10 Most Common Reasons Couples Break Up

These are the ten most common types of relationship problems that cause couples to break up. Not every reason automatically leads to a breakup, but the combination of two or more problems almost guarantees a relationship failure.

Few people start a relationship expecting that it’ll fall apart. Most of us are attracted to a potential partner (sometimes immediately, sometimes as time passes), fall in love (quickly or slowly), and decide to commit to a long-term relationship. Sometimes we even get married. The last thing we’re thinking about – or looking for – are reasons to break up.

If we started a relationship knowing the reasons why couples break up, we increase our chances of building a happy, healthy, long-term life together. Further, if we know the reasons for most breakups, we then have insight into why breaking up is so hard to do. This can help us heal a broken heart, whether it’s our own or someone close to us.

In the beginning – when we fall in love as a new couple – everything is more or less perfect. We idealize our partners, overlook problems and allow irritations to slide by. We keep our eyes half-shut and avoid looking at potential pitfalls. We even ignore personality differences, values clashes, and different beliefs. This is the honeymoon phase…and it doesn’t last as long as the honeymoon itself!

During the honeymoon phase, the last thing we’re thinking about is how to get out of the “couples mindset” after a breakup.

10 Reasons Why Couples Break Up

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” ~ Fredrich Nietzsche.

These ten reasons why couples break up are from Dr Roger Hock’s textbook Human Sexuality. He is a professor of psychology and human sexuality at Mendocino College in northern California.

1. Broken promises, lying, cheating, stealing

These violations of trust almost always result in relationship problems, and is an obvious reasons a relationship fails. If the basic trust in a love relationship is repeatedly broken, problems accumulate and the motivation to stay together decreases. Couples in loving relationships can learn to reconcile their differences – and even survive a physical or emotional affair without anger or bitterness.

2. A power imbalance – real or perceived

Common Reasons Couples Break Up
10 Reasons Why Couples Break Up

Couples may be more likely to break up when one partner has more decision-making power than the other. When one person makes all the decisions about activities, friends, financial matters, household matters, and vacations, the relationship isn’t balanced or loving, and quickly becomes unstable. Both partners should equally share the decision-making power (although in different ways).

3. Acceptance of relationship stereotypes

This was once a more common reason why couples break up, but it still exists today! Mistaken gender myths include beliefs such as “Men should earn more money than women” or “Women should stay at home and raise the kids.” If couples believe these stereotypes, they create false expectations that can lead to splitting up.

For example, a relationship stereotype is that husbands are more likely than wives to prioritize work over family. The truth is that either a husband or a wife will put work first. It’s no longer a gender issue.

4. Isolation from friends and family

This reason for splitting up is based on fear and insecurity; new couples may isolate themselves from other people because they’re “in love and want to be together.” A brief period of cocooning is normal for many couples, but it’s far healthier to interact with other people regularly.

5. Lack of self-knowledge

If one or both partners aren’t in tune with their own interests, needs, desires, future plans, goals, values, and preferences, then it’s difficult for them to build a better marriage or healthy love relationship. Self-knowledge helps partners communicate who they are and what they want in a relationship, which can prevent problems.

6. Low self-esteem, insecurity, and lack of self-confidence

Couples break up because one partner feels unworthy of being loved. This insecurity can lead to possessiveness and dependence, which isn’t healthy for either partner in the love relationship. Couples break up because of insecurity and jealousy.

7. Excessive jealousy – one of the most common reasons couples break up

“Jealousy is cited as one of the most frequent causes of the breakup of romantic relationships,” writes Hock. Delusional jealousy can trigger abuse and violence, which can (and should) be why a couple breaks up! Delusional jealousy isn’t as common as “normal” jealousy, but both can cause serious relationship problems.

8. Ineffective communication

Both partners need to be able to share their thoughts, feelings, opinions, values, needs, frustrations, and joys. Sometimes couples avoid speaking honestly and hide their true selves, which may not always lead to a break up…but it doesn’t strengthen their bond!

9. Control issues

If one partner is trying to control or manipulate the other, the relationship can become weak or destructive. Controlling behaviors include checking up on the partner, name-calling, threatening the partner, requiring the partner to check in all the time, or not allowing any deviations from the schedule.

These signs of obsessive love may not cause the couple to break up, but it is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

10. Unhealthy or abusive physical behavior

A surprising number of men and women stay in abusive relationships, which is why this isn’t the number one reason why couples break up. Physical, intimate, and emotional abuse in a relationship is complicated. Neither partner may understand the reasons they’re treating each other the way they do; both partners may want the relationship to be over but don’t know how to move on. It’s is a very complicated issue, and not the number one reason for a breakup.

