As human beings we often find that our lives are structured around relationships. These include our relationships with our families, friends, co-workers, peers, and significant others. For the latter relationship, many of us may expend extra time and energy into not only finding a significant other, but in trying to make the relationship work as well. There are many reasons why some relationships simply don’t work out. Some of the most common issues are incompatibility, trust issues, poor communication, and different priorities, to name a few. However, what many of us may not realize is that certain characteristics we may initially consider positive in a relationship, are actually problems in disguise.
Here are 5 common but surprising reasons relationships fail:
1. Too Compatible
Many of us believe that the key to any successful relationship is compatibility – and this is true! After all, who doesn’t want a like-minded partner with whom one can get along and share common interests with? So where is the problem? Unfortunately, there is such a thing as being “too compatible”, and this usually occurs when the elements of compatibility are based on immature, rather than mature, characteristics possessed by either party. If a couple is similar in the ways in which they are immature, this can lead to problems. For example, two lifestyle abusing and risk-taking persons may facilitate and encourage one another’s self-destructive habits, or two insecure and anxious persons may form a co-dependent relationship or magnify each other’s insecurities.
The key to a successful relationship is to find someone with whom you are not only compatible, but compatible in the sense that you each elicit each other’s more mature tendencies versus the destructive, immature ones. In this way, both similarity-based and “opposites attract” relationships can be successful.
2. Using Sex to Mask Issues
A good, healthy sex life can be a mutually enjoyable aspect of any sexual relationship. As such, sex can be a good way to build intimacy, trust, and reinforce bonds between couples. However, sex can be problematic if it is used as a method of masking or avoiding problems. Some couples may use sex in response to issues or disagreements instead of actually facing the problem itself. In this way, rather than being dealt with, whatever issues the couple may have been dealing with are instead pushed to the background where they are neglected and left to fester.
Unfortunately, many may have the misconception that good sex automatically equals a good relationship. While sexual compatibility can be important, it is not the sole qualifying characteristic in what defines a good relationship. Eventually, if a couple’s sex life becomes less active, the issues which were previously avoided will inevitably rise to the forefront en masse, becoming a much larger problem than they would have likely been before if they had been dealt with individually as they occurred. When this happens, arguments can be explosive and unresolved tension can lead to the dissolution of the relationship.
3. Avoiding Problems to Avoid Arguments
I think we’ve all at some point heard someone proclaim “we never argue!” in regards to their relationship with their partner. In fact, perhaps we are that person. Communication professor and life coach Preston Ni of Psychology Today states: “I’ve been teaching communication and helping people improve relationships for twenty-five years. During this time, I’ve met many highly successful couples (partners in a happy relationship for twenty or more years). Without exception, all of them argue from time to time.” So what does it mean to claim to not argue? Well firstly, conflicts and arguments will not necessarily put a relationship in jeopardy. Successful couples can solve problems as they arise and let them go without attacking one another. Moreover, they have the capacity to learn and grow from these occasional difficulties which then strengthens their relationship with one another.
Conversely, couples who claim to never argue are usually those who are together for a relatively short while, usually five years or less, and who at once claim that their relationship is ideal only to, at a later date, announce that they are no longer together. Why is this? It seems as though if the relationship is not ideal then there’s no relationship at all. The truth is that never arguing does not mean a relationship is without problems, it simply means that whatever problems that may exist are being ignored or pushed away rather than dealt with. Once again, by avoiding problems, you’re really allowing them to accumulate until they become unbearable. This results in a rude awakening, usually in the form of a failed relationship.
4. Being Too Attached
It is natural and healthy to feel a certain attachment to those whom you care about, especially in romantic relationships. However, there comes a point when attachment exceeds normal, healthy boundaries and becomes excessive. Researchers Bartholomew and Horowitz note that there is a style of attachment known as Anxious-Preoccupied that is not conducive to maintaining a healthy relationship. One who is Anxious-Preoccupied may desire to spend as much time as possible with their partner due to the insecurity they experience when alone. Furthermore, these individuals are prone to experiencing negative emotions within the relationship which necessitates constant reassurance to make them feel safe and good about themselves. This can be overwhelming for the partners of those who are Anxious-Preoccupied as they can often give the impression of being too clingy, needy, or possessive. Remember that while attachment is acceptable, over-attachment can be unhealthy. Everyone needs space and the key to being in a successful relationship with another person is to begin with developing a healthy relationship with oneself.
5. Being Too Nice
While kindness is always appreciated, there can be a thing as being too nice in a relationship. This is especially true when one’s kindness and affection is taken for granted by someone who doesn’t demonstrate gratitude or reciprocate. Ni explains: “The economy runs on the law of supply demand: The more something is available in abundance, the less values it has. The same rule applies to the economy of human relations. In the presence of a self-centered and inconsiderate mate, the more a nice person gives thanklessly, the less [they’re] valued.” Thus, it is important for any healthy and successful relationship to know how to set boundaries and to respect them so that kindness may be appreciated but not taken advantage of.