When things are broken, you basically have two options: fix them, or throw them away. The same goes for relationships. There are a lot of huge problems that can mean things are over. But in some cases, those same problems don't have to mean the end of a relationship. Instead, they can signal the start of a new period in your life, full of healthy solutions, like trust building, compromises, improved intimacy, and all that other good stuff that I'm always going on about.
When I worked as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I realized that there was no easy way to tell if a relationship definitely could or couldn't be saved (unless there was abuse, in which case, I almost always recommended getting off that train). It really comes down to what kind of personality you have, what types of problems you're facing, how devoted you are to the process of fixing things, how willing/able you are to do the tough emotional work of rebuilding a relationship, and how mature you both are.
I'm not saying the following problems represent situations in which all people (or even most people) should be trying harder to fix things instead of calling it quits. I am saying that, if you really want things to work, sometimes they can, even in the face of huge problems.
Cheating is a tough blow, and one that a lot of people can't forgive or get over. But cheating doesn't have to mean the end of things, according to Joe Kort Ph.D. in an article for Psychology Today. Couples who are willing to have an open and honest approach to solving all their problems (not just the infidelity), and who don't take on a victim and perpetrator mindset, can go on to rebuild trust and have happy and fulfilling partnerships.
Lying is an interesting issue, with a lot of layers. There are some people who just tell a couple of really big lies. There are some who constantly tell small lies. Some people lie to protect their partners feelings, others to keep out of trouble. The problem with lying is that it erodes trust, which is one of the essential core elements of a healthy relationship. Many times, trust in a relationship can be rebuilt. It may take therapy, or just time and effort, but it can be done.
Codependency is a complicated issue, but in a nutshell, it basically means you rely on each other too much. In mild cases is looks like that couple who can't go anywhere or do anything without each other. In extreme cases, it can be one partner enabling another's addictions and other problems under the guise of being a caregiver. At its core, codependency is often fear, distrust, and anxiety based, and not something that stems from healthy love. Some people find that they can't be with someone who they get into codependent ruts with, while others might be able to work through their issues, both personal and as a couple.
Jealousy is a red flag for an unhealthy relationship, and it's often one of the first signs that you have an abusive partner on your hands. When jealousy from your partner comes with your partner trying to control what you wear, where you go, who you see, and what you do, then you need to be especially worried. Sometimes jealousy isn't a precursor to violence, though. Sometimes it just stems from insecurities and trust issues that can be resolved.
5. Disagreements About Children
What do you do when one partner wants children and the other doesn't? Well, that depends on your priorities. If you want children, and it's an absolute must, but your partner feels just as strongly about not having kids, then there's not much you can do. But if children are something you think you might want someday, but it isn't as high on your priority list, then you have some wiggle room to make things work. In the end, though, someone is going to have to give in, which can lead to regret and resentment, so tread lightly.
6. Disagreements About Where To Live
This debate takes a lot of different forms: East Coast versus West Coast, one country versus another, city versus country, or even your own place versus staying with family to save money. If you look hard and get creative, you can often find a compromise. If not, one partner has to be willing to bend in order for the relationship to last. Remember, nothing is permanent, and if one of you absolutely hates your new surroundings, you can always move back. For some people, it's important to try. If that's not you, and you know what you want, no shame. You're allowed to chose yourself over your relationship if that's what you need to do to be happy.
7. Bad (Or No) Sex
Believe it or not, most couples don't have roaring hot sex lives all the time. Even the happiest couples can slow down in frequency, or have patches where they don't have sex at all for a while. Sex is a hugely common source of conflict, but it doesn't have to be the end of your relationship if you can't get things on track. A therapist and a medical doctor can look at you both and help you communicate, solve problems, and deal with medical issues that could be getting in the way of your sex lives.
8. Falling Out Of Love
If you feel like you don't love someone anymore, your first instinct might be to break up. That doesn't have to be the case. A lot of couples go through periods where they don't feel the butterflies. They may even feel like they don't like each other. But the love comes back. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes love is a choice, and sometimes it just takes some work to get the level of closeness you had back. It sounds weird, but love is only a small part of being in a relationship sometimes.
9. Different Priorities
Wanting different things out of life, or wanting them at different times, is a common, valid reason for a breakup. If you're in this situation, but you want to save your relationship, then you need to compromise. One of you might have to shelf your goals temporarily, the other might have to change their plans for school, children, or career, so that they happen a little later in life. If you can make a plan where ultimately everyone eventually gets what they want, that's the goal. If you can't, you either have to sacrifice (and deal with potential resentment and regret) or move on.
10. Financial Trouble
I have seen dozens of couples break up over credit scores, spending habits, shopping or gambling addictions, or lack of money. It's a real, serious issue. If you are very different when it comes to money, you can try to make things work by seeing a financial adviser, who will help you make a spending and savings plan you can both agree on. If you're in love, it's worth a shot, right?
11. Opposite Personalities
Sometimes opposites attract. And sometimes those opposites find themselves making a life together filled with compromise to the point that they are unhappy. It can ruin relationships. But it can also be an asset. You can look for common interests, find new interests together, and work with a therapist to discover ways to resolve disagreements and deal with the constant compromise. Sometimes, though, you'll both have to accept that things don't get to go the way you want them to.
Therapy, soul searching, and good communications skills can get you through some pretty big problems. You just have to make sure you want to do the work, then try your best.