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14 Fundamental Reasons Why Relationships Fail: Common Causes Of Breakups

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Not all romantic relationships last forever. In fact, the vast majority don’t.

And that’s okay.

We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about relationships having come to an end, as a relationship failing doesn’t mean that we have failed.

Every relationship we have shapes us and teaches us, so is a success in its own way.

You can’t control the future. Not every relationship you have will be destined to last forever, but they might be amazing while they last.

But if you dream of having a relationship that stands the test of time and lasts forever and a day, it can be useful to understand the main reasons why most relationships come to an end.

Being familiar with these can help you to spot warning signs early on, so that you can try to plug holes in a relationship that might otherwise sink, or perhaps avoid getting involved in a relationship that’s likely to be short-lived, and potentially save yourself some future heartache.

These are some of the core, fundamental reasons why relationships fail.

1. You just aren’t that compatible.

As the years go by and you spend more time in a relationship, things that seemed insignificant or even quirky and attractive when you first fell in love with someone can start to become cracks in the foundations.

If your personalities and characters are not compatible with one another, you could start to make each other downright unhappy.

That, of course, doesn’t mean you necessarily need to have similar personalities.

We all know that opposites sometimes attract, and it can work very well if, for example, one of you is generally more relaxed and the other more organized. Or one of you more impulsive and the other a careful planner.

If you complement each other, then differences between you can become a strength.

But sometimes differences in personality can mean that you just can’t agree on anything or get on each other’s nerves constantly. It can mean you look at life from a totally different perspective, and struggle to understand your partner’s attitudes or approaches to things.

Little by little, these cracks can turn into craters, and eventually the relationship just falls apart.

2. You have different life goals.

Maybe your personalities are similar, but what you want out of life is still vastly different.

Your life goals, or your priorities, are things you really need to have in common with your partner if the two of you are going to stay together long term.

For example, maybe they want to travel, or spend long periods of time living abroad, and your priority is being close to your family.

Maybe they are focused on earning money, whereas you just see money as a means to an end, not a goal.

Maybe you want to get married, and they don’t. Maybe they want kids, and you don’t.

If you have strong feelings about what you want out of life and your partner doesn’t share them, that could spell the end of your relationship.

That’s why it’s so important to be clear about your priorities and to discuss these things early on, so there are no nasty surprises down the line.

If you discover that the two of you do have different life goals, you need to think carefully about whether they’re deal breakers for you.

Don’t go into a relationship banking on the fact that you’ll be able to change their mind about something if you know you aren’t willing to change yours.  

3. You have different principles.

This is normally something people figure out when they’re first getting to know someone new, but it can sometimes take you by surprise when you’re already committed to a relationship.

This isn’t always a problem for everyone, but it can create deep divides.

For example, if you have different, strong political beliefs, you might find election times or controversial political situations to be too much to bear, as you just can’t wrap your head around their views.

And if one of you has very strong religious or ethical beliefs, you might both struggle to understand one another.

Problems can also emerge if you start thinking about having kids and realize that you can’t agree on the basics of how to raise them.

A person’s principles can sometimes change quite fundamentally over the course of years or more, and the clashes that this cause can be the reason why a relationship fails.

4. You don’t trust one another.

Sometimes, this can be the result of something that’s happened in the past to make it hard for one of you to trust.

But often, relationships end because one partner breaks the bond of trust, and no matter how hard they try, the couple can’t heal that bond.

In a lot of cases, it’s sexual infidelity which damages or destroys trust between two people. But there are plenty of other things that can eat away at your faith in your partner.

Perhaps you’ve discovered they’ve lied to you about their past, or gone behind your back, or kept important financial information from you… whether out of guilt or out of fear.

If you’ve chosen to build your life with someone, you have a right to know about certain things, and finding out they’ve been keeping you in the dark can mean you find it impossible to put your faith in them again. Particularly when they’ve put your future or your security at risk.

Lots of couples do manage to work past infidelities or betrayals and rebuild trust, but it’s not easy to do. And a lack of trust is a big reason why relationships fail.

5. You don’t love each other.

As the years pass, love changes and evolves.

The passionate love you feel when you first meet someone may start to fade, but it should be replaced by deep affection and a solid love for the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with.

But sometimes, love can disappear altogether. There might be a catalyst that makes you look at each other differently, or you might just fall out of love for no particular reason.

If love has faded of its own accord, it can be hard to accept that the relationship has run its course, but no one should live without love in their lives.

6. One or both of you is afraid.

Long-term, serious relationships can be scary things. It can be fear of commitment that comes between you, but it’s often a fear of getting hurt.

Being in a relationship is, after all, a big deal. You’re completely putting your trust in someone else and letting them break down all the walls you’ve so carefully built.

Falling in love is a risk. Because anything could happen.

They could leave you, or something could happen to them. We never know what’s waiting around the corner, and chances are that love will cause us pain as well as bring us joy.

We should never live our lives with fear in the driver’s seat, but if a relationship comes to an end, it can be because one or both partners just couldn’t overcome their fear.

