Am I the Problem in My Relationship?

How do you know if you are in the wrong in a relationship?
on April 17, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it’s me. 

When your relationship is going from bad to worse, we all can become pros at the blame game. But there comes a point where we all need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and ask ourselves “Am I the problem in my relationship?”

While we often feel that toxic behaviors are so easy to spot in others, admitting that you’re the one at fault will forever be a bitter pill to swallow. So, how do you know if you’re the one sabotaging your own relationship? And more importantly, how do you stop? 

Key Takeaways
  • Recognizing your own potential toxic behaviors is a critical first step in understanding your role in relationship problems. Admitting fault can be challenging but is necessary for personal growth and relationship health.
  • Key indicators that you might be contributing to relationship difficulties include using silence as control, refusing to apologize, lack of compromise, persistent blaming, and exhibiting no accountability. These behaviors disrupt trust and hinder effective communication.
  • It's important to be aware of how your actions affect your partner. Toxic behaviors like gaslighting, stonewalling, and constant criticism can severely damage a relationship. Understanding these impacts can motivate you to change.
  • Simply wishing for your partner to change while overlooking your own flaws is ineffective. Both partners should work together to foster a healthy relationship, which includes equal responsibility for making it work.
  • Asking yourself whether you're the problem can be a pivotal moment. Taking steps towards self-awareness, acceptance, and ultimately change can lead to significant improvements in your relationship.

How do I know if I am the problem in a relationship?

While we are all good at spotting red flags in others, it can be tough to turn that magnifying glass on ourselves!

No one is perfect in a relationship, but ultimately you should treat your partner how you would like to be treated. If your relationship starts to go south, it’s easy to point the blame rather than analyze your own behavior. However, it’s important to take a step back and realize that you could be contributing to (if not causing) these toxic behaviors yourself. 

Many people might throw in the towel or give up rather than admit that they’re in the wrong, but putting your own needs first in this way can prevent you from ever achieving the kind of healthy relationship you desire. 

If it comes to the point that you would break up with your partner if they behaved the way that you’re behaving… then it’s time for a lot of self-reflection, self-acceptance, and growth. 

“After spending over a decade assisting couples recovering from affairs, sex addiction, and pornography addiction, which are some of the most harmful relationship behaviors, a significant aspect of this work involves understanding the interplay of both partners' patterns that influence these behaviors,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

“It’s crucial to recognize that although both partners contribute to toxic relationship patterns, this does not imply that both are to blame for someone’s unhealthy behaviors. However, it’s important to see how factors like lack of boundaries or excessive closeness have contributed to the dynamic.”

There are so many textbook signs of a toxic relationship, but when you turn these questions inward it’s easy to dismiss these behaviors without a large dollop of self-awareness. So, give yourself a time out, put your pride to one side, and ask yourself… Are you the one getting in the way of your own happy ending? 

What are the signs that I'm contributing to the problems in my relationship?

  1. Threaten break-ups: When you’re in the middle of conflict, you always run to the self-destruct button. If you take advantage of your partner’s feelings and threaten a break up so that they agree with you — this is a key sign of an unhealthy relationship dynamic. It takes away the trust and stability in the relationship.

  2. Silence: While your significant other might be trying to compromise or communicate, you refuse to engage in the conversation, especially if it means admitting that you’re in the wrong. Therefore you choose the avoidant route and opt for the silent treatment, instead of tackling your relationship issues with respect and maturity. “Silence is another form of control in a relationship and often leads to unhealthy balances of power,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

  3. No apologies: To preserve your own self-esteem, you absolutely refuse to apologize or say sorry with conditions rather than true acceptance. 

  4. Lack of compromise: Every relationship relies on a compromise to make things work. However, if you put your partner’s needs to one side, it’s easier to prioritize your own well-being — making compromise more and more unappealing. This stubbornness is a common trait of a narcissist, as your loved ones' feelings feel unimportant in comparison to your own. 

  5. Blame game: If you ask the question ‘Why am I always the problem in my relationship?’, it’s likely you don’t believe you’re the problem at all. Seeing yourself as the victim and your partner as the problem dissolves you of all blame, making it seem like your partner is the one robbing you of a happy relationship. 

  6. Second-guessing: No matter what your partner says, you second-guess them — even if they’ve given you no reason to. 

  7. Grudges: Long-term relationships come with their ups and downs, but when an argument is resolved, that should be the end of it. If you hold grudges over every little thing, you could be the problem here. 

  8. Critical: No matter what your partner does, you’re intensely critical of everything. Instead of looking at your own actions, you rip them apart for everything they do instead. 

  9. Toxic traits: Have you been gaslighting your partner? Do you favor stonewalling when you can’t win an argument? These social media terms might seem foreign to you if you refuse to accept that you’re an instigator yourself. While you might be quick to call it out in other people… you could be doing it yourself.

  10. Drama: Instead of seeking relationship advice or trying to get to the root of the problem, you find yourself looking for drama… and loving it. 

  11. Escalate conflict: While the argument might start over who forgot to take the bins out, it suddenly becomes about much more than that. Are you bringing up old arguments? Or are you deliberately poking at your partner’s insecurities to get a rise out of them? 

  12. No accountability: If you’re the problem in your relationship, you likely refuse to admit it. Even if your partner tries to share responsibility for your problems, you refuse to take any responsibility or accountability for your issues. 

  13. Moody: How do you feel right now? Are you constantly in a mood and unreceptive to your partner’s attempts at healthy patterns? If you start all conversations in a bad mood, it’s unlikely you’ll ever achieve a happy ending. “Even when couples' bad moods are related to mental health and depression, it’s important to think about how it impacts the relationships, and for many, it can be a motivating reason to work on addressing the underlying cause of the mood,” says Seeger DeGeare. “You are not doing it for your partner, but because you want to be in a healthy relationship.”

  14. Self-sabotaging: Depending on your attachment style, you might be prone to self-sabotaging behaviors. For example, instead of trying to reform or change, you just continue to make things worse because you feel it’s easier that way. 

  15. Expecting change, but never changing yourself: While you might constantly pick at your partner’s faults and wish they would change — you never accept that you might need to change yourself. 

How do I stop being the problem in my relationship?

How did you feel reading those signs? Did you find yourself playing a kind of toxic relationship bingo with your own actions and behaviors? 

Take a deep breath, because this might have been just the wake-up call that you needed. 

It doesn’t mean that you’re inherently bad or that you’re the villain in your own relationship. After all, everyone loves a redemption arc! 

If we’ve learned anything, it’s that pointing fingers isn’t going to achieve anything. The responsibility for your relationship's success should sit equally with both of you, and it’s up to both of you to make it work. 

When you find yourself in toxic patterns, the first step is gaining that self-awareness and then moving toward self-acceptance. You don’t have to do this feat alone! With the help of your partner and couples therapy, it’s easier to work through your relationship issues and get to the bottom of why you behave this way. 

“Even having the willingness to interrupt your negative behaviors and openly talk to your partner about them can have a profound impact and change on a relationship,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

Remember that just by asking yourself if ‘you’re the problem’, you’re likely already on the road to healing. 

You got this.

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