4 Toxic Habits That Are Ruining Your Relationship

by Candice Jalili
Warner Bros. Television

Maybe you're stubborn. Or a bad listener.

Maybe you act passive-aggressively when your partner irritates you — or maybe, you're a little bit of all of these things.

Just as we all have great habits that make us the lovely, wonderful people our partners are so lucky to have found, we also have some bad habits that our partners could probably do without.

But which ones are really doing our relationships the most harm?

Lee Ellis, a human behavior expert and author of "Engage with Honor," has spent years observing various relationships (and even his own marriage), to identify the four most toxic habits that can ruin your relationship.

Read along for some eye-opening revelations and advice on how to correct these damaging behaviors:

1. Refusing to listen.

"We see the world from our viewpoint and our position," says Ellis. "We don't think that there might be more than one way to look at or address a situation."

A lot of this inability to see from your partner's point of view stems from a failure to listen. "It's  a really toxic problem because you're not able to connect with the other person," Ellis says.

In fact, in a survey of hundreds of leaders in corporate America, Ellis found that, when it came to describing their best working relationships, these heads kept citing the same quality over and over again:  "The idea of listening — being heard, being seen, being noticed, being accepted by the other person," he says.

This principle can be applied to romantic relationships as well. And since listening will make your partner feel heard, it's definitely a habit worth working on. So, take the time to do it.

"By listening, you're actually giving [your partner] a great gift: Respect," says Ellis.

2. Making assumptions.

One of our most toxic habits is assuming that our partner automatically understands what we're trying to say. But most times, they don't.

It's crucial "to clarify, rather than assume the other person knows what you know, sees what you see, has heard what you've heard," says Ellis.

Most of us are in the habit of assuming our partner understood exactly what we were trying to say during that big fight. But this is where you're making a major mistake.

You need to take the time to make your point of view clear so as to ensure that the two of you are on the same page.

3. Getting in your own way.

For about 10 to 15 years of his marriage, Ellis tried to make his wife be more like him.

That is, until one day, the couple had their personalities assessed. When they compared their results, he realized that he and his wife were total opposites in nearly every single personality trait.

So, what did he do? Well, he had to learn to accept her as-is.

We've all experienced the desire to make the people we care about be just like us: Enjoy the same hobbies as us, laugh at the same things as us, communicate like us, etc. But sometimes, we go so far as to make the toxic conclusion that the things that make them different from us are "wrong."

Instead, you should learn to accept your partner for exactly who he or she is. And, actually celebrate their differences, rather than look at them as negatives.

Learn to accept your partner for exactly who he or she is, and actually celebrate their differences.

To celebrate them, you have to work on first understanding your partner's personality.

Ellis even has a little remix of the golden rule for this: Do unto others as they would like to be done unto.

Meaning: Instead of assuming that your SO would like to be treated the way you would like to be, take the time to really get to know them and the way they would like to be treated.

"It's a more specific way to show respect for someone," Ellis says.

4. Being stubborn.

Stubbornness is funny because it can be an extremely good quality — it gives us the perseverance to keep going even after we fail, which is a necessary habit to have if you want to succeed in certain areas of your life, like school and your career.

But, it can start to be a problem when it works its way into your relationship.

"Stubbornness can be a very special kind of perseverance, but when you get so invested in having to be right, the relationship really gets undermined," Ellis says.

You can see stubbornness in action when you look at the different ways people act it out: There are passive aggressive people (who tend to withdraw and ice their partner out during conflict), active aggressive people (who tend to be extremely vocal and critical during conflict) and people who are a mix of both tendencies, says Ellis.

It's important for you to recognize what type you are and what type your SO is.

When you get so invested in having to be right, your relationship gets undermined.

For example, if your guy is passive aggressive and you're active aggressive,  he's not going to get over the problem very easily and is also probably going to respond by pulling away and withholding affection.

Now, if you're an active aggressive person, this is going to drive you INSANE. You're going to want to give into your natural tendencies, call him out for being distant and push him to engage in an argument.

These behaviors stem from stubbornness — you get stuck in the belief that you are 100 percent right, and therefore, keep trying to prove your rightness to your partner through your behavior.

So, how do you fix this? Well, you just have to stop being so dang headstrong and realize that there really is a chance that you could both be right.

"You just take ownership of much more than you think you should have to take," says Ellis.

Identify what you did that would possibly make your partner upset (again, this comes back to understanding how your partner would like to be treated), and apologize for doing it.

Then, all you have to do is say, 'I'm sorry'," in order to diffuse the negative energy.

When you find the confidence and the courage to do that, Ellis promises that, most times, your partner will also feel comfortable admitting they're at fault, too.

Of course, there's a chance your SO could be a bully and keep coming at you even after you apologize. If that's the case, you need to realize that the problem is more with them than it is with you.

But, for most couples, when you say "I'm sorry," it will usually take all of the negative energy out of a situation.