California Therapist Blog

Emotional health, relationship and therapy-related articles by Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT.

10 Ways to Undermine Your Relationship

These are tough times and more than ever, couples need each other to stay grounded and emotionally secure.  Ideally, they feel they are able to turn towards each other when storms of life are raging.  Some relationships have been understandably challenged by Covid.  When I work with couples, I seek to learn about their strengths and vulnerabilities.  A lack of emotional safety is one of the most common underlying problems.  They no longer trust each other to fully be there.

It’s critical to understand what undermines emotional safety.  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,” he has a solid list of the things that can lead to a demise of your relationship.

  1. Conditional Commitment:  You or your partner behave as though you are keeping your options open.
  2. A Nonsexual Affair:  Emotional entanglements can be just as damaging as physical betrayal.
  3. Lying:  Dishonesty will erode the emotional safety in your relationship.  Blatant or white lies over time are toxic.
  4. Forming a Coalition Against the Partner:   Triangulating a parent, friend or other person into the relationship in a way that your partner is being ganged up on is destabilizing.
  5. Absenteeism or Coldness:  Failing to support each other during stressful times or simply a regular lack of attempts to connect can feel isolating and lonely.
  6. Withdrawal of Sexual Interest:  Though some couples report that a decrease in sex isn’t harmful to their satisfaction together, if it’s an issue, it needs to be be addressed.
  7. Disrespect:   A critical, unkind or one-up relationship dynamic can leave the other feeling like they don’t matter.
  8. Unfairness:   Reneging on promises and unreasonable expectations placed on the other can build resentment
  9. Selfishness:  Though relationship balance is important, as is taking care of oneself within a relationship, too much “me” in the “we” can be destructive to the health of the relationship.
  10. Breaking Promises:   A pattern of disappointments around broken promises also builds resentment.  The message is, “You don’t matter.”

Couples begin their journey together with good intentions and wanting their relationship to work.  Just as it takes time to build confidence and trust, it can slowly unravel over time as well.  Avoid the things that are known to undermine your foundation to have the best lasting relationship possible.

If there is damage to your relationship from the build up of some of these behaviors, seek help in couples therapy.  If your partner is unwilling, individual therapy can also be useful.


Are you ready to talk about scheduling an individual therapy or couples counseling session with me?  Contact Lisa.

Are you Ok? Do a Self-Check

There is a lot going on in our world.   I heard someone say recently, “the world is on fire” while observing …

10 Ways to Undermine Your Relationship

These are tough times and more than ever, couples need each other to stay grounded and emotionally secure.  Ideally, they …

14 Ways to Stay Sane and Connected During the Pandemic

Well into 2020, though the virus rages there is light at the end of the tunnel.  But the collective stress, worry, fear …