Why couples break up? Couples break up for many reasons. Relationship pundits often attribute break ups to money, sex, in-laws, children, and other normal life stresses. But those are not the reasons why couples break up. All those seemingly disparate problems boil down to three underlying reasons.
The most common reasons couples break up are:
1) They haven’t learned how to deal with their differences.
During the honeymoon period of a relationship, differences tend to shuffled to the background and similarities prevail. This is the time when the attraction is strongest and the relationship has time to form. But inevitably this first stage of the relationship doesn’t last. After the honeymoon period, the real relationship sets in.
In a real relationship, we get disappointed, we don’t always get our needs met, we don’t like everything about our partners, and we don’t always agree on important things. When the real relationship sets in, many couples exhibit the following:
a. They have escalating conflicts
b. They feel like they made the wrong choice of mate
c. They blame each other for their problems
d. They think about breaking up
Usually, this means that couples have not found a way to diffuse conflict, solve problems, accept their differences and continue to be kind and generous, like they were when they first met. Sometimes couples separate or divorce at this stage.
2) They don’t pay attention to the relationship anymore.
Relationship experts keep saying that a relationship needs “work”. But more than “work” a relationship needs “attention”. Most couples start out highly satisfied and then begin to take each other from granted and stop paying attention to each other. When couples stop paying attention to the relationship, this results in
a. Disconnection: They have grown apart and no longer feel connected
d. They don’t do things together
So, as normal stresses of a life together pile up and crowd out the time for romance and intimacy, couples may put less effort into their relationship or they may let the grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. Some couples divorce or separate because of severe disconnection rather than severe conflict.
These two reasons are the most common reasons couples request appointments with a couple’s counselor and when couples counseling works best.
3) They have difficult time influencing their partner.
Relationships are not easy. A third common reason for a break up is when one member of the couple feels like he/she is doing most of the work of accommodating and changing. There is a perceived lack of balance in the way that accommodation happens or one or both feel like they are not able to influence their partner.
As couples move through time, there is a need to adjust to changed circumstances, changed roles, and changed life experiences. If one member of the couple does most of the changing, resentment may set in.
A well trained counselor can help re-balance the expectation for change, manage conflict, deal with differences and repair disconnections to avoid painful break ups or to help break up with dignity.
Couples Counseling can help same sex couples avoid break ups too.
In some circumstances, one of the members of the couple loses hope but the other member believes that the relationship can be improved and saved. In those cases, a few sessions of discernment counseling can help.
Other reasons couples break up are more complex.
Couples also break up:
1) If one or both members of the couple has a history of alcohol abuse or abuses other drugs
2) If one or both members of the couple has childhood history of trauma
3) If one or both members of the couple has a mental health disorder or diagnosis.
These reasons operate like risk factors affecting couples negatively. Couples who have these risk factors are advised to pay attention to how they navigate their relationship. There is a correlation between individual risk factors and relationship problems. The more risk factors, the more potential for relationship problems.
Now you know the main reasons why couples break up.
Founder, Couples Counseling Associates
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