Anxiety is my life. So is my wife. (I didn't rhyme that on purpose.) So no matter how happy we are, there's always a tiny thread of anxiety in the back of my mind that focuses on the reasons relationships fail. Is it irrational? Maybe. All I know is that it's there, and that knowledge is power. Which is why I decided to fill you in on why things most often go wrong. When you know better, you can do better. And if you can work to correct the problems that are known relationship killers, you can have peace of mind. And when you have peace of mind, you can feel a little bit more in control of the future of your relationship.
When I worked with struggling couples as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I saw the same handful of relationship-destroying issues over and over. Some of this might seem like common sense, but even the most basic components of a healthy relationship can be that relationship's undoing if they're not addressed when they start to go south. In other words, even a tiny hole can sink a great ship if it's ignored long enough. Don't be that ship. Or that hole.
I saw a lot of couples who had been together for ages, and things were mostly good, but then one day they woke up and they realized they couldn't stand each other. In most cases this wasn't caused by any big betrayal or fight in particular. It was caused by a lifetime of tiny resentments that had built up over time, until they couldn't keep them in any longer. Tiny resentments about who didn't do the dishes, who hurt whose feelings, or who acted selfishly. The difference between couples who can overcome these resentments and those who can't is communication. If you're both keeping things inside, that's when they build up. When you're talking about what bothers you, you're able to move past it.
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There are all different kinds of betrayal, but probably the biggest is infidelity. Cheating. There isn't always something you can do about cheating. Sometimes it just happens, even when you do everything right, and that's not your fault. And sometimes it happens when one person isn't happy in the relationship, but doesn't have the skills, courage, or decency to tell their partner. In these instances, you might not be able to prevent the betrayal, but what you can do is make sure you're always checking in with each other to make sure you're dealing with problems or issues. Building a foundation of trust and honesty will help.
3. Trust Issues
Trust is a must. (OK, I did that one on purpose.) If you don't have trust in your relationship, you don't have a healthy relationship, and if you don't have a healthy relationship, that relationship is more likely to fail. Trust can be damaged and repaired, but if it's absent, you're doomed. It makes sense, because it's hard to build a life with someone without the security of trust. It's like building a sand castle at low tide. You'll always wonder when it's going to get washed away.
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4. Undesirable Traits
A joint study conducted by researchers at five universities ad published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people take their potential partner's negative qualities into account much more often than their positive qualities when deciding if they should be in a relationship. Men and women do this, but the study indicated that women do it more. So it could be that those few annoying habits you both have won out over all the good things about you in the long run.
5. Different Goals
If you want to have six kids and live in the city but your partner wants to have six dogs and live in the country, what do you do? Sometimes relationships end for no other reason than life getting in the way. Sometimes one of you gets a job overseas and the other one doesn't want to leave their job, friends, and home. You are still an individual, even when you're in a relationship, and that means sometimes the right thing to do is what's best for you, especially if you'll be full of regret and resentment if you don't.
6. Controlling Behaviors
When one partner is controlling, it sends up a lot of red flags. It can mean that partner is insecure, jealous, manipulative, and/or abusive. Unfortunately, sometimes controlling partner have such a hold on their SOs that they never leave, out of concern for their safety. Recognizing a partner is controlling up front is a huge reason to jump ship before it sinks and takes you with it.
7. Financial Strain
Money is stressful. It's one of the main things couples argue about, and it has a big impact on whether or not they stay together. Couples need to agree on how they spend their money, have a good system in place for paying bills, and both have equal and fair access to funds. When there isn't enough money, or couples don't agree on money, it can be serious enough to end the relationship.
8. Sexual Incompatibility
There are two types of people when it comes to sexual compatibility. The first type says life is too short for bad sex. The second type says that bad sex (or no sex) is something that the couple can work through. If you're in the first group, bad or infrequent sex is totally enough of a deal breaker to justify ending the relationship. You might get to that point if you're in the second group, too, but it will take you longer. Either way, sex is a hot-button issue, and one that has lead to plenty of breakups.
9. Age Gap
If you're not close in age, you have a higher chance of splitting up, according to Renee Fisher in an article for Huffington Post. She mined a study conducted by Emory University, which found that the divorce rate for married coupes rose exponentially as the gap in their ages got larger. For example, a one-year age difference increases your odds of divorce by three percent. But a ten year gap is closer to the 40 percent range for divorce, compared to couples who are the same age. The likely cause is differing levels of maturity and life experience.
10. It Was Spring Break Or Thanksgiving
Information designers (I did not even know that was a thing!) David McCandless and Lee Byron combed over the U.S. Census, social media, and the Durex Global Sex Survey and found that according to their data, the overwhelming majority of breakups occur in March and late November. Looks like people just want to be free to go wild in the spring, and to hold on to who they're dating long enough to avoid going to Thanksgiving dinner alone. Or maybe all those new flings from when school starts up just sizzle out by winter. Least active month for breakups? August.
11. Growing Apart
People change, and they don't always change together. Sometimes they get so caught up in their day-to-day lives that they forget to be friends, to check in with each other, to build on shared goals, and to keep their bond strong. Before they know it, they don't even know each other anymore. This is common in couples with grown children or couples who are very career focused.
It takes hard work and a lot of communication to stay close over the long haul.
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