7. One of both of you goes through a crisis.

Sometimes, no matter how much two people love each other, things can happen in life that come between them.

If one or both of them goes through an emotional, personal, professional, or financial crisis, the strain on the relationship can sometimes be too much.

So, bear in mind that it’s not always a fundamental issue with the relationship itself that can lead to it ending.

We’re only human, and sometimes, the love we feel for someone else just can’t survive a traumatic situation.

8. You grow apart.

As human beings, we’re all in a constant state of flux. We like to think of ourselves as fixed entities, but we’re constantly changing, growing, and evolving as the years go by.

We’re shaped by the experiences we have and the people we meet. And that can be tricky when it comes to relationships.

The person you are now might have little in common with the person you were when you met your partner, and they might have gone through an equally extreme transformation.

That’s not always an issue. You might grow and thrive together, supporting each other and learning something new about the other person every day.

But you might grow apart, developing different interests, principles, priorities, goals…

No matter how perfect you were for each other when you met, there’s no guarantee that you’ll stay that way forever.

9. One or both of you has unrealistic expectations of the other.

There are certain things we can rightly expect from our partners – honesty, fidelity, respect… even little things like letting us know when they’re going to be home late.

But there are just as many things that it is unrealistic to expect from our partner.

When you expect something to be done your way and only your way, you’ve crossed over into controlling behavior.

No one is ever going to be able to live up to your own standards or do things how you prefer them to be done every time. And that’s going to lead to some disappointment on your part.

What’s more, your partner is likely to feel resentful of you because you seem to want to change them into this unattainable vision of perfection.

Eventually, your disappointment and their resentment will explode, and all that will be left is a smoldering crater where the relationship used to be.

10. One of you is selfish.

Healthy relationships are partnerships – maybe not perfectly equal all of the time, but pretty close.

But if you or your partner acts selfishly, it will put an inevitable strain on the relationship.

Selfishness might be one partner not really pulling their weight in terms of the practical responsibilities of running a household and life.

It might show as never putting the other person’s needs first, even when they are under strain and stress in other parts of their life

It could even be refusing to compromise on choices that are being made jointly and insisting on getting your own way.

Through their behavior, the person who is being selfish is showing their partner how little value they put on them, and this can drive an ultimately fatal wedge between you.

11. You don’t respect each other.

Respect is something that we demonstrate in almost everything we do. But sometimes it’s not respect that we show, but disrespect. And when respect is absent, a relationship is not healthy.

Now, some couples might manage to stay together even if one or both partners lacks respect for the other (and demonstrates this), but that relationship is not going to be a happy one.

More likely is that the person who feels disrespected will seek to exit the relationship if they don’t see any improvement in the situation after talking it through.

A lack of respect is toxic and can easily veer into abusive waters if the disrespectful behavior is allowed to continue unchallenged.

12. You can’t communicate effectively with one another.

Good communication underpins a healthy relationship. They go hand in hand. You can’t really have a healthy relationship without a reasonable ability to communicate with one another.

Why? Because as close as you may think you are, a couple is made up of two distinct individuals who cannot read each other’s minds or feel what they are feeling.

Words are the conduit down which our thoughts and feelings travel to our partner. And when we can’t communicate effectively, we are unable to express our wants and needs.

Miscommunication or a lack of communication leads to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and eventually to conflict.

When the lines of communication break down entirely, a relationship cannot survive for long. One or both partners will soon pull the plug.

13. You blame each other for everything.

When something happens that shouldn’t have happened, or when it happens differently to how you would have liked, whose fault is it?

If your answer to that question is always your partner’s fault, there’s a major crack in the foundations of your relationship.

When partners blame each other for everything, it leads to anger, frustration, resentment, and a whole host of other difficult emotions.

These feelings chip away at all the good that might exist in a relationship until there is nothing left and the relationship fails.

You simply can’t have a healthy and functional relationship where each of you has your finger of blame fixed firmly toward your partner. Both of you need to take responsibility for your own actions and your own mental reactions to the actions of the other.

14. One of you is holding a grudge.

There will be times in every relationship where one person upsets the other. This might happen regularly, or infrequently, but it will happen.

Forgiveness is such an important tool in maintaining a relationship. If you can’t forgive one another for those times when a boundary is crossed and pain is caused, how can you expect to love, respect, and trust one another?

Because, you see, a grudge is poisonous to a relationship. It may be slow-acting poison, but it eventually causes all that is good about the relationship to die.

And when that happens, the relationship is doomed to fail.

Remember: the relationship might have failed, but you haven’t.

As a society, we tend to look at any relationship that ends as a failure. When, in fact, some relationships just aren’t meant to last forever.

People can come into our lives for short periods of time and give us love and happiness, until it’s time to move on.

The important thing to remember is that a failed relationship doesn’t mean you’ve failed. In any way.

The fact that you didn’t manage to keep a relationship going when it was no longer the right thing for the two of you is no reflection on you as a person, or your worth.

There is far more love ahead of you than you could ever imagine. Just wait and see.

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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.