The 9 Most Common Reasons “Perfect Relationships” End
At some point, you may find yourself in a seemingly perfect relationship — but then it falls apart. At first, you may think that you could, or would, never break up with this person. But the more you and your partner get to know each other, the more you see the two of you are not as compatible as you once thought.
“I’m not a big believer in ‘perfect’ relationships — one person’s ‘perfect’ is another person’s misery,” NaDasha Elkerson, relationship coach and love expert, tells Bustle. She says that there could be a few reasons why a relationship may feel perfect. “For instance, people who are in a relationship that other people think is ‘perfect’ from the outside can feel a lot of pressure to keep up appearances,” she says. “As a result, they push down their real desires and goals for the sake of continuing to look perfect. This leads to feelings of being trapped and wanting to leave the relationship just to escape the pressure.”
Sound familiar? If you’ve ever found yourself in a “perfect” relationship that ended but you don't quite know where it all went wrong, below, relationship experts weigh in on what may have happened — and why all relationships have flaws.
1A Lack Of Communication
Communication is integral in a relationship, but if you and your partner don’t communicate much, or don’t communicate well, it could spell trouble. "You may think your relationship is ‘perfect,’ but have you asked your partner what they think,” Kelsey M. Latimer, PhD, CEDS-S, a counseling psychologist and assistant director at the Center for Discovery, tells Bustle. “If you are communicating, chances are, you are going to have arguments and things that make you realize things are not ‘perfect’ — so a sense of perfection could really mean a lack of communication or not being on the same page in terms of what the relationship means to each person.”
2The Couple Grows Apart
Naturally, you and/or your partner change as life goes on and as your relationship evolves, and these changes may make your “perfect” relationship start to feel not-so-perfect.
“Over time, values and goals change and can cause couples to grow in different directions,” relationship specialist Jen Elmquist, MA, LMFT, and author of Relationship Reset: Secrets from a Couples Therapist That Will Revolutionize Your Love for a Lifetime, tells Bustle. “Or sometimes, one partner makes a significant shift in priorities, and the relationship can’t catch up.”
3One Partner Focuses On A Superficial Connection Vs. A Deeper One
When you’re compatible with someone, initially, you may connect in several ways, but the more you get to know each other, the more you may realize you do not connect on some deeper issues, like values and religion. While everyone has their own dealbreakers, it's important to assess what yours are and if the relationship can still continue.
“Some couples seem to fit perfectly together because they come from a similar background, are similarly attractive, or have the same life goals,” Jill Whitney, licensed marriage and family therapist at Green Tree Professional Counseling and creator of the relationships and sexuality blog KeepTheTalkGoing.com, tells Bustle. “Those kinds of compatibility are helpful, but they’re far from enough. Even couples who fit perfectly on those obvious dimensions may not have other, more important things in common, like interest in the same topics and activities, finding the same things funny, and/or similar needs for affection, sex, and emotional intimacy.”
4One Partner Becomes Selfish
When you’re in a relationship, although you or your partner may still be selfish about certain things, you’ve probably become more selfless overall. However, if one of you lets selfishness overpower selflessness, watch out.
“Great relationships rely on partners being willing to give to each other on many levels,” Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist, relationship expert, and author of the upcoming Joy from Fear, tells Bustle. “Whether giving emotionally, physically, spiritually, or materially, a balanced sense of equality — of give-and-take — is necessary in relationships. If one partner becomes very selfish in life goals, day-to-day life, or otherwise, the once-‘perfect’ relationship will wither away.”
5One Partner Experiences Grief Or Loss
Grief or loss can be another cause of a “perfect” relationship ending. “Loss can forever change the landscape of a couple’s relationship,” Elmquist says. “Grief from events like the death of a child or family member can make the relationship a painful place to remain.” She says that other issues, too — such as infertility or big financial problems — can create an end of a dream that is often hard to get through together.
6The Relationship Stops Growing
Do you feel like you and your partner have grown so much together, there's no more growing to do? “When a relationship feels ‘perfect’ to the people in it, it could be because there isn’t anywhere to grow,” Elkerson says. “Things are working, sure, but introducing something new might not be possible because things are working so well — which leads to a feeling of stagnation and restlessness with the rut of being perfect.”
She also says this can lead to fear, and if the balance is not maintained, the entire relationship can fall apart. “That fear starts to intrude daily on the feelings of love and, instead of doing loving actions, people start doing more fearful actions that eventually tear the relationship apart,” Elkerson says.
Honesty is essential in a relationship, and if a betrayal occurs, it can damage even the most “perfect” relationship. “Dishonesty is a choice and the nature and degree of the erring partner’s dishonest behavior may be sufficient to cause the other partner to lose faith and trust,” Dr. Carla says. “Sometimes, the trust can be restored, but sometimes the feelings of betrayal are so intense that the relationship cannot move forward.”
Elmquist agrees. “Even though a couple looks put together on the surface, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t struggling behind-the-scenes,” she says. “For instance, affairs are a challenging experience for most couples to get through and often instigate a breakup.”
8One Partner Avoids Conflict
No one likes conflict, but it’s part of all relationships, romantic or not— and what matters is how you handle the conflict. “It can be uncomfortable to disagree with your partner, and even more uncomfortable to argue,” Whitney says. “This is especially true for people who grew up in homes where parents never modeled healthy disagreement — who either never argued, or who fought so much that it was scary and overwhelming.”
However, she says conflict is essential for a healthy relationship. “Partners who never speak up and who sweep uncomfortable feelings under the rug aren’t really being honest with their partner,” Whitney says. “That leads to loneliness and disconnection, which make seemingly ‘perfect’ relationships feel empty and, eventually, end.”
9The Couple Is On Different Life Paths
Sometimes, you and your partner may start out having the same life goals, but then they change as time goes on; maybe you want to stay living in the same city whereas they want to go travel and work remotely. In any case, your life paths may change somewhere along the way.
“One common reason why ‘perfect’ relationships end is a lack of connection on one or more important life issues,” Dr. Carla says. She says that one example of this is if a couple originally decides that they do not want to have a child, but then one person changes their mind and says having a child is now a “must” for them. “This new direction might become a ‘dealbreaker’ for the relationship, unless the other partner also willingly changes course,” Dr. Carla says.
As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why “perfect” relationships may end. “People are often surprised when couples they know who seem to have a ‘perfect’ relationship break up,” Whitney says. “The exact reasons for ‘perfect’ couples splitting are different every time, but the core reason is the same: The relationship wasn’t ‘perfect,’ because no relationship is.”
She says that people are often so happy and connected in the early stages of a relationship that they think their partner is ideal. “As time passes, the person’s flaws become clearer, and they may start to question whether the relationship is right after all,” she says. “It usually takes some time to learn about a partner’s flaws and assess the inevitable trade-offs. But sometimes people split up as soon as their ‘perfect’ person proves imperfect.”
Whitney says that every partnership has strengths and weaknesses, and every person accepts some flaws in their partner because they’re more than offset by good stuff. Of course, only you and/or your partner can determine your relationship's fate, and a couples therapist can also help you figure things out.