3 Reasons Why Relationships Fail (And How to Avoid Them)
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Romantic relationships are difficult.
For a romance to stand the test of time, you need to be committed and willing to work at it. And while there are many natural reasons why relationships don’t work out – timing, diverging growth trajectories, differing values, and so on – there are three avoidable reasons that will cause any relationship to fail: non-acceptance, lack of trust, and poor communication.
Below, you’ll learn about why these mistakes manifest and how you can avoid them in your relationship.
“The greatest catalyst for change in a relationship is complete acceptance of your partner as he or she is, without needing to judge or change them in any way.” – Eckhart Tolle
It’s inevitable that your romantic partner will have traits that irritate you or beliefs with which you disagree. Does that mean that you should leave your partner in pursuit of the “perfect” match? No! Having differences with your partner is unavoidable, and if you want your relationship to endure, what matters is how you understand and relate to these differences.
For example, imagine that you believe in healthy eating, moderation, and regular exercise. After you move in with your partner, you realize that he has a penchant for tasty desserts and avoids exercise like the plague. And while you enjoyed your partner’s lazy Sundays and constant supply of Reese’s peanut butter cups at the beginning of your relationship, you now feel frustrated every time he grabs a cookie and declines your offer to go to a yoga class.
Over time, you and your partner’s differing beliefs about health may frustrate you, and as your frustration grows, you might try to change your partner. You might start with always “forgetting” to grab ice cream when you buy groceries. But as your partner still finds a way to stock the house with pints of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream for his mid-day snack, you might make snarky comments about how his body is starting to feel a little “different.” You don’t see this as a problem because you feel that you’re helping him live a healthier life.
But naturally, this will make your partner angry. Your non-acceptance of his habits and passive-aggressive attempts to change him will fuel a deeply felt resentment. Over time, the mutual frustration and resentment might lead to relationship-ending arguments.
The problem in this situation is not your partner; it’s you. While you might believe that your attempts to change your partner’s eating and exercise habits comes from a place of love and trying to help him live a healthier life, in reality, you’re not accepting your partner and projecting your values about health onto him.
If you want the relationship to last, you need to change your approach. You need to start from a place of genuine acceptance. Because when you accept your partner, you seek to understand, not judge him. And when you come from a place of understanding, you listen more and can begin to understand why his values and practices might diverge from yours.
You might uncover that his eating and exercise habits stem from his childhood. Perhaps he had an anorexic brother who’s obsession with health and appearances led to years of anxiety and depression, and because of this experience, he fears the way in which an obsessive focus on health can reduce a person’s quality of life.
In understanding this, you might have a new perspective on your partner. He’s no longer a lazy, ice cream-obsessed man who doesn’t care about his health. Instead, he’s a person who had a negative experience that influences his beliefs and actions. From this place of understanding, you might be able to have more productive conversations about the issue.
When you don’t accept your partner, disaster follows. Because when you don’t accept someone, they will not trust or feel comfortable with you. They will feel attacked and resentful about your non-acceptance.
So instead of letting your frustration about your partner’s habits or beliefs lead to a “noble” pursuit to change them, first accept them and then decide what that means for your relationship. If health is one of your most important values and your partner does not value health in the same way, then you might decide that it’s time to move on and find someone who shares your beliefs about health.
Lack of trust
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway
In 8th grade, I fell in love with a girl. She went on a cruise the week before Christmas, and a few days before she got back, she left me a voicemail. Instead of hearing her soft, sweet voice, I heard a dude with a southern accent:
“Hey man, I just wanted to let you know that your girl is an awesome kisser.”
When she got back, she told me that she was leaving me for a great guy from Tennessee. I spent Christmas crying in my grandparent’s office while my uncle told me to suck it up.
This experience scarred my adolescent soul. For years, I struggled to trust women. My lack of trust manifested in various ways – not being vulnerable, overreacting to girlfriends talking with other guys, and leaving relationships before I got hurt.
In failing to trust my partners, I unconsciously sabotaged many of my young adult romantic relationships. While I didn’t realize I had this problem at the time, I now understand how the scar tissue from my 8th-grade romance hindered my ability to build enduring relationships.
The problem I had and that many others face is a lack of trust. And while you may be able to move past the strange ways in which a lack of trust manifests in the short-term, in the long-run, it will kill your relationship. Eventually, your partner will tire of your inability to trust them, and the relationship will break down.
If you struggle to trust your partner, especially when he or she hasn’t done anything to violate your trust, you need to dig deep to identify the source of the mistrust. Often, lack of trust stems from our fear of being hurt, which can come from early childhood experiences. Regardless of the cause, it’s up to you to address the issue and trust your partner.
If you can’t comfortably leave your partner with the most attractive and interesting person on the planet, then you don’t trust them. And when you don’t trust them, you’ll do all kinds of crazy shit, often unconsciously, that will sabotage your relationship.
“Communication is the fuel that keeps the fire of your relationship burning, without it, your relationship goes cold.” – William Paisley
While the first few months or years of a relationship may go smoothly, you will inevitably run into challenges along the road. And to successfully navigate and endure these challenges, you need to be able to communicate well with your partner.
For example, imagine that your partner has the opportunity to lead a project that will transform her career. If you care about your partner and her career ambitions, you will share her excitement about this opportunity.
But as the project progresses, perhaps you notice that she is spending significantly more time at work. She might be unusually stressed or unable to be present with you. Naturally, this change in your partner might frustrate you. You’ll start to wonder if she cares about work more than you and your relationship. When problems like this come up, your ability to maintain a healthy relationship relies on your ability to communicate your emotions, beliefs, and needs.
If you’re unable to communicate your frustration to your partner productively, you might start doing things that will escalate the problem. For instance, you might respond to your frustration by being short, starting arguments over small issues, or by mirroring her lack of presence. If you do this, the problems will compound, and your partner may not feel that you support her pursuit to succeed in her career.
But if instead, you learn to communicate your emotions and beliefs calmly and honestly from a place of genuine understanding, you’ll be able to handle the challenge more smoothly. Instead of lashing out at your partner, you might tell her that you feel that due to her focus on the project at work (which you fully support), she is not meeting your needs. You think that the fun spirit and presence that she used to bring to your dates is no longer there.
In openly discussing how her focus on work and lack of presence is affecting you without assuming that is a direct affront to you or the relationship, you will open up a communication channel that will allow you to find a productive path forward.
The solution might be a date night once a week where you don’t bring your phones and don’t discuss work. It might be helping your partner better navigate the unreasonable demands of her boss. In any case, you won’t get to a mutually beneficial solution until you learn to communicate from a place of understanding, compassion, and belief in the relationship.
Non-acceptance, lack of trust, and poor communication will kill any relationship. The good news is that you can avoid these common killers of relationships by identifying them when they come up, looking within, and committing to doing the hard work required to make your relationship last.