People who grew up in unhappy households often display these 6 subtle behaviors in their relationships

For many people, their childhood was a time filled with self-discovery, loving memories, and their mom’s famous meatloaf.

You know, something to look back on with fondness. 

It’s their happy place.

A period of growth where they made life-long friends, learned to ride a bike, and first began to form opinions of their own.

But the same can’t be said for everyone. 

Instead, some individuals have been left scarred and emotionally stunted by what should have been a joyful and carefree youth. 

And this trauma, during a key developmental phase in their life, has sadly bled into their personal lives. 

Namely, their relationships.

Unsure of the signs? Here are six subtle behaviors that suggest someone grew up in an unhappy household. 

Let’s dive in…

1) Boundaries, schmoundaries

Boundaries are an important way to establish what is and isn’t okay with us. 

They can be physical, intellectual, sexual, emotional, or even financial. 

Whatever it is, these limits are put in place to make us feel comfortable and safe around others. Something that’s essential when you’re entering into a new relationship. 

But here’s the thing.

When you grow up in an unhappy or dysfunctional household, these lines can become blurred. 

And this lack of boundaries can present itself in a number of ways.

For instance.

Perhaps they struggle to respect your personal space or regularly invade your privacy by looking at your phone without your permission (we’ll get into their trust issues later). 

Maybe they push the issue further by routinely invalidating how you feel about it. Or, they have difficulty communicating (and setting) healthy boundaries of their own.

The truth is, it’s a learned behavior

Not only is it putting your relationship in jeopardy, but it’s a problem that can lead to codependency. 

This ties in nicely with the next point on the list. 

2) Decisions make them a little loopy

Do you find that you’re the default decision-maker in the relationship?

Even when they do finally press the trigger, it’s only after your approval. If not, your partner has a literal meltdown or gets caught up in a loop. 


There’s a good reason why your significant other is so indecisive.

And you guessed it. 

It can usually be traced back to their childhood

When someone grew up with overbearing (helicopter) parents, they likely weren’t given the freedom or autonomy to make decisions independently. 

Instead, everything was decided for them. 

The same goes for controlling and strict parenting styles where the child has to ask permission before making the tiniest of choices (for fear of punishment). 

What’s more, research shows that childhood trauma (such as stress) can affect decision-making in adults.

As a result, they now have trouble making decisions on their own in adulthood, perhaps fearing that making the wrong decision will draw criticism. 

Or worse, you’ll abandon them. 

What they fail to see is, that this behavior (in itself) can actually put a lot of strain on your relationship. 

Ultimately, they become overly reliant and dependent on you. 

3) “No” isn’t in their vocabulary

Most people in life want to be liked by others (it’s only natural). But we also accept, that not everyone will. 

That’s all fine and dandy. 

However, there’s a big difference between wanting to be liked and needing to be liked. 

And when this need turns into an obsession or compulsion, it can lead to what psychologists call people-pleasing behavior

For example. 

Never saying “no,” even if it means putting their own well-being on the back burner. Perhaps they constantly say “sorry” when it isn’t needed. 

All this can create an imbalance and tension in the relationship. Not to mention, it promotes a sense of low self-regard.

So, why do they do it?

Everyone is different, but ultimately, it stems from fear. I’m talking about the holy trinity here – rejection, abandonment, and conflict. 

That and a need for validation.

All of which suggests they grew up in an unhappy household where love was conditional

4) Disagreements give them the sweats

Just like people-pleasers, conflict-avoidant individuals have an extreme fear of abandonment and disappointing others. 

It makes them uneasy (and a little twitchy).

So, when you have a lovers’ tiff or quarrel (no matter how small or silly) they expect the worst, worried that you’ll leave or “get mad” at them.

A feeling that places them way outside of their comfort zone. 

As a result, they may lash out, internalize their anger, or (literally) run away from you to avoid getting into a fight or an awkward discussion. 

In other words, they leave things unresolved.

The problem with that is, that they’re only making matters worse by not confronting their fears or solving your relationship issues. 

At the end of the day, relationships require open and honest communication. Unfortunately, their unhappy childhood prevented them from learning this. 

5) Trust doesn’t come easy for them

When we’re young we rely solely and implicitly on our parents for care. We trust that they’ll provide us with food, shelter, protection, and comfort. 

It’s instinct. 

Just like animals in the wild, we’re dependent on them. And without their help, our chances of survival are slim to none.

But if that trust is ever broken, it can have a knock-on effect into adulthood. 

By that I mean, manifest as trust issues. 

Think about it. 

When your own parents are unable or unwilling to meet your needs, it’s going to be challenging to accept someone else will. 

It creates doubt. 

Perhaps forcing them to put up emotional barriers to avoid getting hurt in the future. As a consequence, it’s difficult for them to let their guard and allow people in. 

Likewise, this betrayal and rejection (by the people they should trust the most) can make them feel unworthy of love.

6) Compliments make them cringe

It was cute at first… 

They seemed modest, demure, and unassuming. Perhaps even a little bashful. In fact, you loved the way it made them blush, squirm, and awkwardly smile. 

But lately, you’ve started to question why praise or recognition (of any kind) makes them so uncomfortable. 

Is it just low self-esteem or is there something more at play here?

Let me explain. 

When people grow up in unhappy homes, chances are they struggle to accept compliments. 

It goes back to their trust issues. 

Perhaps they had a caregiver who regularly used manipulation tactics to control them. Or maybe they struggle with shame due to childhood trauma. 

The point is, that it can be deeply triggering. 

And truth be told, it’s going to take time for them to gain the confidence to trust others – even if they’re in a loving relationship. 

So, if you know anyone who displays these six behaviors, remember to be patient. And now you know the cause, prove that they’re not alone by showing some much-needed understanding. 

It’ll only strengthen your relationship further in the long run. 

Picture of Leila El-Dean

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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