Breakups will crack your heart open and can make you feel like a failure, but using the light that shines through those cracks as an opportunity for reflection will illuminate what went wrong. This can prevent you from making the same mistakes twice or even give you the opportunity to fix the ones you have made.
Working at Relationship Hero means helping our clients navigate dozens of different relationship problems every single day, ranging from small stubborn-fueled disagreements to heart-crushing blow-ups. While the triggers and content of every fight differ, at the crux of the issue is always a misunderstanding or miscommunication stemming from a disconnect in some aspect of their lives.
Although it is true that every relationship, and therefore breakup, is unique and laced with nuances, when you strip those details away to unearth the bare bones of conflict and human interaction, you can uncover patterns in the types of relationship problems that drive couples apart.
Trust and security create the foundation for a successful relationship. When cheating occurs, that foundation is cracked or even shattered.
Infidelity can cover a lot of different levels of cheating (physical, emotional, going on dates, joining dating sites), and what constitutes infidelity is personal to the couple.
Experiencing infidelity can trigger feelings of hurt, fear, and shame, but the issue is rarely as simple as being attracted to someone else. It is usually the result of personal insecurities or emotional needs not being met.
Vanishing Sexual Attraction
We try so hard at the beginning of relationships to attract potential partners, putting effort into how we present ourselves and into making things exciting.
It’s wonderful to experience more comfort and security as the relationship progresses, but when that comfort melts away into complacency, it becomes an issue.
Loss of attraction can enter a relationship through many avenues, but common ones include lack of care about physical appearance, loss of motivation, and interactions no longer being fun and flirtatious.
When big life changes happen – such as a new job, a big move, or graduation – it can feel like the rug gets ripped out from under our feet. The chair is tipping back and the earth’s plates are playing musical chairs below us.
When such changes occur, the immediate reaction is to reach out and latch onto the most seemingly stable thing near us, which, in these cases, tends to be a relationship.
Although the relationship may be solid, it can be too new for the other person to be able to fully commit and can push them away.
Emotional Communication Breakdown
A couple can converse regularly and consistently text throughout the day, but still not be truly communicating with one another.
There is a difference between asking your partner how their day went and a genuine interest in how their day went, remembering details, and asking for their opinions and thought processes on certain aspects.
Failing to show understanding or giving vague responses sends the message of not caring about a partner or the relationship.
Trust-Shattering Empty Promises
We’re all guilty of promising to go for drinks with someone and then getting held up at the office, but when truly important promises get broken, the relationship gets broken too.
If a partner is a no-show for an important event or makes empty promises for the future, the feeling of being able to depend on someone is hijacked by a cloud of uncertainty, leaving the other partner waiting for the other shoe to drop instead of expecting their partner to follow through.
When someone is crippled by insecurity, it might not only result in neediness and jealousy issues, but it may also make their partner feel the need to provide constant reassurance and validation.
This can progress to the point that it becomes draining or gives the impression that there is only enough room for one set of emotional needs within the relationship.
People don’t always prioritize goals, values, and aspirations to the same degree. Some couples can make compromises, but other times the gap is too great.
For example, if a guy prioritizes career achievements and financial success while his girlfriend prioritizes travel and spending time with friends and family, they’re on different corners of their blueprints.
This has the potential to drive them apart.
Someone mentions “abuse” and images of black eyes or broken bones immediately come to mind.
While physical abuse is a huge issue in relationships, there are other types of abuse that may not be as obvious, such as psychological, sexual, and financial abuse.
In situations involving abuse, the victim is usually manipulated into thinking the fights and issues are their fault rather than the abuser’s.
Getting out of an abusive relationship isn’t easy. If you think you may be in one, we suggest you contact our helpful resources page here.
A tinge of jealousy when someone sees the pretty brunette approach their partner across the bar can be unavoidable, but jealousy can be persistent and has a way of snaking through the cracks of insecurity and warping reality.
When it fully rears its ugly head and begins hissing that it is unacceptable for their partner to go for a drink with co-workers after work, spend time on other hobbies, or have friends of the opposite sex, it will trigger relationship doubt and build up resentment on both sides.
Ironically, the motivation for the controlling behavior directly leads to the breakup.
Some people struggle to express emotions properly and they tend to cope by stonewalling. This can be misinterpreted by their partner as not caring, but the partner may need some alone time to process their emotions before expressing them.
If their partner continues to pressure them to open up for validation, they will become frustrated and pressured that they are being asked to do something they are unable to do and pull away even further.
Sexual incompatibility can include different levels of sex drive, medical issues that affect sexual performance, discomfort performing certain types of acts, or differences in sexual fantasies (to name a few).
While these issues aren’t dealbreakers, not communicating about them effectively can trigger feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, or shame that can snowball into a bigger and bigger issue.
One partner attempts to control what their partner wears, does, or who they hang out with to the point their partner begins to feel suffocated in the relationship.
