Pride is a natural emotion and it can help you in many situations. But what happens when it comes up in your interactions with loved ones?

Pride, or the act of being proud, is often used to describe a sense of deep satisfaction toward yourself or someone close to you.

When you’ve accomplished something hard-fought, it’s natural to feel pleased and boastful about a successful outcome.

As a personality trait, pride can take on a different meaning.

While it’s still associated with a sense of self-satisfaction, pride can also be a manifestation of a need for dominance or prestige, and difficulty accepting one may be wrong.

When it comes to your partnership, excessive pride might be present if your sense of self-satisfaction is accompanied by:

  • persistent disagreeableness
  • a tendency to respond to stress with negative emotions such as anger, irritability, or contempt
  • carelessness toward your commitment or responsibility to the other person
  • narcissistic traits
  • toxic behaviors, whether or not you’re aware of them

These tendencies may come out in various behaviors, such as:

  • refusing or finding it hard to compromise
  • feeling constantly offended by the other person’s opinions
  • constantly finding fault in others when you compare them to yourself
  • evaluating some tasks as being beneath you and refusing to complete them
  • refusing to apologize even when you might realize it can solve the conflict
  • feeling as though you always know what’s best or that the other person’s wrong

Types of pride

Pride is often broken down into two categories: authentic and hubristic.

Authentic pride is associated with positive features, such as self-control, goal-engagement, and confidence.

Example: “I’m of myself for earning that scholarship.”

Hubristic pride is described as a conceited, power-driven component of social dominance.

Example: “I’m better than you, so I deserve this scholarship.”

What is the root cause of pride?

“One of the most significant roots of pride in psychology is low self-esteem and self-worth,” says Lea McMahon, a licensed professional counselor and an adjunct psychology professor in Houston. “When people feel bad about their own flaws and insecurities, they tend to mask them with feelings of pride.”

She adds the goal of pride is often to deceive others with the image that one is perfect and flawless.

Fear of vulnerability, excessive childhood praise, and lack of self-accountability also contribute to unhelpful pride, according to McMahon.

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Intimacy means something different for everyone, but it’s often built on bonds of:

Greg Cheney, a couples therapy specialist in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, says pride hurts intimacy by preventing a true connection because intimacy is akin to vulnerability.

If you don’t feel as though you can be vulnerable with your partner, intimacy may decline in many ways, both physically and emotionally.

This disconnect of intimacy can happen during prideful moments when you:

  • fail to admit your shortcomings
  • position yourself as superior to your partner
  • become defensive during arguments
  • assume you know what’s best for your partner without consulting them
  • don’t feel the need to communicate because you already “know” the answers

“Intimacy is all about vulnerability, closeness, authenticity, and connection,” explains Hala Abdul, a psychotherapist in Toronto and Vancouver. “Pride, on the other hand, serves the purpose of being on the defense and protecting oneself.”

As intimacy deteriorates because of pride, you may see the warning signs in different aspects of your relationship:

1. Decreased sex life

As intimacy is impacted by pride, you may find your partner is less enthusiastic about enjoying the physical aspects of your relationship.

Research from 2018 shows men and women associate higher levels of sexual desire with higher levels of intimacy.

This might suggest that working on your pride can boost your sense of intimacy, which could lead to a more satisfying sex life for both partners.

2. Communication

Abdul says that communication can worsen when you’re “too proud” to speak the truth of what you’re feeling or thinking.

“Prideful people aren’t the best communicators and thus don’t know what their partners want or need,” explains McMahon. “They assume that they know best and proceed with their own version of intimacy.”

When you bottle up your emotions, it can make conflict resolution challenging.

3. Insecurity

Josiah Teng, a mental health clinician in New York, explains that pride might make you focus completely on your own insecurities. This can cause your partner — and the relationship — to feel overshadowed.

“With insecurity, partners risk making all interactions and issues about themselves when it might not be the case at all,” he says.

Focusing primarily on yourself and never acknowledging your partner can also make them feel insecure about what they’re bringing to the relationship.

4. Emotional disconnection

Pride tends to be fear-based, according to Abdul, and this can start to create emotional disconnection in a relationship.

“This distance becomes a breeding ground for a group of issues such as game playing, defensiveness, and resentment— all of which result in emotional disconnection,” she says.

5. Lower chance of reconciliation

McMahon warns that if you’re a prideful partner, you may have difficulty admitting your own mistakes and may believe you can never be in the wrong. In these instances, the blame would repeatedly fall on your partner.

These proud behaviors often prevent reconciliation as an option when things are tense.

McMahon also says pride may lead to gaslighting behaviors, which can sometimes cause the end of the relationship.

Understanding where your pride comes from can help you realize when and how it may be hurting your relationship.

These are five things you can start doing to prevent pride from ruining your bond:

1. Taking accountability

Accountability is acknowledging how your pride is affecting your relationship.

“Accountability is all about practicing curiosity with an open mind so that you can give yourself the chance to grow as a person,” says Abdul. “At the end of the day, no one is perfect, and we all have areas of growth to work on.”

Having an open conversation with yourself about how some of your attitudes and behaviors may impact the relationship can help you pause and change directions when you realize pride may be getting in the way.

2. Seeing criticism as a way to improve

Pride can be a defense mechanism for low self-worth. Instead of taking criticism to heart, McMahon recommends using it to motivate you to become the ideal version of yourself.

This doesn’t mean you deserve to hear harsh or unfair comments. Instead, try to be open to the possibility that some of the things your partner is saying about your behavior may be a fact.

3. Reminding yourself how much someone means to you

Being prideful doesn’t mean you lack emotions.

By remembering that you care for someone and want to encourage intimacy and a lasting bond, you can focus on allowing your partner —and yourself — to be vulnerable, Cheney says.

4. Reflecting on your values

Abdul recommends taking self-awareness a step further and reflecting on your overall values as a person.

“That way, you can live your life in a values-based way,” she says. “You’re truly being who you are while also
allowing yourself to be vulnerable and express yourself openly in your relationships.”

You can create daily reminders of these values by writing them down and taping them where you’ll see them each morning.

5. Finding ways to express what you’re feeling

Pride can make you hold your tongue in the moment.

If you don’t feel able to express what you’re thinking at the time, journaling, writing a letter to your partner, or asking to come back to the conversation at another time can be other options.

The effort to express vulnerability and build connections is often just as important as the act.

There’s a proverb commonly summarized as “pride comes before a fall.”

While not all pride is negative, the type of pride that may come with an attitude of arrogance and self-serving deeds can be a destructive force in a relationship.

Being prideful doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s often a bandage for deeper feelings of low self-worth and insecurity.

If pride is negatively impacting your relationship, self-awareness practices may help.

Speaking with a mental health professional can also guide you and your partner to healthier relationship patterns when managing pride feels beyond your reach.