23 Reasons Why Relationships Fail

There are three broad reasons why relationships fail.

Deep underlying problems, problems of habit and surface problems.

Deep underlying problems could be issues of compatibility, direction in life or some kind of emotional disconnect.

These are the kind of reasons where serious work needs to be done if the relationship is to survive. If it can't be done both partners see calling it quits as the better option.

Problems of habit aren't deep issues but slowly over time they creep in and one or both partners start to feel frustrated. This might be lack of quality time or not enough sex. The good thing about this is all it takes is to identify the bad habit and work to replace it with a good habit.

The third reason why relationships fail is because of surface problems. Yet these only become problems because of the first two. In fact they aren't really the reason why the relationship has failed, they are just what gets blamed.

This might be money problems or even infidelity. Things that are only issues when the deeper stuff in the relationship isn't right.

This third one isn't so important because it rarely is the actual cause of the problem. If you deal with underlying problems and problems of habit, no little surface issue should blow up into a relationship threatening problem.

Deep Underlying Problems

why relationships fail

1. Insecurity And Low Self Esteem

Insecurity is not a problem caused by the relationship. It is an issue that one or both partners have that they bring into the relationship.

It is an individual issue that needs to be addressed on an individual basis. Yet if it is not, it can wreak havoc on a relationship.

Low self esteem makes someone question their worthiness to be a part of the relationship, making them insecure and needy.

Then they become clingy, holding on tight and often suffocating their partner until they have had enough and leave.

2. Lack of Trust

This is not just a lack of trust around remaining faithful, it is bigger than that. A relationship is a romantic partnership and you need to know that your partner has your back. You need to know that they are looking out for you, that they care about you and that they will compromise and make sacrifices within reason.

Relationships can start to break down when it becomes clear that each partner starts looking out for only themselves. They never put the relationship first.

This creates an environment where neither has any faith that the other will do the right thing by the relationship. Cheating is a symptom of this, but there is a deeper cause.

3. Different Expectations Of The Relationship

This is an issue of communication. If both partners aren't clear about where the other stands and what their intentions are, it will lead to confusion.

Especially if one partner thinks that the other is more committed than they actually are.

4. Expecting A Partner To Make You Happy

Individuals need to take charge of their own happiness in life. Yet many people don't and they expect other things or other people, particularly romantic partners, to make them happy.

If you are relying on your girlfriend to fill an empty space then it won't work. You have to fill the empty space yourself.

Inevitably if you rely on a partner to make you happy they won't be able to live up to the task. This will cause friction and can eventually lead to a failed relationship.

5. Having Different Directions In Life

I'm a big fan of the philosophy that a relationship is where two people on individual paths come together to run parallel for a little while. The paths didn't start side by side but they came together. Maybe they run parallel for a long time or maybe only for a short time.

Those who enjoy long lasting multi decade relationships are able to grow and change together in such a way that the paths stay nice and close.

If you are moving in different directions then ultimately you have to make a choice between the relationship and your own path.

6. Inability To Talk About The Relationship

A couple needs to be able to have a constructive discussion about the relationship and about each other.

Some people can't handle this because it is too difficult and too uncomfortable. They go through the motions, hope everything is fine and just exist in the relationship day to day.

But without constructively discussing flaws, issues, difficulties and insecurities the little problems build into big problems and it all gets too hard.

7. Lack Of Friendship Within The Relationship

You can't just be friends and have no sexual spark. But if all you have got is sexual attraction but no friendship then it's unlikely your relationship will go the distance.

Make time and put in the effort to build your friendship. Take an interest in each other's pursuits. There will come a time where you will need the friendship to pull you through a tough period and if it isn't there the relationship will struggle to survive.

8. Lack Of Desire To Find A Way To Make It Work

We all have some degree of innate instinct when it comes to relationships. But that is never enough. We have to work damn hard on relationships and a lot of it is a learning process. You are forced to confront your own shortcomings and do a lot of self reflection to make a relationship last the distance.

One of the key reasons why relationships fail is that one partner just doesn't have the desire to gain the tools or do the required personal development to make things work.

They are lazy and want things to work with no effort on their part. Unfortunately relationships (and life) doesn't work like that.

9. Inability To Grow Together

You aren't going to be the same person in 5, 10 or 20 years as you are now. Neither is your girl. Independently of each other you are going to be doing a lot of growing and changing.

But you will also do a lot of growing and changing together as a couple. A lot of this will overlap with your personal changes, but not all of it.

If you want to keep your life paths pointing in the same direction so you can continue to walk side by side you need to find a way to grow that is compatible with each other. If you don't the relationship will most likely fail.

10. Incompatible Values

Goals, careers, finances, kids, family and lifestyle can all pull couples in different directions. These can be the issues that put you on divergent paths.

You can talk about what you want in life now, but these can all change in a few years.

A much better measure of long term compatibility is whether or not you have shared values. As long as you have some values that are well embedded and well thought out these are less likely to change over the years.

If you share the same values you can navigate the issues that might otherwise break you apart. But if you have quite different values it will be much harder to make compromises on difficult issues.

Just from observations in my own life, couples who have been together a long time share compatible values, while those couples whose relationship fails do not.

