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20 Reasons Why Relationships Fail (And How to Avoid It)

Written by Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.
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As the popular song goes, “Love is a many-splendored thing.” But is it really? We all want to love and be loved. We all want to live happily ever after—just like all fairy tales and romantic comedies tell us. But how many people actually make it there? If love is really “a many-splendored thing,” then why do relationships fail?

As we get older, we realize that love isn’t as easy as the movies make it out to be. Everything always seems to work out in the end in fantasyland. But when it comes to real life, sometimes relationships just aren’t so easy.

Why is that? Why is it difficult for so many people to keep a relationship together? Why do relationships fail? While the list of reasons can be endless, there are some more common reasons why relationships fail. So, let’s take a look at some.

While you look at this list, give some thought about your relationship(s) in your life. How many of these do you experience? How many of these have led to your relationships’ demise?

1. Selfishness

While most humans are inherently selfish to some degree (because of our survival instincts), when it gets to the point that you think about yourself only, then that is not going to make for a good relationship. Both people have to put their partner’s needs at least equal to, if not before, their own. Selfishness has no place in a successful relationship, and it is one of the most common reasons why relationships fail.

2. Lack of Empathy

Going hand-in-hand with selfishness, most people don’t have a lot of empathy. Simply defined, empathy is the ability to see another person’s point of view as if you were them. This means feeling what other people feel. It is seeing things from their perspective—not just your own. If one or both partners lack empathy, then the relationship may be doomed. A lack of empathy often results in unintentionally hurting your partner.


3. Miscommunication

Most people were never trained on how to communicate well with one another. Instead, we unconsciously model the communication skills that were presented to us by our parents. Therefore, a lot of couples frequently misunderstand each other due to a lack of proper communication. Of course, this often leads to conflict if you don’t know how to work through these misunderstandings.

4. Lack of Emotional Intimacy

At the beginning of a relationship, it’s easy to feel emotionally connected. But as time goes by, many times, a couple drifts away from each other. It could be for a variety of reasons, and we can even say that this is a normal phase in a relationship. Regardless of the reason, a lack of emotional intimacy leads to a big disconnection between the two people, and if left unresolved can be a reason why a relationship fails.

5. Finances

One of you might be a spender, and the other might be a saver. How people handle money can be a cause of conflict in relationships, especially when both sides are polar opposites in terms of their financial habits. This often leads to fights and ultimately, it can lead to the end of relationships as well.

6. Different Sex Drives

Everyone has different levels of sex drives. Some people want it multiple times a day, while others are happy and content without it at all. The likelihood of two people in a relationship having the exact same sex drive is not always good. But without a healthy sex life, the relationship turns into a friendship or roommate situation. When intimacy is lost, people feel emotionally distant from one another.

7. Being a Workaholic

Some people love their career, which is great. However, when it crosses the line of being a workaholic, it can definitely interfere with a healthy relationship. Being at work all the time means you are not spending time with your partner. Whether being at work is necessary or simply a way to avoid intimacy, either way, it can be deadly to a relationship.

8. Family and Friend Interferences

Relationships do not exist in a vacuum. Other people in our lives can make or break a union. From meddling mothers-in-law to friends who take you away from your partner too often for a party, many problems can arise from the interference of other people. The key is knowing your boundaries and having proper communication to avoid unnecessary outside interference.


9. Abuse

Abuse comes in all forms, such as mental, emotional, and physical abuse. All of these are equally damaging in different ways. Relationships are supposed to be loving and should serve as a safe place you can fall to if you want to get away from the rest of the world. So, it’s not surprising that abuse can be a huge reason why relationships fail.

10. Addictions

Many people have some sort of addiction. Of course, there are alcohol and drug addictions, but there are other kinds as well. It could be an addiction to shopping, eating, or playing video games. Whatever the addiction is, it only takes attention away from the relationship and puts it toward the object of the person’s addiction. This can end a relationship if left unresolved.

11. Cheating

This is probably one of the most apparent reasons why relationships fail. Cheating in a relationship is usually an unforgivable offense for some people. Cheating also comes in different forms—it doesn’t have to be just physical. In today’s technological age, there are many opportunities to emotionally cheat as well. Striking up a digital relationship with someone else may be reason enough to break two people up.

12. Lack of Commitment

Sometimes, people come together and go into a relationship just because they don’t feel like being single. That’s not a good reason to be with someone. Many people just go through the motions with their partner but don’t feel very committed. If one or both people lack the same level of commitment as the other, then the relationship will not survive.

13. Poor Self-Esteem

When someone has poor self-esteem, their behavior can be detrimental to the relationship. People who don’t love themselves can either become abusive or become needy. Either of these extremes is not healthy in a relationship and can lead to a failed relationship. If you or your partner has poor self-esteem, seek to resolve it immediately.

14. Trust Issues

Trust goes beyond cheating. Both partners need to feel like the other one “has their back” no matter what. Trust is essential because it serves as one of the pillars of a successful relationship. If one person doesn’t think that they can count on their partner for even simple things like showing up on time, then the foundation of the relationship is very weak, and soon the whole tower will fall.


15. Different Stages of Life or Age Differences

While it might be fun for a woman to be a “cougar” and date a much younger man or for a man to date a woman 30 years his junior, it often doesn’t work out very well in the long run. When people are at different stages of their lives, they just can’t relate very well to one another. Different levels of maturity between two people complicate the relationship and if the relationship doesn’t have a strong foundation in the first place, then it will probably not last long.

16. Compatibility Problems

Incompatibility between two people in a relationship is another common reason why most relationships fail. Maybe one person is an extrovert and the other is an introvert or one is a republican and the other is a democrat. Maybe one is Jewish and the other is Catholic. Whatever the difference is, if you have very different outlooks on life, then you have compatibility problems. You might be able to deal with it for a while but eventually, it will cause major issues in the relationship.

17. Narcissism

Remember the first reason on this list? It’s selfishness. But there’s something worse. Narcissism is an extreme form of selfishness. Many of us are selfish from time to time, but narcissists are always selfish and never, ever think about other people. They completely lack any type of empathy whatsoever. This leads to mental and emotional games or abuse, which leads to terrible relationships.

18. Anger Issues

Everyone gets angry from time to time, but when it spirals out of control or if people don’t know how to deal with it, then it can dent a relationship. Most of us are not taught effective conflict management skills. That’s why a lot of people don’t know how to control their emotions properly and fix relationship problems.

19. Lack of Personal Responsibility

If someone is always blaming their partner for the issues in their relationship, they are not taking personal responsibility. As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” We all play a part in the life or death of our relationship. So, people need to look within themselves and take responsibility for their actions. If one is always unwilling to take the blame, then the relationship is bound to fail.

20. Apathy

When one or both people have reached a point of apathy—where they just don’t care anymore— then that is a situation that is beyond repair. Apathy leads to stagnation and resentment. For a relationship to survive and last, you need to want it to work! If both of you become apathetic toward each other and the relationship, then the relationship is probably not worth saving anymore.


Final Thoughts

People always say, “relationships are difficult.” However, they don’t have to be. Relationships aren’t inherently hard. It’s the people in them that make them hard. So, if you see that anything on this list is causing (or has caused) problems, then learn from it. Reassess what you think a healthy relationship should look like—and do it better in the future.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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