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Why Do Relationships Fail?


sking why do relationships fail is one of the more interesting questions in life. But by phrasing the question that way, we're presupposing that the norm is for relationships not to fail. And that's simply not the case.

All phenomena have a beginning, a middle and an ending, and that includes life itself. That's the natural order of things, and relationships are no exception to the rule.

Couples may stay together for a number of reasons, many of which have little or nothing to do with how happy the relationship is for both parties:

  • If there are young children involved, they may decide to stay together "for the children".
  • If there are young children (especially if the wife is a stay-at-home mom) the husband may well be miserable but still decide that "It's cheaper to keep her".
  • One or both parties may have evolved other strategies for coping (such as drugs or alcohol).
  • It's not uncommon for older couples to have largely separate lives anyway.

Relationships rarely remain static
despite outward appearances

female boredom is why relationships fail
Female boredom is a major
reason why relationships fail

And they also tend to peak early. If you've been in relationships before, chances are that the first few weeks or months were the best of times for you (e.g. the best sex, the fewest fights, less likely to be taken for granted, you couldn't wait to see each other again and so on).

But after those early "honeymoon" weeks or months, your level of enjoyment (and hers) began a long slow decline. It may have taken several months, years or even decades after that to formally end things. (Alternatively, you may have continued the relationship in the literal sense but increasingly your hearts weren't really in it).

Why do relationships fail this way?

The mechanism differs for women compared to men.

For women, the key driver seems to be extreme boredom. We've observed that women seem to get bored far more (and far more easily) than men. We suspect that's the impetus behind "the shopping gene" that so many of them seem to have and it also seems to be one of the drivers behind them straying now and then.

“… the resulting boredom seems to impact women far more than it does men …”

And late in a relationship, many of the man's individual traits or quirks will start to really get on her nerves (even though they were a non-issue earlier). Seeing the same guy do more or less the same things the same way year after year eventually drives women up the wall. Both parties will eventually become totally predictable, but the resulting boredom seems to impact women far more than it does men.

The question of why do relationships fail gives a different answer for men. When looking at how men eventually "lose that loving feeling", the proximate cause is fighting. We've mentioned how and why fighting is a relationship staple for her but for him, the cumulative impact is toxic.

After each new fight and subsequent "making up" session, he becomes slightly more distant emotionally than before. And eventually the time will come when he doesn't come back emotionally after a fight. Instead, he disengages.

What relationships and
paper clips have in common

The easiest metaphor would be bending a paper clip. If you straighten one for the first time, the metal is relatively strong. You won't be able to break it into two pieces by pulling on each end. If you then repeatedly re-bend the clip and re-straighten it, this will leave the bending points slightly weaker after each cycle.

fighting is also why relationships fail
Fighting is also
why relationships fail

And after a certain number of repetitions, the paper clip will have weakened so much that the steel snaps in two by itself. Engineers refer to that as "metal fatigue".

Therefore, why relationships fail can be explained by gender differences. For her, they often end due to terminal boredom. And for him, they often end due to "fight fatigue".

If you're seeking further answers to address the question: why do relationships fail? ... then please check out our page on controlling relationships.

And to learn more about improving various aspects of your relationships, please continue to our main Understanding Women in Relationships page.

Or to re-read this page, go back to the top of this

Why Do Relationships Fail? article.