We've all heard the phrase love is fleeting, but sometimes it really does seem like there's no rhyme or reason to why people fall out of love. While there's no formula to romantic happiness, there are some things considered to be universal relationship no-no's, and they oftentimes make people fall out of love faster than others.
As it turns out, there are actually some scientifically proven ways to ruin a relationship. Longitudinal research conducted by Robert Levenson and John Gottman of the Gottman Institute found that there were four key predictors of whether or not couples would divorce within the first five years of marriage. The longterm study followed over 3,000 couples over varying lengths of time (the longest ones over 20 years), giving the researchers insight into what exactly leads a relationship to fall apart. The study allowed Gottman to become so familiar with unhealthy patterns in relationships that eventually, he was accurately predicting whether or not a couple would stay together 90 percent of the time. The four factors the pair identified — which they call the "Four Horsemen" — are among some of the key behaviors that lead people to fall out of the love.
Again, everyone has different reasons for falling out of love with their partner, but here are some proven to be deal-breakers.
Resentment is one of the quickest ways to end a relationship because it "no longer possible to be empathetic toward your partner or grateful for what you have together" if you resent them, Shula Melamed, MA, MPH, a relationship and wellness coach, explains to Romper via email. Resenting a partner is more than just feeling hurt by them; it builds from a pattern of behavior that makes you unable to put yourself in their shoes, and you won't want to try to take responsibility for any of your mistakes in the relationship. That's why it's so important to communicate with your significant other about issues right away, as being open decreases the possibility of problems taking on greater significance.
One of Gottman's "Four Horsemen" is defensiveness, because this quality leads you to blame your partner for problems instead of taking on any responsibility. When you deflect an issue your partner brings up, "the problem is not resolved and the conflict escalates further," leading to resentment and larger scale issues, as the Institute explained. The solution to defensiveness is to listen to your partner and take responsibility for mistakes you make, as you will be able to better connect with your significant other when everyone feels seen and heard.
Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W., and Charlie Bloom, M.S.W., the authors of Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truths from Real Couples About Lasting Love, explained to Psychology Today that "betrayal is a broken agreement, implicit or explicit, that is considered vital to the integrity of a relationship" — it can have lasting impacts even if the actual betrayal is not revealed. The deception can take many forms (infidelity, a lie, an exposure of a secret), but it will shake the relationship regardless because it breaks the trust you formed. The Blooms explained that it is possible to overcome betrayal with communication and by taking responsibility for the mistake, but an unaddressed issue can cause a relationship to fall apart quickly.
There's nothing wrong with acknowledging a partner isn't perfect, but criticism in a relationship can be quite damaging. Although it might feel good to point out a partner's shortcoming in the moment, it's not the more effective approach if you actually want some type of behavior to change. "Criticism is an utter failure at getting positive behavior change. Any short-term gain you might get from it just builds resentment down the line," Steven Stosny, Ph.D. and the founder of CompassionPower, explained to Psychology Today. Critiquing a partner will just lead them to have anger towards you and feel that they cannot trust you, quickly dismantling the foundation of a relationship.
However, honesty is important, and offering a partner constructive feedback can be productive. But before you make a comment about something your partner does, try asking yourself why you feel the need to highlight this issue and what good will come of it. If it's something you feel strongly about bringing up, be careful about your approach and trigger words that may automatically make them shut down.
As relationship and etiquette expert April Masini explained to Elite Daily, couples who live financially incompatible lives may find themselves feeling disconnected soon after the relationship turns serious. A partnership where people don't approach personal finances the same way is doomed from the start, as the choices you make with money define almost every aspect of your life.
Masini recommended that couples "start talking about money during the very first date. You don’t have to exchange FICO scores, but you do have to talk about how you live, how you afford to live, and what your dreams are. Balance is the key, and flexibility and understanding are crucial," per her interview with Elite Daily.
A partner who wants to have authority over you won't make you feel safe. Melamed says that "If too much attention is expressed as surveillance, control, or manipulation...[it] can cause another person to want to escape the relationship ASAP." The desire to flee from a controlling partner is your body's way of warning you against a dangerous situation, as a control can easily turn into abuse, as Bustle explained. Boundaries are a necessity in healthy relationships, and setting them up early can help you prevent your relationship from becoming unhealthy.
The Gottman Institute defined stonewalling as such: "In a discussion or argument, the listener withdraws from the interaction, shutting down and closing themselves off from the speaker because they are feeling overwhelmed or physiologically flooded." This one is a biggie, because open communication helps to minimize other issues that come up in a relationship. It's okay if you need to ask your partner for a break during conflict at times, but you do have to talk about issues to make your relationship work. Without communication, your relationship will hit a wall, and it will be impossible for feelings to grow or for you two to move forward.
At the beginning of a relationship, it's likely you and your partner will be totally enamored with one another, focusing all of your energy on each other. But as you settle into a norm, your day to day priorities will become clear, and if those priorities don't align, distance can take over the relationship quickly. For instance, you might see family time as the most important part of your life, while your partner might find travel and exploring new things more valuable than weekly meals with relatives. These differing priorities can cause you and your partner to spend more and more time apart. You can prevent this problem by talking with your partner about each of your priorities and make healthy and fair compromises along the way.
The biggest takeaway here is to communicate with your partner about your feelings, and make sure you're being honest about what works and what doesn't, and to be honest with yourself and to your partner if you recognize that you're just not seeing eye to eye. "Communication [can't] save a relationship 100 [percent] but it can help move through conflict toward greater understanding of yourself, the other person and where one or both of you might have to grow in order to get through said issue," Melamed says.