Not long ago I wrote an article about being 39, single, and accepting that I’ll never get married.
So needless to say, I’ve had plenty of “failed” romances in my time.
But I’ve also learned a lot about the dynamics of both successful and unsuccessful relationships along the way too.
If you’re ever wondered why your relationships don’t seem to work out, then you are in the right place.
In this article, I’m going to share 9 key reasons why relationships often fall apart, and how you can turn it around to build long-lasting love affairs that stand the test of time.
Why can’t I keep relationships going? 9 significant reasons why it didn’t work out
1) You rushed into things
Whirlwind romances sound like quite a thrill, and in all honesty, they can be.
But any amateur meteorologist will tell you once they’ve whipped through, whirlwinds also tend to leave a wake of destruction in their path.
With one ex of mine, it was only two months before we moved in together.
Because we were living in separate countries, at the time it seemed like the best solution.
I’m not saying I totally regret it, as we did stay together for several years. But I learned significant things about him later down the line that ended up being the primary reason why we broke up.
In short: I rushed into things.
It would have saved me a lot of heartache and trouble if I’d applied some patience and time in properly getting to know him before optimistically jumping in feet first.
Whenever we move too quickly with a relationship there’s more danger of making assumptions about the other person.
We go full steam ahead only for the cold harsh realities to eventually creep in and cast everything in a new light.
The argument is that it not only minimises any potential for heartache, but it also sets the relationship up for greater chance of success in the long run.
So, if like me you’re the ‘only fools rush in’ type, shifting towards a more ‘slow and steady wins the race’ approach might be what you need.
2) You can’t make it out of the honeymoon phase
I love those early stages of any romance, who doesn’t right?
It’s exciting, you get butterflies, you just want to touch them ALL.THE.TIME.
You don’t even care how messy they are, or that they’re always running late. Hell, you think it’s “cute”.
Why? Because you’re essentially drugged up.
Falling in love is pretty easy in comparison to staying there.
Mother nature has your back in the beginning to give you a helping hand. In science-speak, it’s called “limerence“.
During this temporary euphoric period, everything seems and feels perfect. But inevitably, the high fades.
At some point, your relationship no longer feels like the latest rom-com trailer. And rather unsurprisingly this usually coincides with the end of this stage.
According to experts, the honeymoon phase lasts a maximum of 18 to 24 months, but it can end much sooner depending on how much time you spend together.
Without the effortless enthusiasm created by a rush of chemicals in their body, many couples aren’t prepared for the real work it takes to sustain a relationship.
It’s important that we all try to appreciate that it’s totally natural for relationships to change and evolve over time.
Losing the butterflies or no longer wanting to rip each other’s clothes off doesn’t mean that you don’t love each other anymore — you’re just moving on to another stage.
It might not be the same roller coaster ride of excitement, but it does bring different joys of deeper intimacy.
3) You expected too much from the relationship
We are surrounded by stories of love and relationships being the ultimate prize in life.
From the books read to us as children to the romance films that always end on the perfect ‘happily ever after’ — no wonder falling in love feels like the ideal answer to every problem.
Love is all your Christmas and birthdays rolled into one.
Love will set you free.
Love is all you need.
But is it?
One of my worst habits throughout my life has been trying to hide in love.
It seems the best kind of distraction and such an inviting place to take shelter from the trials and tribulations that life inevitably throws at you.
Don’t get me wrong, romantic love can obviously be great. But its powers do not stretch quite as far as we would sometimes wish.
And we can very easily end up expecting far too much of it.
It won’t guarantee happiness, it doesn’t banish loneliness, and it certainly won’t “save us” — we need to do that ourselves.
Your partner is not suddenly responsible for fulfilling all your emotional, social, spiritual or financial needs — you still are.
But that doesn’t stop many of us from ending up feeling frustrated and disappointed when our unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should do for us are not met.
4) The relationship dynamics were totally unbalanced
I’m just going to come right out and say it, unconditional love is bullshit.
Ok, perhaps on some spiritual level it exists, but when it comes to the earthy practice of human love — it does and should have conditions attached to it.
Way too many of us use love as an excuse to allow people to push our boundaries or accept the unacceptable.
It’s no wonder that we can easily slip into energetically uneven relationships where one person gives too much, whilst the other person takes too much.
One person pushes and the other pulls.
One person invests more than the other.
There are countless scenarios where the balance of energy and power within a relationship is off.
That’s also why many people end up in unhealthy and unbalanced relationships that are essentially codependent.
Whilst no relationship is going to be mathematically 50/50 straight down the middle all of the time, both parties do need to fairly contribute.
You just can’t maintain it unless both sides do their share. Even if you are moving heaven and earth to make sure your relationship survives, it won’t work unless they are giving the same back.
5) The same action brought the same results
We are creatures of habit.
You keep going for the bad boys, they keep breaking your heart.
You keep getting jealous and needy, they keep running for the hills.
You keep falling into “friends with benefits” situationships, they keep dodging commitment.
We all know that if you take the same action you’re likely to get the same result.
But when it comes to relationships, it doesn’t stop us from repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
A lot of relationships also fail because people bring with them a whole lot of emotional baggage.
Even though they may keep it neatly packed away in a suitcase at first when they start to unpack it creates a whole lot of problems.
That’s why just a little bit of self-awareness goes a long way.
Often it is our own deep-seated life experiences and insecurities which sabotage us.
For this reason, learning to heal your wounded self can be so rewarding.
Ok, understanding what drives and motivates you isn’t going to make everything magically better overnight.
But it does give you the opportunity to dig deeper into your beliefs, thoughts and actions around relationships.
When we do this, we can consciously question what serves us and what we need to ditch in order to improve our romantic connections.
