17 Things That Are More Harmful Than Cheating In Relationship

Cheating isn’t the worst thing you can do to your partner. (Though it’s up there.) Here, experts share the 17 things that are worse than cheating.

There’s no denying that cheating on a partner is likely a painful experience for everyone involved and could very well be the end of a lot of relationships, but the hard truth is there are other things that are more harmful than cheating. Those things can be more damaging to your relationship and to your individual self. Some of the things that can lead to a breakup (that aren’t cheating) could start out small and indiscernible, which is part of what can make them so dangerous — you or your partner may not even realize you’re doing them.

“While there’s endless examples of how cheating might manifest, and certainly many of them simply quite hurtful, in a minority of cases, cheating can be a wakeup call and necessary antidote to a relationship that’s gone stale,” Matt Lundquist, a Psychotherapist and Couples Therapist in Manhattan, tells Woman’s Day. Though that doesn’t excuse or justify cheating, Lundquist says that some people may prefer it to stagnation, despite how disruptive it may be.

Regardless of the reasons for or consequences of cheating in a relationship, and the pain that comes with being on either end of it, Lundquist and an AskReddit thread pointed out there are plenty of other things that are much more potent when it comes to ruining even the strongest of bonds.

1. When one partner uses their power to try to control the other.

In some relationships, there may be one partner who has more money, status, or power. Lundquist says when that’s the case, it’s possible to exert that power toward your partner in hurtful ways — intentionally or not. “That’s certainly concerning, and in most cases, can be much more damaging than cheating,” he adds.

2. Any sort of physical harm.

Physical fighting or abuse between partners is never okay, by any means, Lundquist points out. “A relationship where those behaviours are happening needs some serious attention, likely including a break to cool things down and look seriously at what needs to change for those behaviours to stop,” he says. “With unsafe behaviour, the only move is to create physical distance until things can be addressed.

3. Refusing to be upfront about your feelings.

You’ve probably heard time and time again that communication is the key to happy and healthy relationships, but being direct about your feelings can be worrisome for people. “They’re afraid of turning their partner off, of scaring him/her/them away, or seeming too pushy or aggressive,” Lundquist says.

4. Staying with someone you’re unhappy with.

There are a few reasons why you may consider staying with someone who doesn’t make you happy anymore, like having children together or simply being comfortable with them, but doing so could have long-term affects on yourself and your children. “It’s a situation which is traumatizing you,” Sameera Sullivan, founder and CEO of Sameera Sullivan Matchmakers, tells Woman’s Day. “The more you stay, the more baggage you’ll have, the more trauma you’ll have, [and] the more work you’ll have to do on yourself.”

Children who grow up seeing their parents arguing because they stayed together for perhaps the wrong reasons can grow up to have dysfunctional relationships because they didn’t have proper role models, Sullivan says.

5. Taking and never giving.

A big part of relationships is giving and taking in all aspects of life. You take the kids to school. I’ll give them a ride home. You take dinner to my parents tonight. I’ll give kids their baths and get them ready for bed. But when you find you or your partner taking constantly and never giving can be more harmful than cheating, Sullivan explains. “It could be just somebody who’s eating at you. They’re not working for you anymore. They’re just taking, and taking, and taking,” she adds. “That can really impact a person’s psyche.”

6. Lying to and hiding things from your partner.

Even if you’re doing it out of love to protect their feelings, keeping little things from someone you’re dating can grow into a big problem and cause trust issues that wreck a relationship. As canada432 wrote, “You should be able to tell your partner pretty much anything. If you’re hiding something because it would hurt them, then you probably shouldn’t do that thing in the first place.”

7. Withholding any kind of affection.

Whether affection means being really touchy-feely, asking each other intense questions about meaningful things, or helping each other through obstacles, being absent and unaffectionate can cause the kind of doubts in a relationship that end up being irreparable.

8. Harboring quiet resentment.

As VoxMeretricis wrote, “by the time resentment is expressed, the damage is already done” to the relationship. It starts out quietly but becomes something big over time, which is what makes it so damaging.

9. Lack of communication.

This doesn’t mean not texting all day every day, but failing to talk to each other about things that bother you when they come up, or conveniently leaving out details that you think might cause problems. All that shit just gets bottled up or revealed eventually, and by the time that happens, it’s usually unmanageable.

10. Being stubborn about things or getting entrenched in certain positions.

This is just another way of saying “refusing to compromise.” If you like somebody, you should be willing to compromise. Partners who can only handle things if they go a certain way (their way) are basically just in relationships with themselves.

11. Bickering about mundane, daily issues and chores.

Sure, the argument you always have about whose turn it is to take the trash out seems like no big deal now, but that’s the sort of thing that just becomes a great issue over time, and even worse, becomes ammo for bigger, more serious arguments down the road.

12. Condescension.

Talking down to a partner is just another way of making yourself bigger or more powerful than them, and a power imbalance is the last thing you want in a lasting, healthy relationship. As messedfrombirth wrote, condescension is worse than cheating because “it makes your self esteem shit,” so even after the relationship ends, you still feel the damage.

13. Staying in a relationship out of convenience.

Whether it’s because you don’t want to disappoint your families with a breakup or because you have a big trip planned in six months, staying together just because you feel you should only leads to bitter resentment and an inordinate amount of fighting and heartbreak, when there was a chance you might’ve been able to remain friendly.

14. Manipulation.

This is tricky because it’s often so subtle, and you don’t realize you’re being manipulated by your partner (or doing the manipulating) until it’s way too late. As reallybigleg wrote, “the relationships that have left me ‘broken’ (both of which I left, by the way, so this isn’t a case of heartbreak…) have been through gradual loss of self esteem during the relationship through a process of manipulation by the other partner.”

15. Jealousy.

Even without actual cheating, just the suspicion that it’s always happening can be much, much worse.

16. Presenting a false version of yourself at the beginning.

This can be as simple and small as pretending to like horror movies when you actually hate them, or as big as saying you’re not looking for anything serious when, in fact, you are. It’s best to be upfront from the get to, because those little things can become huge reasons to breakup over time.

17. Staying together because you’ve become codependent.

“You’re together because you’re codependent and neither of you wants to be single,” wrote beaverteeth92. Or in other words, you don’t have chemistry anymore, and the only reason you’re together is so you don’t have to be alone.

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