20 Small Signs Your Relationship Is Way Too Negative

Here's how to keep negative problems away from your relationship.

Last updated on Mar 02, 2024

Woman stressed thinking of relationship YuriArcurs, bymuratdeniz | Canva 

The Gottmans have done over four decades of research on couples and healthy relationships. They found that couples either have the positive sentiment override or the negative sentiment override. When you are stuck in the negative sentiment override, 50 percent of the time you don’t notice the positive in the relationship. Meaning, that even when things are going well, the relationship is ridden with the negative sentiment override.


When the relationship is in the positive sentiment override, you know when your husband tells you he’ll be home for dinner that he is. Or, if he calls and tells you he’s stuck in traffic you know he is. You aren't constantly doubting the relationship or thinking negatively of your partner. You also have positive things to say about your partner to your friends and family. So how do you stop being negative in your relationship and learn how to be positive, instead? First things first, if you are stuck in the negative sentiment override?

RELATED: 9 Things You Can Do To Fix A Broken Relationship


Answer true or false to the following 20 questions to find out if your relationship is way too negative:

1. I felt hurt.

Did your partner say or do something that upset you?

2. I felt misunderstood.

Did your partner not try to listen to what you had to say at all?

3. I thought, "I don't have to take this."

Are you at your limit in your relationship?

4. I felt innocent of blame for this problem.

Is it your partner who's always causing problems?

5. I thought to myself, "Just get up and leave."

Have you ever thought about packing a bag and leaving in the middle of the night?

6. I was angry.

Are you feeling more and more irritated?

7. I felt disappointed.

Is your partner always letting you down?




8. I felt unjustly accused.

Is your partner accusing you of things you didn't do?

9. I thought, "My partner has no right to say those things."

Is your partner crossing the line with what they say?

10. I was frustrated.

Is every little thing your partner is getting on your nerves?

11. I felt personally attacked.

Do you always feel like your partner attacks you any chance they can get?


12. I wanted to strike back.

Do you feel the need to lash out when your partner starts a fight?

13. I felt like I was warding off a barrage.

Do you feel like you have to hold off a whole army?

14. I felt like getting even.

Is revenge always on your mind?

15. I wanted to protect myself.

Are you always on the defensive?

16. I took my partner's complaints as slights.

Is everything your partner complains about directed towards you?

17. I felt like my partner was trying to control me.

Is your partner controlling everything you do?

18. I thought that my partner was very manipulative.

Is your partner trying to manipulate you and your decisions?

19. I felt unjustly criticized.

Is every little thing you do criticized by your partner?


20. I wanted the negativity to just stop.

Is your relationship just full of negative feelings and problems?

RELATED: 4 Painfully Honest Signs Even Couples Therapy Can't Fix Your Relationship

If you answered true to five or more questions, then you are stuck in the negative sentiment override, which can be a scary place to be. You are questioning your partner and your relationship. You may feel alone. If you want to save your relationship, then you need to fight back. While the Gottmans were doing their research, they found couples are always making bids of affection towards one another. There is a range of bids. It can be making eye contact, a smile, or a nod. It can be asking how your partner’s day was, or asking your partner out on a date.

What’s important is the bid is done out of love and that your partner gets the bid. When you enter a relationship you and your partner are coming from different backgrounds. You may have different ways of making a bid, which you learned from your family of origin. If you don’t return the bid your partner will feel hurt and rejected.


After a while, if you don’t feel your bids are being accepted, you may stop trying. If that’s the case, then your relationship is in the danger zone. I have seen this a lot in my practice. Couples get there and they aren't even sure how they got there. This didn't happen overnight. You need to work on putting the positive sentiment override back in your relationship. This isn't impossible. Little by little you can get there. 

Here are 4 tips that will help you put the positive sentiment override back in your relationship:

1. Have fun together

In the beginning, having fun came naturally. You were excited to see your partner. You laughed together, a lot. You could talk for hours. Now, you can’t remember the last time you had fun together or simply laughed together. Sure, you have more responsibilities. You have a career, a house, and children. So, where does this leave your relationship? Now, you need to schedule fun together. It’s just as important as your career, house, and children.



2. Put in place rituals of connection

There are a range and a variety of rituals of connection. How do you depart in the morning? Do you know at least one important thing that will be happening in your partner’s day? How do you reunite at the end of the day? Are you excited to see your partner? Do you take a genuine interest in how your partner's day went? Do you ask your partner out on a date or have one standing date night a week?


If you bring the children, then it’s not a date. This is time for the two of you can talk about things you need to talk about, without interruptions — no cell phones. How do you celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and Holidays? Do you have any secret anniversaries that nobody else knows about, that you celebrate? When you have a good ritual of connections, you will feel emotionally closer to your partner. This also helps with the intimacy in the relationship.

RELATED: The 5 Pieces Of Relationship Advice You Should Never Ignore

3. Examine your commitment to the relationship

This is the foundation for your relationship. How committed are you to your partner? The Gottmans found with their research that your partner needs to feel first in the relationship. This is how your partner knows that you have their back. This also means there is a lot of trust in the relationship. Trust is also the foundation of a relationship. Think about it, on a scale of 0 percent to 100 percent, where 0 percent is not committed at all and 100 percent is committed. Where are you on that scale?


4. Figure out your fighting style

All couples argue, even the best of couples. What’s important is that they repair and makeup after the argument. If you don’t repair it, then the argument will just continue and come up when you least expect it. One of the easiest ways to repair a relationship is to say "I’m sorry." I know this sounds easy but is one of the most difficult things for couples to do. This is the best thing you can do for your relationship. Even, if you felt you only had a small part in the argument. The best thing you can do is to own up to it rather than make excuses for it.

It’s important to remember that it takes a while for the negative sentiment override to develop in your relationship. It’s not going to go away in one day. I see this a lot in my practice. Couples come into therapy and they want a quick fix. If that’s the case, then they are disappointed. I know you want to bring back the positive sentiment override. It's a good sign to acknowledge that something is wrong with the relationship. But, you need to be patient. You need to take a close look at what caused the negative sentiment override in the first place.

You don’t want to be passive here. This is your chance to tell your partner what you need. You also need to take time to learn about your partner’s background. Often, couples get married and they think it will erase the past, like a difficult childhood or social life. If you’ve been married for a while, then you know that is not the case. You can’t erase history, but you can work towards a more satisfying relationship in the future.

Start small. The next time you reunite with your partner at the end of the day, ask how their day went. Listen and take a genuine interest in what they have to say. Listening can go a long way. Most people need to feel heard before they can solve a problem. This is another way that your partner will feel you have their back.


This is the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with, and there are times when it’s going to be hard work. Stick with it. All relationships go through highs and lows. What were your goals for the relationship in the beginning? If you don’t feel you are working on them, then look at why. Don’t put your relationship last. This is the person you love and want to spend the rest of your life with. Put the hard work into the relationship.

RELATED: The Simple Secret To Having A Better Relationship (It's Not Rocket Science!)

Lianne Avila is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a practice in San Mateo, CA. Her work has been featured in Psych Central, BRIDES, and Prevention.