Your relationship with yourself is always the primary and most important of your entire life.
The more of a well-rounded and healthy individual you are alone, the far better all your relationships with others will become.
6) You weren’t being totally honest with yourself or them
Ah, communication. How many times have we heard that it is the key to all successful relationships?
But despite our best efforts, even many of life’s most effective communicators still kind of suck in the context of relationships.
We’re so much more invested when we have romantic feelings for another person that it makes it notoriously difficult.
We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, end up saying the wrong thing or create unnecessary dramas.
But that can mean we don’t end up communicating effectively what we really want and need in our relationship.
And not only with your partner, but perhaps even with yourself.
You may try and tell yourself certain things that upset you aren’t a “big deal” or things that you want “don’t matter that much”.
If you’re afraid of rocking the boat you may be silently keeping certain things to yourself.
A therapist once told me that whenever she meets a couple that doesn’t argue it’s an instant red flag.
Why? Because conflict is an almost unavoidable form of communication in a relationship.
Rather than the absence of any conflict being a sign of a truly perfect partnership, in her experience, it was way more often a sign that one or both parties were sitting on their real feelings.
I had been patting myself on the back for years that I was just the most chilled girlfriend in the whole wide world.
This was a lightbulb moment. I wasn’t anywhere near as cool as a cucumber as I’d been making out.
In reality, I was just terrified to properly open up about how I felt because I was scared of losing what I had.
But no matter how much we wish we could sweep relationship issues under the rug, they always need dealing with.
At some point, if you are not honest with your partner about how you really feel and what you really think, the truth will eventually come out anyway (in potentially destructive ways).
7) You projected onto your partner
The first date went so well and now you’re lying in bed slotting them neatly into your life with the power of your imagination.
You fantasize about the exciting courtship you’ll have and the deeply passionate relationship that will turn into.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve personally spent many happy hours off in my head creating these scenarios.
And it feels soooo good.
Of course, you don’t spend much time thinking about what they want. This is your daydream after all.
Without putting a total downer on your romantic escapism, this is just projection, pure and simple.
The stories we create in our mind are 99.9% of the time based on an image of who we want that person to be, rather than who they really are.
It’s common for us to play silently agreed roles within the romantic relationships we create.
You pretend to be everything I want you to be and I will do the same. That way we can both get our needs met.
The other person becomes a blank canvas which we try to paint a picture on that we’ve created in our head.
If that sounds a bit loopy, dig a bit deeper and you might find more truth to it than you’d imagine.
In the beginning stages of a romance, it’s more common to project an image of a perfect partner onto someone. One that they are never going to be able to live up to.
Projection is always an illusion. And at some point when we see through it, the relationship will likely fall apart.
8) You wanted different things
Maybe you do your due diligence, fall for a great person and all seems to be going well.
But that still doesn’t mean further down the line your goals in life just don’t match up.
Even if you share the same vision now, people change.
For example, often when couples get together at a very young age it can be challenging to not grow apart.
You are ready for marriage, but your other half is not.
Your guy wants loads of kids, but that’s not part of your plan.
She likes to go out every weekend and get drunk, but you’d rather curl up on the sofa with a good film.
Whilst differences in a couple can add excitement and even strengthen your relationship, the reality is that they often don’t.
Unless they are differences you really enjoy and value, being on a different page to your partner puts a strain on things.
That’s why “we just wanted different things” is one of the most commonly uttered phrases after a breakup to explain why you went your separate ways.
9) You’re not being selective enough
I’d say there’s never been a more socially acceptable time to choose singledom.
Even just a few decades ago there would be plenty of raised eyebrows at an unmarried woman my age at a dinner party.
But largely these days we don’t consider it weird or out of the ordinary when we meet a single person.
At the same time, there is still a palpable pressure many of us feel to settle down and find “the one” pronto.
Many people also feel the burden of having everything happen within a certain time frame.
You might want to meet someone by X, and get married by Y, so you can start living in your beachfront home with 2 points 4 children by Z.
The fact that life doesn’t really work like that doesn’t seem to deter us.
So instead we try to fit a square peg into a round hole in the hopes of forcing this fairytale into reality.
The strong (and natural) desire we experience for partnership means it’s easy to lose sight of our judgment.
We enter into things that are doomed to fail from the start, because we want a relationship so badly.
Rather than take our time and stay selective we sometimes fall into panic buy mode.
It’s like when you’re searching for the perfect outfit for that big night out.
Nothing feels quite right, so you end up settling for the best option available at the time and convincing yourself “ah well, this will do”.
But don’t be overly surprised at some point when you get it home you end up questioning “what on earth was I thinking?!”
Bottomline: When dating doesn’t work out
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have a long-lasting partnership with someone else. But we also need to appreciate that life is not a fairytale.
Prince Charming does not find his princess the first time around and they all live happily ever after.
In the world of real love, lots of things happen in ways we would never have imagined.
But this randomness to romance doesn’t have to be a spanner in the works of your meticulously thought out plans.
If we learn to relinquish control, we can ride the waves of our experiences and stay open to other wonderful possibilities.
I think the key to finding contentment in all areas of life — and that goes for romance too — lies not in finding perfection, but in reframing our expectations.
Rather than focusing on all the relationships that “never work”, recognise the important learning opportunities they have provided you with.
Everything you shared together — the good, the bad, and the ugly — still has value.
And just because it didn’t last forever doesn’t make it any less valuable.
All of life is a classroom and every experience is a chance to grow.
Your past relationships (no matter how much it stinks) have provided you with rich fertiliser. You may not see it now, but this is what will allow new life to bloom.
My advice is to be patient, your relationship roses are coming. In the meantime, you can prepare the soil with as much self-love and understanding as you can.
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