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Relationships are not always easy.
A perfect relationship is almost impossible to come by, mostly because of our delusional and unrealistic expectations.
The truth is, there will be a few disagreements and moments of lost passion along the way. We might run into conflict with our partner or they might get on our nerves. We might feel bored, resentful, or irritated.
That said, we can’t define love as an emotion. Our relationship will make us feel happy at times, yet frustrated at others. And, it’s perfectly normal. Emotions shift in response to what’s happening, and we often can’t control their arousal.
But love never changes or fluctuates like emotions do. Love is constant and the only constant thing we have control over is our actions.
Consequently, love is an action. It’s work. It’s effort. We can consider relationships like cars; for a car to work, we have to steer it, fuel it, and repair it when it’s damaged. Same goes for love.
Now, there are endless reasons why a relationship fails—such as cheating, physical or emotional abuse, different values, inadequate attitudes, codependency, lack of space.
And some relationships just stop functioning. No matter how much partners try to fix what went wrong, it appears as if the relationship is destined to end. However, some relationships fail because we neglect them.
It all boils down to how both partners plan to make the relationship work. And when they do make it work properly, the relationship becomes easier to steer and fuel with time.
From my perspective, here are four major reasons why relationships fail:
1. Lack of communication.
A relationship doesn’t properly survive without communication. Heart-to-heart conversations decrease the chances of misunderstanding the other or resenting them. Oftentimes, a small problem can grow into a big issue if it’s not addressed. We often assume what our partner feels and thinks, but our assumptions are frequently wrong. Learn how to get out of your head and discuss the matter directly with your partner.
I know it might be challenging to verbalize our concerns or emotions to our partner, but it’s absolutely vital for the healthy continuity of our relationship. Never presume that you know your partner so well that you don’t need to talk to them. Once you decide to address the issue, make sure to choose a good time when you feel your partner is most responsive. Use “we” instead of “I,” and avoid criticism or blame. Speak up, but also listen.
2. Automating our partner.
On a recent TED Talk I watched, Stan Tatkin, a couples therapist, explains how our brain automates almost everything in our life. Our brain makes an effort when learning a new skill, but once it learns it, our brain goes into procedural memory. Stan says that the same goes for relationships. When we first meet someone, we make an effort to get to know them and impress them. But once we do, our brain automates our partner and theirs automates ours.
With time, we believe we know our partner so much that we stop paying attention to them. Instead of reading them for who they are in the present moment, we read them through the memory lens.
Relationships don’t play out like fairy tales—we don’t make an effort only the first couple of months, then live happily ever after without putting in time and energy. When we stop paying attention to our partner’s needs and don’t strive to learn more about them, their connection to us will gradually fade and fights will occur.
People constantly change and grow. That’s why we should always be willing to learn something new about our partner even if we’ve been together for a long time. Don’t get so comfortable together that you stop trying to impress each other.
3. Absence of humility.
Humility doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it’s essential to keep a relationship healthy. I can’t stress how much I respect this about my partner and how often his humility takes our relationship to a whole new level. For him, understanding each other’s point of view is more important than us being right. We both agree that holding oneself accountable if mistaken is a strength in disguise and a stepping stone to a successful relationship.
When fights occur, partners tend to drift away from addressing the issue to fighting over who’s right. But listening, accepting the other’s perspective, apologizing if necessary, and working on what’s wrong requires abandoning self-centeredness. Remember to not get competitive or defensive when discussing an issue with your partner.
Keep in mind that your purpose is to help the relationship flourish, to learn as an individual (and as a partner), and to grow—not to win. The best winning is when both partners are in tune.
4. Not working on our personal issues.
We all have emotional wounds from our childhood and past relationships. Most of us have daddy issues, mommy issues, fear of abandonment issues, trust and insecurity issues, and so on. When in a relationship, both partners carry a huge emotional baggage with them from the past. But, there are partners who add to the baggage, while there are others who heal it.
Healing wounds from the past is undeniably challenging, but it’s the most beautiful gift partners can give each other. Instead of taking things personally or judging our partner, we must be open to discuss with them the source of the problem. For instance, a partner asking for attention might appear as needy. In fact, one of their parents might have neglected them as child.
A partner with jealousy or trust issues could have been hurt in the past from previous partners. Listen to your partner before judging them. Validate their emotions and show your support. To talk about childhood or relationship traumas is empowering to both partners and it can help bring them closer.
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