Why Couples Break Up
Couples break up for many reasons. Relationship pundits often attribute breakups 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. So, why do couples break up?
Top 3 Reasons Why Couples Break Up
The most common reasons couples break up are:
1. They haven’t learned how to deal with their differences
In a relationship’s honeymoon period, a couple’s differences tend to stay in the background. The partners’ similarities prevail. This is when the attraction is strongest and the relationship has time to form. But, inevitably the honeymoon stage doesn’t last. After the honeymoon, 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:
- Have escalating conflicts
- Feel like they chose the wrong mate
- Blame each other for their problems
- 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 as kind and generous as 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. At some point, however, they start to take each other for granted and stop paying attention to one another. When couples stop paying attention to the relationship, they experience:
- Disconnection: they have grown apart and no longer feel connected
- Lack of touch: they don’t touch each other anymore or as often
- Lack of sex: they don’t have sex or not as often
- Separation: they don’t do things together
So, as normal stresses of a life together pile up and crowd out 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 first two points are the most common reasons couples request an appointment with a couples counselor. They also happen to be the two situations when couples counseling works best.
3. They have difficult time influencing their partner
A third common reason for a break up is a perceived lack of balance between partners. When one partner feels like they accommodate or change more than the other partner, one or both people may feel like they can’t influence their partner.
As the relationship evolves over time, couples 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 breakups or to help break up with dignity.
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
Other reasons couples break up are more complex. Couples also break up:
- History of alcohol abuse or abuses other drugs
- Childhood history of trauma
- Mental health disorder or diagnosis
These reasons operate like risk factors that affect couples negatively. Couples who have these risk factors are advised to pay attention to how they navigate their relationship. They can seek individual or couples counseling to reduce risk. 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—and how there is hope for repair. It may take a bit more time—and it may require both individual and couples counseling—but with commitment to, and a plan for, change, your relationship can thrive.