24 Biggest Turn-Offs in a Relationship

What are some signs of incompatibility in a relationship?
on September 18, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Everyone has a list of turn-offs in a relationship.  

Whether you’ve taken the time to actually write them down or not, trust us, you’ll know them when you encounter them. While we all have some petty turn-offs, like wearing socks in bed or chewing with your mouth open, there are some more serious icks that we likely all share. 

Unlike red flags or dealbreakers, these may not be a legitimate reason to walk away from the relationship, but these behaviors might take off the love goggles. Whether you choose to put them back on, or if you’re able to at all, that’s entirely up to you! 

We’ve rounded up some of the most common relationship turn-offs for you to consider, hopefully, there are no offenders amongst us! 

What is a relationship turn-off? 

A relationship turn-off refers to a trait or behavior that reduces someone’s attraction or affects how you feel about a potential or existing romantic partner. 

Like someone’s biggest turn-ons, these little things are completely subjective and vary greatly from person to person. Some people have a long list of turn-offs prepped and ready before a first date, while others don’t realize their own big turn-offs until they encounter them later on in the relationship journey. 

From bad breath to bad manners, there is a huge range of turn-offs to choose from! No matter how hard you try to ignore them, there are some things women and men just can’t ignore. 

Often referred to as ‘icks’, these major turn-offs can upgrade to become dealbreakers (while they’re not necessarily red flags!) 

Is it normal to get turned off by your partner? 

Everyone has little quirks or beige flags, and no relationship is perfect. 

While every relationship has bumps, it isn’t great news if your partner turns you off. However, if it’s something simple or fixable like poor hygiene or too much makeup, it’s healthier to try and have a conversation about it — rather than throwing the whole relationship away. 

Opting for communication is preferable, but sometimes nothing can save you once a huge turn-off hits. This may seem extreme but in many cases, when your relationship becomes full of turn-offs it might be a sign that something bigger is awry. 

“According to research from Gottman, once you reach a point of disgust and contempt with your partner, it can be difficult to rekindle desire,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

“I’d suggest three things to consider if you're turned off by your partner: identify what specifically bothers you about their behavior, communicate this in a loving and constructive way, and determine if this is a common issue that bothers you in other relationships. Turn-offs can be unique to a relationship or individual, but it's important to explore the underlying emotions that contribute to them.”

After all, in a healthy relationship, you should both be getting excited about all the little things (even if they’re a little weird!) While the love goggles wear off eventually, in an ideal world, your partner should always turn you on, not off. 

What are the biggest turn-offs in a relationship? 

While everyone has personal turn-offs that make their teeth grind or their skin crawl, there are a bunch of common turn-offs that affect most of the dating community. 

There are a bunch of petty turn-offs that usually feature in these round-ups, like ‘men who wear skinny jeans’ or ‘dominant women’, but we’re going to stick to ones that we think make a genuine impact in a long-term relationship. So, if you’re wondering what turns men off, or what girls think are huge no’s in a prospective partner, we have you covered. 

From rudeness to clinginess, these are some of the biggest turn-offs for women and men alike. (Just in case you needed anything else to add to your list!) 

1. Bad hygiene 

This is a turn-off that probably features in every list you’ve ever encountered — and for good reason. 

Bad personal hygiene is a huge turn-off, whether it’s bad breath, body odor, or perhaps worst of all, an inability to brush their teeth! (That’s not exactly an invitation for kisses!) 

Even though it’s icky, at least this turn-off is usually fixable, so you don’t need to throw in the towel quite yet. 

"Approach your partner with empathy. It's not your job to clean them up, but by sharing how their behavior affects you, you can help them become more self-aware,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Some people haven't had the care and attention during childhood to learn how to take care of themselves properly. By sharing your experience, you may even help them start reparenting themselves. Consider starting small as a couple, with an at-home spa day or a new nighttime routine, to make self-care fun and accessible.” 

2. Lack of ambition

For a lot of people, there is nothing more attractive than when someone is passionate about something. 

It doesn’t matter whether their dream is to work in a bakery or become President, ambition is so important in a relationship if you want to become a power couple. On the other hand, if your partner has no goals, no dreams, and no plans to schedule them … it can be a big turn-off. 

While lazing about on the couch is cool when you’re young, this can get old pretty quickly. 

3. Lack of respect 

A disrespectful partner is a big turn-off, and depending on its severity, it can also be an underlying red flag

If your partner doesn’t respect you, it doesn’t bode well for your future together. While this is worrying, a lack of self-respect is also equally concerning. Whether it’s caring about their appearance or their personal space, it’s a turn-off if they don’t express any interest in themselves at all. 

4. Low self-esteem 

This may seem a bit cutthroat, but while insecurities in a relationship are normal, it can be very draining to constantly feel on eggshells around your partner. 

For example, if your partner has low self-esteem and reacts sensitively to every little thing, this can be a big turn-off in a relationship. 

