like to drop.

Relationship tips (not to do)

1. Expect the worst to happen. Visualize yourselves quarrelling and breaking up, and this will eventually happen.

2. Say hurtful words when you’re angry. You can apologise all you want later, but the damage has already been done.

3. Break your promises. This works especially well when the promise is very important to the other person.

4. Find fault with everything you don’t like about the other person. Do this often and loudly.

5. Humiliate your partner in public by teasing them about their weight or their inability to do something correctly.

6. Forget to call when you say you will. Let the other person wait by the phone seething or sobbing all night.

7. Keep your partner waiting while you finish your shopping, your lunch with friends, or whatever you’re doing.

8. Give low priority to the relationship. Say yes to everything else, and fit the relationship in only when you have scraps of leftover time.

9. Reveal secrets that your partner asked you never to tell. Blame your best friend for telling ten other people if you need a scapegoat.

10. Badmouth your in-laws in front of your spouse. If your spouse asks you not to, defend yourself by pointing out that he said exactly the same thing.

11. Refuse sex often. Tell your partner that you need to be ‘in the mood’ and you aren’t now, just like yesterday and the day before and last week.

12. Have no patience. Expect all your demands to be met at once, and throw a hissy fit if you are kept waiting.

13. See things from only one point of view. Yours, of course, since that is obviously the most important, if not the only, consideration.

14. Forget birthdays. While you’re at it, forget anniversaries too. Count on your partner to remember since it’s such a big deal for them.

15. Pretend to listen when your partner is pouring their heart out. Keep your eyes open while you mentally rehearse tomorrow’s work presentation.

16. Gossip about your partner. Tell your friends all his bad habits. After all, he’s not there and can’t be hurt by what he doesn’t hear.

17. Refuse to apologize. It takes two hands to clap, doesn’t it? So it can’t possibly be your fault.

18. Say “I told you so” every time she makes a mistake that you warned her about, just to jog her memory a little.

19. Burst into tears whenever you feel wrong, slighted, neglected, ignored, injured, or otherwise unattended to.

20. Aim to win all arguments and disagreements. Insist on having things your way because you know best.

Focus on changing one behaviour

If you recognize any behaviour you’ve been practising, don’t panic. Don’t panic even if all 20 behaviours are normal for you. Just pick one that you can work on this week. You can always come back to this list for more later.

For example, if you have consistently refused to apologise, find opportunities to say “sorry” this week. Keep it simple, like saying “sorry I was home late and kept you waiting for dinner”. The small “sorry”s will help you say the big ones when the time comes.

Focus on the behaviour you want

You are better off focusing on the behaviour you want, rather than the one you don’t. Tell yourself “I will remain calm” rather than “I won’t burst into tears” so that your brain has a mental image of what you want and can reproduce that behaviour.

Remember to go easy on yourself and your partner! We’re all trying our best and there are no bad guys. Just people in need of practising these relationship tips!

* Thanks to Barbara Swafford for the idea for this post, because she suggested writing from an opposite viewpoint.

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54 replies on “20 Relationship Tips: What you should not do”

At the age of 14 I met the love of my life, but my junior year in high school we broke up. I never understood why. I really thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives together. Now, I’m married to a wonderful man for 14 years but I don’t love him like wife should. We have to beautiful kids. He treats me great. However, I still long for my ex. Recently, I spoke with my ex, come to find out he ended the relationship because MY SISTER told him I cheated on him. I didn’t!! She hated him, so much she lied to break us up. I’m heart broken. How could someone do this to their own sister?!!

Dear Sad Girl,

I’m not sure how to reply. Some thoughts that crossed my mind:

1) Your ex could have double checked with you at the time instead of taking someone else’s word for it, if he really loved and trusted you right? But he didn’t.

2) Sometimes we don’t treasure what we have till we lose it, and it sounds like you have a wonderful husband and family worth cherishing.

You sound like you’re in a lot of pain and I hope you find some way to deal with it and find peace – meditation, prayer, whatever works for you. God bless.


i just dont know where to start. I do 10 out of the 20 on a consistent basis. Ive ruined my marriage. im at the end of my rope. i dont know why i do this.

Hiya! Thanks for posting this. I just broke up with my guy recently and have been, I guess, reading to see if I for sure made the right decision.

I realize now I was in a completely emotionally abusive relationship.

And now reading this list I see obviously I made a few mistakes, but I didn’t repeat them. But something REALLY stuck out to me.

I realize now that my former boyfriend NEVER EVER uttered the words “I’m sorry” to me. About anything. Ever. I realized that I felt like I was always apologizing about something. Hell at one point I was criticized about saying “I’m sorry” and had to apologize for that!

Thank you. Sincerely.

I’m at peace, and this helps solidify it.

