7 Common Reasons Romantic Relationships Fail

Most of us go into a relationship with the idea that it will last. We hope we find the right person who understands us, relates to us, and has similar goals and interests as we do.

Yet despite this, many relationships eventually end. While we may romanticize the “perfect” partnership, the reality is that relationships require effort, and both partners want the relationship.

If goals, aspirations, desires, or needs do not match, this can stress a relationship and may be a contributing factor to its failure.

Here are seven common reasons that a romantic relationship fails.

1. Living Parallel but Separate Lives

You may live with your partner and sleep in the same bed at night, but aside from that, you may feel a deep sense of emptiness. In working with clients, it is common for psychologists to hear phrases like “we are more like roommates” and “we don’t have much in common.”

The reality is that couples who find themselves in this situation have often lost an emotional connection to their partner and are unsure how to rekindle the spark. Some may feel that they are living a separate life from their partner or feel uncomfortable when together.

2. Contempt

Contempt is perhaps the biggest predictor of a relationship failing because of the buildup of animosity that stems from being made to feel less than and unappreciated by your partner. Many times contempt is non-verbal, and done through mockery and body language (sneering, eye-rolling, or expressions of disgust).

However, it is also commonly seen through sarcasm, condescending remarks, hostility, or dismissiveness.

If contempt has entered into your relationship, it can feel as if your partner is against you or that you are constantly “walking on eggshells” around them.

3. Different Speeds in Approaching Goals

It is common to see each partner approaching life differently. This in itself is not problematic for romantic relationships but can quickly veer into a relationship red flag.

For example, one partner may prioritize working while the other prioritizes their free time. Or, one may choose to stay at an unfulfilling job without any desire for career or educational advancement while the other partner is fast-tracking their goals.

Equally common is to see one partner embracing their emotional growth while the other may be “stuck” or uninterested in their own personal development. In essence, each partner may feel that they are on different levels of emotional, psychological, social, or intellectual development that has caused a rift in the relationship.

4. Lack of Trust

Trust is associated with a basic need for safety, consistency, and security in your relationships. If you or your partner experienced abandonment or betrayal in your formative years, you may find it difficult to trust each other.

Trust issues may show up in a relationship as jealousy, control, manipulation, unrealistic expectations, and emotional or physical infidelity. If trust issues are in play, it can be difficult to feel vulnerable or emotionally connected to your partner or to count on them to be there for you.

5. Lack of Independence

Some may be unable or unwilling to spend time alone or may feel that time spent by themselves suggests that their partner no longer loves them or wants to leave. However, spending time alone is critical for self-care, building independence, and fostering interdependence in your relationship.

If you or your partner have unprocessed trauma, it may be showing up as an inability to spend time alone, a deep fear that your partner is going to abandon you, or overstepping their need for personal space.

6. Communication Issues

Healthy communication is more than just speaking to be heard. It includes active listening, pausing, reflecting, and empathy. If problems communicating with your partner are present, it may include stonewalling, talking over each other, and an overall feeling of emotional disconnection.

When communication is limited or problematic, it can reinforce a pattern of weakening the relationship foundation, making it more difficult to address any relationship issues.

7. Not Putting in the Effort

Relationships take work. They require both partners to put in the effort in helping to maintain and build their relationship.

One of the biggest predictors of a relationship ending is when one or both partners lack commitment or are in the relationship to prevent being alone.

It is common to hear that one partner “checked out” when things got “too real” or when the relationship hit an impasse. When a partner stops putting in effort or becomes emotionally disconnected, this is a red flag that the relationship may not be sustainable.

Helping Heal Your Relationship

Healthy relationships take work; they require both partners to make an intentional choice to want the relationship. While no relationship is perfect, it is important to recognize that the good qualities outweigh any negative patterns in order for the relationship to be sustainable.

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