What do you think – did any of these reasons surprise you? What is missing from this list? Your thoughts are welcome below…


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29 thoughts on “10 Most Common Reasons Couples Break Up”

  1. Sometimes, people find themselves literally LOCKED in a relationship, and the only way out is to leave everything and EVERYONE behind!!! Narcissism, that word, i despise BUT I have learnt A LOT from my narcissistic relationship!! Do yourself a favour and please leave that narcissist behind!!!!!!

  2. Couples who break up do so for different reasons. I think the reasons couples stay together even though the relationship is terrible is because of low self-esteem and low self-confidence.

  3. I think the biggest reason is Breaking promises, lying, cheating in relationships. because lot of my friend also separate from their lover because that reason.

  4. There is no greater glory than love, nor any greater punishment than jealousy. ~ Lope de Vega obtained from
    Jealousy Quotes

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Celeste,

    On one hand, it’s very sad that your relationship is over. The relationship problems have been going on for a long time, which means that you may want to stand by him and support him through thick and thin….but love doesn’t conquer all. I wish it did, but love alone doesn’t make relationships better.

    On the other hand, it’s exciting that you’re now free! I know it doesn’t seem exciting — your heart is broken and you’re still mourning the end of your relationship. But, the past 7 years haven’t been wasted: you learned and grew and loved him.

    I think you need to be strong enough to let him go. He doesn’t see marriage with you, and you can’t do all the work that a relationship takes by yourself! You have to be strong and courageous, my friend. You have to move on.

    You’re a generous, loving, kind woman who deserves a generous, loving, kind man. Don’t waste another 7 years (or another 7 days) reaching for something that isn’t good for you!

    You might find this helpful:

    How to Let Go of Someone You Love

    I hope you are ready to begin the work of healing and starting a new, exciting chapter of your life!


  6. I have been with bf for 7years and just 2wks ago we had a disagreement i was upset by something he had did ( nothing drastic) but anyways the agrument led to our relationship he states he dosnt see marriage in his future yet. and he dosnt want to hold me back. he has alot of financial prob his parents and he supports them his parents rely on him fOR EVERYTHING!!!i told him long ago that i will stand by him and support him but he dosnt understand. he did this to me about 2yrs ago we broke up and got back together and now once again now. Its so hard he is a loving giving tenderhearted man but he dosnt see marriage w.me iam 34 yrs and i have given 7yrs to this man. i agreed to break iam soo sad i told him if thats what you want i cant force you for marriage you would think after 7 yrs he would know i wuldnt leave him despite the money situation i think he is just unhappy with his life that his parents need him soo much that he cant move forward. i just need help and some advise on what to do ? thank you

  7. Relationship problems

    Marriage is the most beautiful as well as dynamic step taken by two individuals. Marriage cannot be termed as license for some pleasures. It is a huge decision that comes with lot of responsibilities.
    Every couple on earth faces trouble handling their relation at some point of time. In such situation, it is necessary to sit back and communicate with each other. Just going apart from each other is no great solution to the problem. People seek consultants for their relationship problem advice.

  8. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Angelika,

    You sound very strong and wise! I’m glad you were able to break up with your boyfriend because something didn’t feel right…you really need to trust your instincts and do what feels right for you.

    Wishing you all the best,

  9. This have helped me so much=]
    Im 16 and broke up with a gr8 boyfriend just because i was insecure and i was really dependent and i shutted him out. Leaving was hard though because he was my first real love (i may only be 16 but it was really strong) and he really cares for me.
    It was also hard because i felt that i left him for nothing. But something just didnt feel right.
    I guess just i wanna know more about my self and work on my security(dont want a man to control my happiness in the future).
    Just by knowing now how to move on and to know what the reason was is gr8 and all these advices have helped alot. I guess im going back to painting and playing instruments again;D

  10. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    It depends on the relationship or marriage…sometimes, one partner really is more to blame and really does cause the relationship problems….

    I guess all relationships are unique, and there is no “one size fits all” reason to break up.
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post …Money Skills – Tips for Teaching Financial Literacy to Kids =-.

  11. In this day and time our society is plagued by breakups. Most need to understand that it is not just one in the relationship that causes breakups, it takes two. Couples need to take one “key” thing in concern “We all have faults whether it be large or small. Most any fault can be worked out in some manner or the other. People give up too easy on their commitment to one another.