I came out of a marriage because we could not talk about the things that was creating problems in our marriage. I vowed to never let anyone get that close to me again. But a year after my divorce i met a lady that had been through the same. I lowered my fence and we begin dating. Big misstake: I said this because of #1 on the list. If you visualize your relationship going bad, eventually it will. Great list but we must remember one thing.Treat every relationship as a new one.Never bring old baggage in a new relationship. THANKS: Tired

Funny how I’m putting in my two cents now, seeing as all the comments were written almost a year ago!

My own relationship is on the rocks because I always seem to say or do something which angers my partner. I love and cherish him like no other so the last thing I want is for him to be unhappy and displeased with the relationship. In desperation, I typed up and searched my problem on Google which led me to stumble upon this fantastic article. I have discovered that #9, #16 and #19 has become a habit, and I’ve realised that I have negatively impacted the relationship greatly by doing these things for so long. I’m going to try my best to work on these mistakes and always come back to this article if something goes wrong between me and my partner. You are a life-saver, Daphne! 🙂

Hi Michelle,

So glad that this article was useful to you. I think we all make these mistakes at one time or another. Good on you for choosing to work on improving your relationship. There will be ups and downs but hopefully your baseline will get higher and higher over time.

Thanks for leaving your heartwarming and honest comment. I’m grateful that something I wrote over a year ago is still useful to someone today.


Hey Nobody,

Thanks for this humourous comment. Yes I’m sure he would get mad at you if you if you rubbed his nose in it. Maybe you would get mad at him if he started ‘scoring’ you on the same list too… 🙂


What a cohesive list! One I need to re-visit again and again!:~) And if I may add it takes two to love as one!

Thank you for sharing your depth of mind and heart!


You’re so right about re-visiting again and again… just when I think I’ve stopped doing one of these, I find that I’ve started doing another three…! And yes, it does take two. Thank you for dropping by here. Seeing your name always makes me smile with happiness.

Hi Daphne – loved reading this post this morning having been off line for what seems like years, but really only a few weeks! Finally back and catching up with all my favourite blogs – yours as always being at the top of the list. Loved the way you wrote this post from the opposite perspective, very effective. I esp picked up on the first point about thinking the worst – I always maintain we ‘get what we focus on’ so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the worst is exactly what we get! Understandable to think the worst at times just as a means of protection for one reason, but having had that thought, it’s only a step a way to focus back on to the positive and what we want rather than what we fear.

Also loved reading all of the comments on this post – you really have built up such a greater readership Daphne and thoroughly deserved! Look forward to catching up more regurlarly now that I’m ‘back on line’. Meanwhile, hope all is going great in your world.



So good to see you. I’ve been thinking about you and on the verge of emailing to see if you were ok, so you made my day by showing up here, and with such encouraging comments as always.

I agree with you that we get what we focus on – I write about this, I say this, and yet sometimes my behaviour doesn’t follow through. And you’re right too that it’s about self-protection. I expect the worst as a prudent measure, and have to remember that once prepared for the worst, I can choose to revert to thinking the best so that I increase the odds of the best happening. Thanks for the reminder to step back and re-focus on what we want.

The online world is a better place now that you’re back in it! 🙂

After a boyfriend of 3 years cheated on me, I swore “That would NEVER happen again” and I put up big huge defensive walls that hurt a few relationships after that. It took a long time to recognize them and work through it. During that defensive stage I engaged in many of the items on your list!


Thanks for sharing this. It does take time for us to recognise what we’re doing, doesn’t it? I’m glad you worked through the fear. By the way, I’m STILL engaging in many items on the list, so this post was a reminder to myself.

Hi Daphne,
This is good – and I like the approach you’re taking – looking at this from the opposite viewpoint. I know I’ve done several of these – and when I do, it only hurts the relationship I have with my wife. I actively try to do the opposite of these you have listed here. Although one that I know is still a challenge at times is pretending to listen. So…I’m going to focus on that one – thank you Daphne!


You’re an A student for only having one ‘vice’ in whole list. I’m still working on at least 15 out of the 20 items I listed! Then again, as a single person I don’t have as much chance to practise as you married types 🙂

I have to say aiming to win is the most subtle, most damaging, and also the hardest to give up. I know someone who held on to their hatred for a dead person five years after the person died, simply because they refused to let the other win, even though it’s all internal. A very nice list Daphne 🙂


Hating a dead person for five years! Wow, that’s some grudge. Hard to believe until we encounter such cases in person. I’ve refused to talk to someone for a year at most. Thanks for leaving this comment.

What a wonderful exercise on writing from an opposite viewpoint!! Let me see….while looking down your list….I have certainly been “guilty” over quite a number of points that you’ve brought up. Not sure why….I am laughing at myself now for having previously been thoughtless, selfish and not giving priority to the more important things. I see the trap of suffering that I put myself in. Thanks for the reminder about continuing to be mindful in these areas.

