How Your Behaviors Are Impacting Your Relationships

Updated March 21, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

What are the building blocks of a relationship? Are they the things you say and do, or maybe the things you never say or never do? There’s no equation which can capture all the complexities of human interaction, but it’s clear that every choice we make has the potential to alter the future of the relationship or to recontextualize its past. And, when those same choices are being made again and again, they can eventually become the defining quality of that relationship—for better or for worse.

And yet, despite how much of an impact they have on our relationships with each other and ourselves, oftentimes we are not the best judges of our own behaviors. In some cases, we may not even be aware of them at all. So if you ever find yourself wondering why a relationship isn’t heading in the direction you want it to, the best starting point is almost always to look at what you’re bringing to the table and understanding how that affects the people in your life. It’s important to acknowledge that, more than anyone, you have the power to influence your own behaviors—and that those behaviors will form the foundation for all of the relationships in your life.

Are Your Relationships Feeling Strained?

How Behaviors Can Help Or Hurt Relationships

The term “relationship” is usually associated with one’s romantic partner, but in this context we’re talking about all relationships. Friends, family, co-workers, or anyone else who you may interact with on a regular basis can be impacted by your behaviors. 

Of course “behavior” is quite a broad term. And while that’s good for capturing a wide range of possibilities, it can also make it hard to wrap our heads around specific examples. Loosely speaking, a behavior is an action we take—often habitually or in some sort of pattern. So, for example, some behaviors that might negatively affect a relationship include:

  • Being quick to anger or shouting

  • Not being aware of/not respecting other people’s boundaries

  • Being closed off to new experiences

  • Inattentiveness to other people’s thoughts and feelings

  • Lack of communication or honesty

Any of the above might be the kind of behavior which strains current relationships or creates a barrier to forging new ones. Always remember though, sometimes we act out of character. Maybe there’s one night where you just don’t feel like going to see a movie your friend invited you to, or maybe you’re usually attentive to your partner’s feelings but have a day when you’re too stressed about work to notice they’re feeling down. Sure, those events can impact a relationship but they aren’t necessarily “behaviors” if they’re a deviation from the normal pattern. It’s only when those actions are common or recurring that they can begin to erode your social connections.

Cultivating Good Behaviors

While it’s easy to focus only on the negative, the behaviors that are harmful and which may be a good reason to reach out to a therapist, it’s just as important to acknowledge good behaviors as well! There are undoubtedly some things you do which play a role in the positive relationships in your life, so take the time to think about how to cultivate those habits. Some examples of behaviors that benefit relationships are:

  • Strong, active listening skills

  • A willingness to consider other people’s experiences and points of view

  • Being both honest and trustworthy

  • Showing a willingness to compromise

  • Being patient with others

Now that’s far from an exhaustive list, but if you’re looking for a place to start, those might be some good behaviors to prioritize. 

Who knows? Maybe you’re already great at some of them, maybe you’re making progress on one but don’t feel like you’re quite there yet. Just don’t judge yourself too harshly! The fact that you’re even thinking about those behaviors in the first place shows that you have the ambition and the will to make the changes you desire. 

Of course, we’d all prefer to be 100% good behaviors, 100% of the time. But no one’s perfect, and that means we have to be aware of when our behaviors are affecting others—both for better and for worse. Knowing where our behaviors come from in the first place is an important step towards gaining control over them.

How We Form Behaviors

Maybe it’s obvious to say, but our behaviors are learned throughout the course of our life. Very rarely do they just crop up out of the blue. For example, someone who grew up in a household where their parents continuously demonstrated angry behaviors is more likely to adopt similar patterns in their own life. In this way, behaviors can be generational—passed down from parent to child and so on. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that. Behaviors are likely to be passed down, but not every behavior observed during our formative years will necessarily take root in adulthood. 

Just being able to notice those behaviors is the first step to making a change, if we need to. Without that skill we might be able to notice the ways our relationships are sweetening or souring, but not why. Unfortunately, we’re not always the best judges of our own patterns—what may be obvious from the outside may not be so clear from the inside. Luckily, you don’t need to go it alone if you don’t want to, therapy is always an option.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is one of the bedrocks of modern therapy, particularly something called Cognitive Behavioral Theory—which is often referred to as CBT. The underlying principle of CBT, however, is not necessarily to address your behaviors themselves but to identify and change the thoughts beneath them. CBT operates from an understanding that patterns of thoughts are interlinked with patterns of behavior, and that reorienting your thoughts can yield more long-term, sustainable results. 

The first step is always going to be awareness. Learning to become aware of your behaviors, without forming judgments of them as “good” or “bad”, can be difficult but necessary. Sometimes these behaviors are obvious, particularly when they are harmful to ourselves or others, but that’s not always the case. But that’s why finding the right therapist is so important, they are there to help you both identify and rectify problem-causing behaviors. CBT has been shown to be a highly effective form of therapy, and is used to treat everything from depression to addiction to many, many other forms of mental illness. 

Are Your Relationships Feeling Strained?

One more benefit of CBT is that it can be easily implemented via online therapy sessions, meaning that it’s now much more accessible to people who need it most. Of course in-person CBT is just as effective, but researchers have found that online CBT is just as valid of an approach, yielding positive long-term results for people who are willing to commit to making a change. 

Behaviors may be a part of who you are, but they are not all that you are. Patterns of thought and behavior often arise without our realizing it, and if we’re not paying attention they can begin to affect our relationships in ways we’re not ready for. If you’re reading this, then maybe there are some changes you want to make. Never forget that you have the power to alter those patterns, and that there’s never any shame in asking for help. 


In most of life, it’s the things we do that define us. Behavioral patterns, whether good or bad, will inevitably influence the way other people in our lives perceive us. That’s why it’s so important to become aware of our behaviors and cultivate good ones while weeding out the negative. That’s easier said than done, but with time, effort, and maybe even help from a therapist, it’s more than possible to change your behaviors and improve your relationships. 

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