5. Personal space 

Everyone needs some ‘me time’, and it usually isn’t a reflection on anyone else. 

If your partner takes it personally when you request some alone time, then this can be an instant turn-off. Personal space is important and you shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting some time alone with your own thoughts, without your partner being offended. 

6. Rudeness

In a world full of so much negativity, it’s important to remember that we’re all just doing our best. No matter who you are, or who you’re dealing with, there’s just no need to be rude. 

Whether it’s rudeness to wait staff, retail, or even your friends, this is an instant turn-off across the board. Not only is there absolutely no need to be rude to people, but it also speaks to their character overall, that they think it’s okay to treat people in this way. 

7. Self-centered 

No one likes a narcissist. (Much to their great disappointment!) 

Making every single situation about themselves gets old pretty quickly and is a common turn-off that people cite in relationships. Not only that, but narcissistic tendencies can quickly escalate into other toxic behaviors such as gaslightinglove-bombing, or even emotional abuse. 

8. Dishonesty 

This one seems obvious, but no one likes being lied to. 

While it may start as little white lies, dishonesty in a relationship quickly leads to a loss of trust, which is very hard to come back from. It may not always be easy to opt for honesty, but it will always be worth it in the long run. 

9. Flirting with others 

Trying to make your partner jealous is a petty behavior that should be left behind in high school. 

If your loved one is consistently trying to get a rise out of you by batting their eyelashes at the person behind the bar or thinking it’s ‘funny’ to do so — this disregard for boundaries is a huge turn-off. 

Remember that cheating is a huge escalation of this behavior and should be a dealbreaker rather than a turn-off. 

“Each relationship is unique in terms of what feels safe and secure. Flirting and cheating may be defined slightly differently by each person, and it's important to have these conversations as a couple. When a partner flirts frequently, it's crucial to be mindful that it can undermine the safety of the relationship and have many other ripple effects. For example, the other partner may begin to feel increasingly insecure or even rejected..” Says Seeger DeGeare.

10. Clingy 

Similar to a lack of personal space, no one wants a clingy partner.

"If a person begins to feel like they are not alone during the alone time or when seeking autonomy, they may feel like they are losing their own identity within the relationship,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Therefore, it is important to be mindful of how much space you give your partner, even if it feels uncomfortable. If a partner feels suffocated by a clingy partner, they may feel that breaking up is the only option. However, creating healthy boundaries and allowing for some space could actually make the relationship happy again.”

While some people require more attention in a relationship, for example, if they have an insecure or anxious attachment style, there should still be boundaries in place to prevent a co-dependent dynamic

Constantly blowing up your partner’s phone while they’re out with friends or at work is not really acceptable behavior, and could be a huge turn-off in many cases. 

11. Unsupportive 

Everyone has different dreams and ambitions, and you should feel like your partner is supportive of that. 

Whether they smile through a long play you’re in or sit with you as you revise for a big exam, feeling supported is a huge part of any relationship. If your partner refuses to support or acknowledge your dreams, this is a huge turn-off as it can make you feel unwanted and disrespected. 

12. Bad manners 

Along the same line as rudeness comes general bad manners. 

While no one can have perfect etiquette at all times (especially not in the safety of our own homes), being in a relationship with someone who has bad manners can be very draining. For example, if they never open the door for you or have no concept of table manners (loud chewer alert!), it can be a huge turn-off. 

Also, on that line, saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ can actually get you very far in life. You’re welcome… 

13. Overly critical 

While helpful critique is welcomed and appreciated, no relationship should be defined by constant nitpicking. 

If you feel like your partner picks apart everything you do, or is overly critical of every aspect of your relationship, this can be huge a turn-off. 

14. Unable to take criticism 

On the other side of the fence lies someone who can’t take criticism without getting super touchy or defensive. 

While they are happy to dish out the critique, they simply can’t take it when it’s served to them. Even if you’re simply suggesting the slightest tweak or change, they react by throwing a tantrum or by throwing back a salty comment. 

Now that’s an ick. 

15. Inflexibility

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — relationships are all about compromise

If they want to go see a movie and you want to go bowling, they refuse to budge even an inch or be open to any other suggestions. While it can be attractive for your date to take control of planning, they can’t call the shots all the time!

“Inflexibility often arises in couples when one person is afraid of trying something new. To overcome this behavior, it is important for that person to recognize the value of being curious about what scares them about change,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Furthermore, if either partner identifies as neurodiverse, a lack of flexibility might be present for them. So to support the relationship as a whole, it’s vital to talk about this as a couple, so this does not turn into a turn-off.”

16. Social media addiction 

Smartphones are a part of all our lives these days, but like with everything else, it’s all about balance. 

Social media etiquette is an important aspect of any modern relationship. If your partner can’t go ten minutes without checking their phone, refusing to live in the moment with you, this is known as ‘phubbing’. 