This kind of behavior erases trust, breeds toxicity, and makes the other person feel as though their partner doesn’t believe they are capable of (or deserve to be) making their own choices.
Lack of Intimacy
This can stem from a shift in attention towards a new job, hobby, a baby, or even a friend group.
While a relationship should be sturdy and secure, if it begins to be treated as an inevitable constant without being given the attention and care that it deserves, one day that constant might disappear.
It can seem unromantic to schedule date nights to spend together, but it’s sexy to prioritize someone. The very effect can rekindle intimacy.
If someone sees their relationship as a disproportionately large or singular source of emotional aliment and validation of self-worth, the balance tips drastically toward a slippery slope.
Not only does their value become completely dependent on the relationship, but it puts their partner on an unfair and unwarranted pedestal of being the sole happiness provider.
Even the kindest partners will get drained by all the attention demanded from them.
One partner experiences significant stress in their life, such as loss of job, injury or family troubles. The stress can cause them to be emotionally avoidant and distant in the relationship.
Unfortunately, their partner might misinterpret this and assume they no longer care about them and/or the relationship.
Different Places in Life’s Blueprint
Your life blueprint is your expectation of what where you should be, what you should be doing, and what you should’ve accomplished at different points in life. While it is completely normal (and likely) that both partners won’t have the exact same blueprints, some differences create a big disconnect in the relationship.
Say one partner wanted a baby by 28 while the other one couldn’t imagine being married before 35. No matter how perfect a relationship might be, it is unavoidable that people can be strongly tied to the timeline of their future.
If their timelines don’t come close to lining up, it puts a great deal of stress on the relationship.
This occurs when a partner has experienced traumatic events in previous relationships (such as being cheated on) and carries those trust issues into the next relationship.
This can manifest in clingy behavior and cause a partner to feel unfairly distrusted, resulting in resentment and anger.
Alcoholism and addiction put an undeniably huge emotional and physical strain on the person suffering. That strain and stress also radiate out and get absorbed by the people who love and care about them.
Not only can the partner of an addict feel responsible for recovery and/or relapses, but addicts can say or do hurtful things while under the influence or during withdrawal.
These conflicts might leave lasting impressions or scars.
Similar to substance abuse, the effects of mental health extend beyond the diagnosed individual.
Depending on external support system and treatment, the lines between partner and therapist may blur and melt into one another, creating an unhealthy dynamic.
Although differences in religion can coexist peacefully within a relationship, there is a chance certain life approaches or values will drastically clash.
If there are strong, conflicting opinions about morals, routines, sex, and family, there is the potential for strong disagreements between partners.
If religion is important enough that there is no opportunity for compromise, then the two members of the couple might part ways in order to find someone who shares the same beliefs.
Love Language Barrier
There are five different love languages, which dictate how one gives and receives love. They are:
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Physical Touch
- Words of Affirmation
Though it is completely normal for couples to have different love languages, it is important to understand the differences in order to ensure that both parties feel understood and loved.
If your love language is physical touch and your partner prefers receiving gifts, he or she wouldn’t feel loved if you only show love and appreciation through kisses and cuddles.
A lack of emotional support can manifest in the relationship in a variety of ways.
Some common examples include:
- Diminishing a partner’s feelings by talking over them and not validating them.
- Not being supportive of a partner’s decision-making and personal successes.
- Not consistently being there to offer comfort and reassurance on the harder days.
If emotional support is lacking within the relationship, the basic human need for it will cause the deprived partner to search elsewhere. Normally, this happens when the couple has deep unresolved issues that don’t get addressed.
"You Don't Appreciate Me!"
One person in the relationship might feel that the effort they put in goes unnoticed or is under-valued. While the partner may actually notice their efforts, they fail to provide acknowledgment and appreciation or reciprocation.
This creates the idea in the “giver” that their efforts may be more appreciated elsewhere. Or they might even conclude that they are inadequately performing in the current relationship, which could cause insecurity and drainage.
Often times the underappreciated partner demands the other to show appreciation by saying things like, “Why don’t you buy me surprise gifts?” or “You never take me on any adventures anymore.”
Unfortunately, this strategy usually backfires.
“You Can’t Dump Me! I Quit!”
A partner who has a fear of the other leaving may prematurely self-sabotage the relationship as a defense mechanism to avoid being left behind. This insecurity could be due to mistrust from past relationships, abandonment issues, or insecurities in the relationship.
In cases like this, they will give vague reasons for the breakup because they have their guard up, like a wall between both partners … too high to allow vulnerability to slip out.
The Vulnerability Stalemate
A vulnerability stalemate occurs when both partners avoid being the first to apologize or admit that their feelings are hurt. They are afraid to appear vulnerable or weak.
These disconnects stem from one partner having hidden assumptions about how the other should act, but a passive way of expressing their wants. This issue is perpetuated by the false belief that a partner should be a mind reader.
A good solution is choosing to be accountable for expressing needs and/or setting boundaries.