Hi Evelyn,

How right that we create our own suffering by our expectations and actions. I know in my mind that all I have to do is let go of expectations, yet this is so hard to achieve in reality. I’ll be working on these for a long time to come!

Good to know you’ve managed to put these behaviours behind you. You should consider relationship coaching!

Hi Daphne. This is a great list. I like the idea of writing to the opposite point of view. #6… “Forget to call when you say you will. Let the other person wait by the phone seething or sobbing all night” is one that I can identify with. I make mistakes with things I say or do, but I’m pretty good at apologizing. I always “try” to treat others the way I like to be treated, but it doesn’t necessarily come back the same way 🙂 I am easily disappointed when a call is “supposed” to come, and doesn’t. So, I always make the effort to call when I say I will. Maybe I’m setting myself up for disappointment though, if I expect the same in return.

Hi Davina,

I’m a lot like you – when people say they will call, for some reason I assume they mean it. And when the call doesn’t come I tend to assume that they just didn’t care enough to remember. I’m learning to accept that not everyone has a great memory, and that things do come up and people get busy. It still hurts but I try not to let it get to me.

Good point about setting ourselves up for disappointment. Easier said than done – to let go of our expectations, especially when we feel they are very reasonable expectations!

This is a great list. I think if you will print it out and hang a copy out to eveyone who are thinking about getting marry. You can safe a lot of marriages from ever getting into trouble.
A happy marriage doesn’t just happen to 2 people in love. A happy marriage comes from focusing and working on little things like your list daily.
I have been married for closed to 15 years now, and I have to say to you, “We both did some of the items on the list, and because we both did worked on those items. We are each others best friends now, and a happy family.
Great job. This needed to be stumble!
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action


Thanks for this wonderful comment. I’m flattered that you think the post is worth printing out and looking at every day! I’ll certainly remember to do that when I’m married, since obviously I need to work on all of these myself.

Congratulations on being married for 15 years. That’s a long period of hard work! It’s important, as you say, that both parties are willing to work on the marriage everyday. It’s lovely that you’re each other’s best friend now. Awesome. Thanks for the Stumble too!

This is a great list for breaking up any relationship. Like several others, I had to learn not to do quite a few of these things before my marriage got on the solid ground that it is on today. In August of this year, my husband whom I love and appreciate so much will have been married for 37 years. I love him more today than I could have imagined 36 years ago. A loving marriage is worth working for.


Good to know that you worked out many of these things. And congratulations on being married 37 years! That’s an amazing accomplishment by any standard, and certainly even more so in today’s divorce-driven society. Thanks for the inspiration, and I’ll remember your words: “A loving marriage is worth working for.”

Yes, all of these as I’ve learned from being on the giving or receiving end of each DO wreck a relationship. I would also add, again from personal experience, unrealistic expectations for yourself, your partner, or any relationship.

Great post.

Hi Karen,

I’m not sure which is worse – the pain of being on the receiving end, or the guilt of being on the giving end. Either way, I guess we can all work on our actions in relationships. Unrealistic expectations is indeed a major problem in relationships, as you point out. Thanks for this wise comment.

Thanks for this Daphne. What I thought of when I read this list was that these behaviors all seem to come from a place of fear — for instance, if we find ourselves criticizing our partner, perhaps it comes from a place of needing to be the “dominant” one and being afraid of losing that position; and bursting into tears all the time might come from a place of being afraid that you won’t be seen or taken care of. I think if we find ourselves doing these things it’s useful to ask ourselves what we’re really afraid of — what’s the really bad thing that’s supposedly going to happen if we don’t try really hard to protect ourselves from our partner?

Hi Chris,

I agree that fear underlies a lot of these behaviours. I find that I’m afraid of so many things – being taken for granted, being disrespected, dishonoured, neglected etc and these are probably the deep-seated triggers for a lot of the behaviours.

I’ll remember your question next time I sink into one of these actions: what really bad thing am I afraid of? what am I trying to protect myself from? And try to deal with that fear directly. Thanks for the advice.

Hi, Daphne! Great list! A little painful to read since, like Roger, I was probably guilty of most of these at some time or another back when I was dating and certainly early in my marriage. About the only one I have left over now is number 19… I’m such a crybaby!!! Time to toughen up and stop playing the “tears card”!


Hi Lisis,

Guess how painful the post was to write? I remembered so many incidents when I’d done harm to my relationships. Good on you to have eliminated all except the crying. Don’t be too hard on yourself. I don’t play the tears card but still make all the other mistakes, which is much worse! So celebrate the fact that you’re near perfect already. 😉

Like Roger I did all of these when I was younger. However if there isn’t a good role model one will make errors until they know better. Thank God I wanted to know better and found a therapist, other role models and read books. I can honestly look at the list and see how I’ve grow out of every one.

