How Your Behaviors Are Impacting Your Relationships

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 24, 2024by 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 that can easily capture all the complexities of human interaction, but every choice we make has the potential to alter the future of a relationship or to recontextualize its past. When those same choices are made again and again, they can eventually become the defining quality of that relationship—for better or for worse.

Despite the impact that our behaviors can have on our relationships, sometimes we are not the best judges of our own behaviors. In some cases, we may not even be aware of them at all. In these cases, it can help to talk to a neutral third party, such as a licensed therapist, to explore what you’re bringing to the table and assess how that can affect the people in your life. More than anyone, you have the power to influence your own behaviors, and those behaviors form part of 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 whom you may interact with on a regular basis can be impacted by your behaviors.

A behavior is an action we take—often habitually or in some sort of pattern.

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
  • Showing inattentiveness to other people’s thoughts and feelings
  • Demonstrating a lack of communication or honesty

Any of the above might be the kind of habitual behavior that strains relationships or creates a barrier to forging new ones. However, sometimes we act out of character. Maybe there’s one night when 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. Those events can impact a relationship, but they aren’t necessarily habitual behaviors if they’re a deviation from the normal pattern. It’s when those actions are common or recurring that they can begin to erode your social connections.

Cultivating good behaviors

While it can be beneficial to identify negative behaviors and even discuss them with a therapist, it can also help to explore positive behaviors and cultivate those habits. Some examples of behaviors that benefit relationships are:

  • Demonstrating active listening skills
  • Showing 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

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. Maybe you’re already skilled at some of them, or maybe you’re making progress but don’t feel like you’re quite there yet. Remember not to judge yourself too harshly. The fact that you’re thinking about those behaviors shows that you have the desire to engage in self-improvement.

How we form behaviors

Our behaviors are often learned throughout the course of our life. For example, someone who grew up in a household where their parents continually demonstrated angry behaviors may be 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. However, 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 can be the first step to making a change. Without that skill, we might be able to notice the ways our relationships are getting better or worse, but not why. 

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. However, you don’t need to try to identify your patterns alone. There are licensed online therapists who are trained in helping people explore their behavioral patterns in a safe, nonjudgmental setting.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral theory (CBT), may be especially helpful during this process. 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 sustainable results.

One of the first steps is 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. A therapist might be able to help you both identify and rectify problem-causing behaviors. CBT has been shown to be a highly effective form of therapy that is used to treat everything from depression to addiction.

Are your relationships feeling strained?

One benefit of CBT is that it can be easily implemented via online therapy sessions. Researchers have found that online CBT is just as valid as in-person CBT, yielding positive long-term results for people who are willing to commit to making a change.

With BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist experienced in CBT and other forms of behavioral therapy. You can communicate with them via audio or video chat from home or anywhere with an internet connection. Also, if you have questions or concerns in between sessions, you can contact your therapist via in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can.


Behavioral patterns, whether good or bad, can influence the way other people in our lives perceive us. If you’re interested in learning more about your behavioral patterns, you don’t have to navigate this process alone. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist with experience helping people explore their behaviors and how they affect their relationships. Take the first step toward improvement in this area and contact BetterHelp today.
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