Why Relationships Fail – How to Make a Relationship Work

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Most of us have been in failed relationships. This article will look at 5 common reasons why relationships fail, and then proven steps you can take to make a relationship work.

Make a Relationship Work
Make a Relationship Work

We’ve all been in relationships that didn’t work out, and many of us wonder exactly why relationships fail. Obvious answers like physical or emotional abuse, cheating – either physical or emotional, or other serious breaches of trust will often cause a relationships to fail.

The 5 Reasons Behind a Failed Relationship

Most of us have been in relationships that failed for less drastic reasons. Let’s take a look at why they fail, and later on we’ll talk about how to make a relationship work.

Reason 1 – Jealousy

A jealous partner can make it all but impossible to continue a relationship. Often the jealous party has been hurt in the past, and simply cannot trust their partner.

Whether it’s just in certain situations (“I just don’t trust him with his secretary”) or across-the-board (“there’s no way she’ll stay faithful – there are always guys checking her out and it’s only a matter of time”), jealousy is often an unsolvable problem. [Read – How To Deal With Jealousy – The Best Advice Ever]

If the jealous person can’t simply accept their discomfort, the relentless nagging, hinting, underhanded comments, and stalker-ish behavior will eventually force the other partner to leave.

Reason 2 – Awful Sense of Boundaries

Everyone grows up with a different set of unspoken rules, family dynamics, and behaviors that have been deemed acceptable and unacceptable.

Does your boyfriend see no problem in having his mother pop over unannounced and offer advice on when you should start planning the wedding? Does your girlfriend get black-out drunk during the week and ask you to come pick her up at 3am?

Family issues might be the most common case of boundary pushing, but almost anything can cause a rift if it’s not dealt with.

At some point, a choice has to be made – between a partner’s current behavior and what the other partner is willing to tolerate. Quite often a compromise can’t be reached and the relationships will fail.

Reason 3 – Depression

Being with someone who is depressed, whether clinically or just socially, can become almost a full-time job. It is a huge responsibility and it’s not surprising that many people eventually call it quits. A frequently heard comment is “I LOVE her like crazy, I just CAN’T do it anymore“. According to Dr. Angelo Cuzaline, the stress affects not only your relationship but everything around you.

If the depressed partner is taking active steps to work out their issues (via counseling, medication, alternative therapies, etc.), there’s a good chance the other party will stick it out. But watching someone waste away while not seeming to be at all interested in their own happiness can be too much to deal with. [Read – How To Deal With Stress Naturally]

Reason 4 – Ambition/Goals

If you’re an adventurer who wants to travel the world, volunteer in Africa, and eventually retire on a sailboat living off freshly caught fish while your partner is banging away as a computer programmer and planning on staying with their company for the next 10 years, you two have a problem.

All the emotional attachment in the world simply cannot overcome the resentment that one of you will feel at not living out the life you want. These can be the toughest relationships to end – as almost everything is perfect -but it’s not surprising that wildly different goals are a common reason that relationships fail.

Reason 5 – Lack of Effort

Most of us were raised watching movies with fairy-tale endings where ‘they lived happily ever after’. No one ever told us that relationships are HARD, and that they require constant maintenance.

After being together for a few years, it’s easy to fall into a routine, to lose some of your original passion, to prefer staying in to going out, and assuming that sitting on the couch having some tea with your partner is enough to keep the spark alive.

Inevitably, one partner will start getting bored, and if the other doesn’t start kicking up the effort, it’s possible the relationship will fail.

The Vital Steps to Make a Relationship Work

If you read a lot of marriage/relationship books, almost all of them will tell you the same thing – communication is KEY. If you can just be honest with your partner, explain your problems, and work together to find solutions, everything will be fine.

We’ve all had relationships where we worked very hard to improve communication with our partners.

Most of the time though – it doesn’t work. Sure, you have great conversations, open up about issues you had, and together came up with compromises to solve them. Everything seemed fine, until the same problem happened again…and again…and again. Nothing ever really seemed to change.

Figuring out how to make a relationship work required a lot of effort, especially since most of the advice we’ve received doesn’t work at all.

There’s a fantastic book called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman. He says that, after studying hundreds of couples, communication was not really the issue.

Some couples communicated terribly, but had been happily married for 40 years. Others communicated in a way that every other book says you should, but were divorced the next year.

His basic advice is that the underlying strength of your relationship will overrule all the small and large fights you have.

In other words, the fights and disagreements are symptoms, not the problem. If you build a strong foundation to your relationship, you’ll be able to make your relationship work when even the issues listed in the first section pop up.

Solve the Solvable

A big part of his advice is to solve the problems that can be solved, and accept the ones that can’t. One partner who is introverted and doesn’t like meeting new people is a perpetual problem that you won’t be able to solve.

Not washing dishes properly is something that can probably be solved, and should be for the sake of the relationship. Similarly, if your partner wants you to see loosing few extra pounds, may be you can do something for that.

Respect is Key

The fact that couples fight is not enough to determine if a relationship will fail or succeed, but the WAY couples fight can be. Putting your partner down, rejecting their opinion outright, using general criticisms (“you’re always lazy” rather than “I wish you’d do the dishes sometimes”), and other all-encompassing negativity and disrespect are sure signs your relationship will fail.

To make your relationship work, you should fight ‘positively’. Find little ways to show your partner that your underlying bond is still strong, even if you’re disagreeing on this one point.

Be a Team

Making both small and big decisions together ensures you’re listening to your partner and weaving their opinions together with your own to build your lives together.

If you have parts of your life that are blocked off from your partner (maybe your career, your finances, or your dreams), it can be very difficult to build a life together. Be open about your plans and shape them together.

Create Shared Meaning

A relationship should be about more than just the two of you. Whether it’s a family, a business, a charity, a creative endeavor, or anything else, to make a relationship work you should both be building something together.

This type of joint goal-setting and execution will ensure open communication as a default as well as a shared sense of purpose in your lives.


Of course this article isn’t complete – how could it be? There are an infinite number of reasons why a relationship will fail, and the reasons that a relationship will succeed are even more baffling.

Make sure you learn from each of your failed relationships – take the time to look at decisions you both made, actions you both took, and really seek to understand what happened.

And if you’re in a successful relationship right now, make sure you continue to do the things that foster its success – and NEVER take it for granted.

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