11. Not Finding The Right Balance of Dependence and Independence

A relationship is made up of two individuals who share a life. Not one individual with two bodies.

Unfortunately many people seem to take the latter approach as they lose all sense of identity and independence when they enter a relationship.

These people become so dependent on the relationship that they lose themselves. They will live like this for many years and they may even think their relationship is fulfilling. But it is like a ticking time bomb. One day something will happen and the whole thing will just fall apart in an enormous explosion.

At the other extreme some people can try and remain too independent. They are scared to commit and want all the benefits of a relationship without any of the hard work and sacrifice. This relationship won't last either. You have to find the right balance.

12. Unwillingness To Be Vulnerable

Vulnerability is one of the keys to intimacy. You have to be willing to open yourself up in order to actually get close to someone.

Yet many people remain too guarded and refuse to let anyone else in. Often it is unconscious but this puts a massive handbrake on a relationship. Eventually it leads to frustration and the person who can't get the other to open up will leave.

13. Complacency

A relationship is a marathon, not a sprint. It's how well you turn up day after day with a smile on your face and a humble attitude. You have to put the hard yards in little by little over a long period of time.

When things are good and the foundation is solid it becomes very easy to slowly reduce the effort. Little by little other things in life take priority and the relationship suffers.

It doesn't matter necessarily from one day to the next, but slowly over time complacency and neglect will destroy the foundations and the relationship will crumble.

The only way to avoid this is to remain vigilant and to make the effort on a regular basis.

Problems Of Habit

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14. Lack Of Balance

Sometimes a relationship can come to favor one person slightly more. One person is asked to make all the sacrifices and all the compromises. The power is off balance and one person's priorities take precedence.

Nobody minds that for a little while. Things are never perfectly even all the time. But relationships should be give and take. If one person is all take and the balance is never redressed, eventually resentment will build and things will turn south.

15. Fault Finding

We all have flaws. There is no way around that. The perfect partner is not a person without flaws, but a person with whom the flaws can be managed.

You need to be forgiving of each other in a relationship but that requires patience. When life gets stressful it's easy to forget to be patient and forgiving and to become demanding. At that stage the flaws can amplify and people can start to find fault with each other.

This can be a destructive cycle if it is not arrested and overcome.

16. Lack Of Quality Time

When life gets busy it's easy to put the needs of the relationship aside for what seem like more urgent and pressing concerns. That may not do too much damage in the short term. But if this habit sustains itself then it can do a lot of damage in the medium term.

Don't let urgent and unimportant things get in the way of those things that are really important, but perhaps less urgent. Your relationship is one of those things. It doesn't really matter if you miss date night once. But if you miss it regularly and you don't make time for each other, your relationship will suffer.

17. Lack Of Space

The opposite is also a problem if you are in each other's pocket all the time and don't have enough time alone to do your own thing.

You each need to maintain a degree of freedom and independence and time to pursue your own interests. If you are with each other 24/7 you can start to grate and get on each other's nerves.

Find the healthy balance between quality time and an appropriate amount of space.

18. Lack Of Non Sexual Touch

When you have been with someone a while the flame can wither. You might still be having sex reasonably often, after all you both have needs.

But non sexual touch is something that is often overlooked. Are you kissing, holding hands and cuddling?

If not then you need to make the effort here. If the physicality quietly dies you might see the relationship quietly die as well.

19. Inability To Let Go

Fights and conflicts will happen. The important thing is that nobody holds a grudge and all is forgiven. You have to be able to let go. Actually let go, not just push the hurt and frustration beneath the surface.

If one partner can't let it go and just sweeps their feelings under the rug, there will come a time where all the anger and hurt will burst out.

If this happens too often then the relationship isn't functioning properly and might be heading in the wrong direction.

Surface Problems

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20. Boredom

Maybe the relationship is just no longer stimulating for one or both partners. That might be a compatibility issue where you are better off apart. Or perhaps it is because several of the deeper underlying issues were not addressed and you both slowly drifted apart.

21. Loss Of Sexual Spark

Every relationship is going to lose a bit of sexual spark. At first it was easy and it just came naturally. But then you have to start working to keep the flame alive and keep things interesting.

But if you have a solid base then you should be able to cope with losing a little bit of fire in the bedroom.

If the whole relationship falls apart when you stop having as much sex, all it shows is that sex was masking deeper problems that remain unsolved.

If a relationship fails because of sex it really is failing because of something deeper.

22. Money Problems

Money can be a major area of conflict in a relationship. But as long as you communicate and are clear about your expectations you can find a way to make it work. If everything else is working well then money isn't going to cause a relationship to self destruct.

However if everything else is not fine and dandy this surface issue can become a huge problem that drives a wedge between a couple.

23. Infidelity

Cheating is a rare occurrence in a happy and satisfied relationship. When things have gotten so bad that someone is playing away, cheating isn't the real problem.

The real problem is whatever caused the relationship to break down to such a degree that infidelity was seen as a legitimate option.


Relationships can fail for any number or combination of reasons. These reasons could be deep underlying problems, bad habits that have crept into a relationship or surface issues that are really reflective of deeper problems.

Any of these can be addressed and overcome, but only if you are willing to do the work.

Relationships don't just work automatically. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep things running smoothly and to prevent them from failing.

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