I’m not perfect however I recognize very quickly when my ego needs checking. Thanks for the great list.


Unlike you and Roger, I’m still making all these mistakes! And so it was easy to find 20 to write about – that’s scary in itself.

You were brave and humble to seek help from a therapist. Most of us need some outside help, though few are willing to admit it. Role models are also important. And the good thing is that you can now be a role model for your kids, because you’ve lived through the hard times and been on the road to recovery yourself.


I’m sad to say that I did most of these early in my 25 years of marriage. Where were you when I needed this advice then? 🙂

My guess is that if you do half of these things on a regular basis, then the relationship is going to end soon.

Great list!!!


I’m sad too that the only reason I could write this post is because I’ve committed all these mistakes myself – and many times over, just to make sure I was expert enough to write about them!

The good thing is that you stayed married which means you worked out most of the issues. And you’re right that a one-off mistake is not fatal – it’s when it’s done on a regular basis as a habit that spells the end.

It takes practice to stop saying hurtful words when you’re angry. I have trained myself over the years to force myself to look at my husband while we are fighting and remind myself that I love him – even when I’m mad at him. I do the same with my kids, BTW.

Hi Vered,

Hurtful words come so easily when we’re angry, and are so difficult to take back. I’m still working on this myself. Your technique sounds useful – to look at the person and think about your over-arching love for them instead of the present anger. I’ll try it next time!

Numbers two and seventeen remind me of another one: let anger remain unresolved. This applies to romantic relationships but also to any close relationship.

The longer two people stay angry at each other, the worse it seems to get until it can reach a point where any apology is too little too late and mutual trust has been seriously undermined.

Hi Paul,

Unresolved anger used to plague one of my relationships, so I know what you mean. So right too, even between platonic friends. Anger that is not released in a healthy way simmers into resentment, and that then comes across in so many little words and actions that add up to a negative and fragile relationship. Thanks for this great point.

It seems odd to say this, but that’s a great list. It really does show all of the ways we can ruin things. We all make mistakes, yes, but it’s important to realize that we can control a lot of our actions and we don’t have to put ourselves (or others) through as much pain as we sometimes do. EVERYONE should read this post!

Positively Present,

It was odd writing this post, because it felt so negative, yet you got the point: we CAN choose to control and stop these actions if we’re aware enough to identify them, and tell ourselves to stop.

You know, if we were all wise we probably would have learnt these lessons from our elders, yet some things we learn only by living the mistakes ourselves. Thanks for thinking that everyone should read this.

I loved this – thank you for writing it! The two that stood out for me were “saying hurtful words” (I had one relationship tank after this happened, and rightfully so) and the gossiping one. On that front, I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I don’t feel the need to talk about other people in order to sound interesting. I used to do this a lot – and even ask others to do it (“…so have you heard from so & so lately? What’s new with them?”). Not any more. My motto is if someone wants someone to know something, they’ll tell them themselves. It’s not my job and it disrespects privacy.

Have a joyful day!


Hurtful words come naturally to all of us when we’re angry. I’ve hurled out more than my fair share in my lifetime, I’m sure.

I love what you said about gossip, especially the line “if someone wants someone to know something, they’ll tell them themselves. It’s not my job”. Wow, I’ll remember this next time I’m tempted to gossip. Thanks for this.

A joyful day to you too!

Hi Laurie,

I find that I often don’t even realise what I’m doing wrong, until much later when it’s usually too late. At least I can recognise some of these mistakes earlier now – the trick as you say, is to stop these behaviours on time! Thanks for your comment.

Hi Daphne, I think it is great to write a post from an opposite viewpoint.
It will give a different perspective to your readers.

Hi Daphne,

What a great list. As I was reading it, I picked out #15 (pretending to listen) as a “deal breaker”. Too often we are so anxious to have OUR say, we forget to let the other person completely share their thoughts. Many times I have seen couples (and even friends) who “think” they know what the other person is going to say, so they finish the sentence. Often, what they guessed is far from what the other person was about to say. Listening, and really hearing our partners and friends is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. It not only makes them feel validated, but also loved and respected.

P.S. Thank you for the link love. I’m so happy to hear my “upside down” post inspired this fabulous article.

Hi Barbara,

I know what you mean about wanting to have our say. Even if I bite my tongue enough to not interrupt, my thoughts are already off on a journey of their own, instead of staying in the present moment with the other person’s thoughts.

Listening is a gift that we all love to receive, yet find difficult to give. I’m working on that myself. You’re right that it’s a wonderful way to show love and respect.

Thanks again for the inspiration for this post!

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