6 ways to deal with a partner who makes then breaks promises a lot

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Relationships are all about trust. Which is why when your partner breaks a promise they’ve made to you, it can be tough to deal with and really rock your boat.

Your partner might be breaking big promises – ones that affect the whole course of your lives together.

But it often tends to be small, seemingly insignificant ones, like being home in time for dinner, going out with your friends at the weekend, or doing the laundry…

If broken promises, big or small, are becoming a pattern in your relationship, then you’ve come here looking for some answers.

Read on to find out why your partner might be making and breaking all these promises, what role you might be playing in it all, and how the two of you can move forwards from here.

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Why do people make empty promises? 

The truth is that the majority of people make promises because they want to make other people happy.

An ex-boyfriend of mine had exactly this problem. I’d talk about making plans together, and he, so keen to please all the time, would say yes, he’d be there, absolutely, sounds great. All without blinking an eyelid.

And then when it got closer to the time, he’d admit that he was double booked, and knew, or had a suspicion, that he wouldn’t be able to do whatever it was right from the moment we’d first discussed it.

His problem was that he just wanted to keep me happy, and didn’t realize that it’d be far better to be honest from the word go, rather than get my hopes up and then disappoint me later on.

Over the years, he finally started to understand that I’d prefer straight-up honesty, but it was a long road to get to that point.

It’s not always to do with wanting to make other people happy, though.

Some people are really bad judges of their own time or capabilities, and genuinely believe they will be able to fit a quart into a pint pot and keep everyone happy.

They end up breaking their promises when they realize they were over-optimistic or didn’t organize themselves properly. But they never seem to learn the lesson.

And some people are, to be frank, just a little bit self-centered. They don’t think about how empty or broken promises might affect others, so they happily make promises here and there, without having any real idea about whether they’ll be able to keep them, and not really caring.   

Does any of the above make you think of your partner? Do you think their empty promises stem from a desire to make you happy, from their poor judgement, or is it that they just don’t prioritize your feelings?  

Once you’ve had a chance to reflect on why they might be making empty promises, it’s time to look at what you can do about it.

What to do when your partner breaks a promise.

So, your partner has broken yet another promise to you. How should you deal with it?

The following 6 tips can really help, but so can a little professional help. Whether by yourself or as a couple, speaking to a relationship expert is a wise choice and good investment.

They can listen to your concerns, give specific advice on how to approach the broken promises, and work with you over a period of time to improve the health of your relationship.

If you are considering this as an option, we’d recommend Relationship Hero – which includes regular sessions with a dedicated relationship expert to help you get your relationship to where you would like it to be.

1. Ask yourself if the promise was realistic – should they have made it?

The first step, as should be the case with everything in life, is to take some time out for a little reflection.

Think about this particular promise they made, as well as their empty promises in general.

Was it ever a realistic promise? Was there really any chance that they’d keep it?

And if not, do you think they knew that deep down? Did they make the promise knowing that they’d break it, or did they just not think it through?  

2. Should you have believed it?

Some of the blame here might also lie with you.

Of course, they’re a grown up, and are responsible for the promises they make. But could your behavior have influenced them into promising you things that, realistically, were never going to happen?

Maybe you were being blindly optimistic and accepting their promise when you already knew they wouldn’t keep it.

Make sure you’re not deliberately setting your partner up to fail by accepting unrealistic promises, so that you then have an excuse to be annoyed at them.

That’s a slippery slope, and would mean you’re just as much to blame in this situation as they are.

If you think this might be a problem for you, you need to focus the magnifying glass on yourself before you start worrying about your partner’s behavior.

3. Ask yourself how important the promise was to you.

Is the fact that they’ve broken this promise just a little bit annoying and frustrating, or are you genuinely hurt by the fact they’ve broken it?

Even if it seems like a small thing on the face of it, it might be important to you, especially if it’s a promise that they break repeatedly. Just because it seems trivial outwardly, if it’s significant to you then it’s not trivial at all. 

Speaking to ABC News, Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore reminds us that “healthy relationships hinge on a couple’s ability to know which issues are worth fighting over and which ones are worth letting go.” So think about whether this particular broken promise is worth making a big fuss about.

4. Was it a one off, or is it a growing trend?

Think about whether this is part of a pattern, or just a one off.

Extenuating circumstances force us all to break promises now and again, and we need to be understanding of our partners, just like we’d expect them to be understanding of us if we were forced to break a promise because of reasons out of our control.

But if you’re noticing that they’re breaking promises left, right, and center, then it might be more concerning.

If, as a rule, they don’t give enough thought to the promises they make you, or they misguidedly try to make you happy with unrealistic promises, it’s time to address the problem before it wears away at the trust between you.   

5. Have an honest conversation with them.

After reflecting on these things, it’s time to have an honest conversation with your partner about how their empty promises are affecting your relationship.

Sit them down and explain to them the effect that their broken promises, and this promise in particular, have on you.

If you’ve been hiding your feelings about this, it might come as a surprise to them, and it might be hard for them to understand why this is an issue for you if they see it as just being the result of their good intentions.

Having this discussion will mean that in future they should be more aware of how you feel about broken promises and do what they can to avoid making any promises they can’t keep.

It will mean that when they do, inevitably, break promises again, they’ll already know how you feel and are more likely to apologize straight off the bat and explain what happened, rather than just sweep it under the rug.

They might also be more careful about the promises they make in future.

Try your best not to get angry, but explain this to them calmly, as that way there’s less chance of them getting defensive.

6. Set a good example.

One of the very best ways to prevent your partner from making empty promises to you is to make sure you never make them yourself.

If this is something that bothers you, take a look at your own behavior and be honest about whether you’re guilty of it too.

If you are, then actively try to make a change, so that your partner can see you’re not being hypocritical, but genuinely value honesty in your relationship.

Be honest with yourself and them, be patient with them, and hopefully the days of empty promises should soon be behind you.

Still not sure what to do about broken promises in your relationship? This is a tricky situation, and one that can easily be made worse with the wrong approach. But Relationship Hero can guide the way and help you achieve the best outcome. Through regular sessions with a dedicated relationship expert (by yourself and/or as a couple), you’ll learn precisely how to create a healthier and more fulfilling relationship—one that can last a lifetime. Learn more about Relationship Hero and get the kind of tactical relationship advice and ongoing support you need.

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About The Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.