New research reveals that this phenomenon is incredibly prevalent in modern society, with nearly half of adult respondents reporting being phubbed by their romantic partner at some point. Being ignored by your partner for the sake of a phone is a huge turn-off, and doesn’t bode well in a relationship. 

“Attachment research such as the Harvard Still Face Study shows that from birth, we crave responsiveness from a loved one,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“When we don't get the attention we need or feel ignored, we may try everything to get it back. A partner who is always looking at their phone instead of us or not focusing on the present moment can cause the same distress as a child being ignored. At a certain point, fighting for your partner's attention becomes exhausting and can be a major turn-off.” 

17. Gossiping 

While many of us engage in harmless gossip from time to time, for many people a fixation on gossip can be a huge turn-off in a relationship.

This may seem petty at first, but dating a gossip can raise a lot of red flags about trustworthiness, privacy, and potential judgmental behavior. So while gossiping about Taylor Swift’s new man is harmless, consistently gossiping about your loved ones could be a huge turn-off — no matter its original intentions.  

18. Talking about exes 

This one is a BIG one for a lot of people. 

While some consider a disparaging relationship with an ex as a red flag, if your partner is consistently bringing up their previous romantic partners, this can be a huge turn-off. This kind of behavior raises a lot of questions about their intentions, and if they might be harboring feelings for their ex-lover. 

Even though it’s healthy to discuss your past, in order to move into a future together, fixation on your exes shouldn’t become a regular topic of conversation in a healthy relationship. 

19. Playing the victim 

While the odds might not always be in our favor, constantly playing the victim can get old pretty quickly. 

Generally, everyone isn’t out to get you, and while we all have bad weeks, constantly blaming everything that goes wrong on someone else isn’t good practice.

If your partner is engaging in these patterns, and can’t take accountability for their own actions, this could easily escalate from turn-off to dealbreaker. 

20. Not having your back 

A test for any relationship? How they speak about you when you’re not around. 

In a secure relationship, you should never question whether your partner has your back in public situations. While we all make mistakes, it should be common practice for your partner to take your side and defend you, even when you’re not there to defend yourself. 

If you hear back that your partner doesn’t have your back, this could be a huge turn-off, as well as an indicator of the health of your relationship. 

21. Constant complaining 

Everyone engages in a rant or a moan from time to time. We’re all entitled to these feelings, but if every conversation becomes dominated by complaints, this isn’t a good sign. 

This kind of negativity can quickly contaminate a relationship, and if your partner spends all their time moaning, this can be a big turn-off. 

22. Always agreeable 

While it’s nice when your partner agrees with you, there is a balance to be struck. 

If you feel like your partner just nods along to everything you say, it can feel like they’re just agreeing in order to keep you happy or avoid conflict, rather than actually sharing your opinion. 

We’re not suggesting that you should be arguing over every little thing, but in order to see different perspectives, it’s important to have a partner who can express their opinion too! Without this push and pull, it’s easy for a relationship to become stale. 

23. No listening ability 

Feeling unheard in a relationship is a very draining experience. 

What’s worse? Feeling like every time you’re telling a story, your partner is just waiting to butt in and share their own experiences — rather than actually listening to you. This one may take some time to notice, but this narcissistic tendency is a huge turn-off in any relationship. 

24. Microaggressions

When you’re comfortable in a relationship, every topic should be on the table — from politics to preferences. However, opening up these conversations can lead to some unwelcome realizations about your moral compatibility with your partner. 

“You have most likely had conversations in the past about who you voted for, your views on being antiracist, being affirming to those from marginalized groups, and feeling like you have aligned values,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“But then you notice your partner making offhand comments about a stranger or coworker that are xenophobic or transphobic. Perhaps they casually use derogatory terms or you see them laughing when someone says something like "That's so gay" or “That’s a woman’s job.” 

It can be confusing to have someone you love make comments that do not align with your values. These revelations can be incredibly disconcerting and can ultimately be a huge turn-off in a relationship. 

“Often, a partner does not see it as a turn-off because they are not speaking directly about you,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Start by sharing how you feel when you hear or see them make these microaggressions, and listen to how they respond. Based on the culture they grew up in, they might find many of these behaviors normalized. Having this conversation together, if they are open to it, can be a growth opportunity for a couple. However, it can also be a major turn-off to realize that your partner has deeper racist or homophobic ways of thinking that they are unwilling to address."

This inability to be open to change could quickly transform a turn-off into a dealbreaker. So, how do you know when these microaggressions have gone too far? 

"When someone asks if their partner's racist comments are worth breaking up over, or their unwillingness to learn about their culture and family, especially if they are a mixed couple, I often challenge the person,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“If your partner shows such fear of what is different from them, how will they react when you don't agree with them? Having shared values is an important part of a happy, healthy relationship.”

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