  12. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment, Sean…I agree that an individual’s personality and lifestyle can definitely be a cause of why couples break up, or why they refuse to break up even if they aren’t good for one another!
    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post …Establish Good Financial Habits – 6 Ways to Make Money Saving Tips Stick =-.

  13. Great info and I want to say that being some what of an expert in this field that problems in relationship breakups depend on the individuals involved.

  14. Hi Laurie,

    You are right to say that keeping problems secret and hidden can turn into an uncontrollable ugly beast..recently my temper can change so suddenly that it even surprise me and I feel guilty specially to my children.

    Thank you for the enlightenment. I come from different culture and background where I was raised in Christian and conservative ways. I am new to this country and the family I have here is on my husbands side. I have friends here but I dont know how or Im not sure how will they re-act on that. My family abroad will surely get worried about me If I tell them and certainly will add the pressure. That’s why i decided to write it on here. It helps me to know that, there are people experiencing different marital problems but of the same pain..and yes ‘I am not alone’. Thanks for accomodating another stranger like me.

    Depression is something I do not understand fully. And he’s been on counselling before and admitted that he always have problems in attracting or being attractive to opposite sex. He said to me one time that he can’t believed he got me.

    There were times when I almost confront him but just give him a hint that, things are not right in our marriage life. I told him one time that in this time and place (country) marriage is not a place where you feel trap, there is an exit. He cried and said he can’t imagine life without me and started blaming his depression. This makes me more confuse.


  15. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Sampaguita,

    I’m so sorry to hear that your husband is depressed, and that he’s on a dating site! That’s heartbreaking, and very difficult to cope with. You’ve got two types of relationship problems in one — and just one is why many couples break up.

    First, I encourage you to talk to your friends and family. I know that it’s difficult, and that you’ll have to swallow your pride. But you have done NOTHING wrong, and you have NOTHING to be embarrassed about.

    When we isolate ourselves and keep our problems and secrets hidden, they grown into ugly beasts that we can’t control. Hidden problems become unmanageable sources of stress and paralysis. But, if we share our struggles and problems, we shed light on them. That light brings clarity, understanding, strength, wisdom, and solutions. Talking about your husband with your family and friends won’t make your problems disappear, but it will show you that you’re not alone and that you DO have the strength and courage to deal with this.

    Secondly, I encourage you to stop protecting your husband. You don’t want to add to his depression by confronting him about his own behavior. That doesn’t make sense! He’s a grown man, and he needs to be responsible and accountable for his actions — whether he’s depressed or not. And, being depressed does NOT make it okay to join a dating site!

    Please talk to your family and friends. I’d love to hear from you again — let me know how it goes, and how you feel after leaning on them (like you’re supposed to do with family and friends!).


  16. My husband has depression and so on medication for years now and the dosage was doubled recently. We’ve got problems in the bedroom department but I do understand him because of his medication. I was deeply heartbroken when I found out he joined a dating site and saw some of his writings that he was attracted to a certain woman at work. If I had not found it by accident I would not know and blamed his coldness sexualy on his depression. Is this means that he loss his love to me? The thing is he does not know that I knew it and the hardest part to play is to play Im fine when Im not. I dont like to add his depression that’s why I keep it on my own. I can not even talk it out to my friends and family because Im embarrassed about it. I do my crying during the night when he’s asleep. Im confused wether to confront him or just let it go and pretend I didnt knew it. Its getting harder each day. What shall I do?

  17. Relationship problems

    It is hard to find a couple that doesn’t face problems every now and then. In this world no relationship is perfect, so don’t expect yours to be. Try to solve your relationship problem. There are some points which are very helpful and also reduce relationship problems like communication, trust, forgive, apologize, be positive, be patient etc. If remember this things we will never face any problem in our relationship.

  18. how to deal with relationship break up

    ..,i agree with the following reason that you list in here… i hope you can post more about the things you need to do to get out of the moving on phase easily…

  19. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Jelly Tottot,

    I have to say I’m glad you got out of that relationship — abuse is definitely one major type of relationship problem! Good for you for blogging about it…I wish you much success.


  20. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks everyone for your comments — it’s so interesting to hear what people have to say about relationship breakups and problems.

    Dahli, I think couples break up and get back together for all sorts of different reasons, ranging from fear they won’t find someone else to love, to hope that the other person has changed somehow. Some couples do stay together after breaking up and making up…but something has to change in order for the relationship to work.

    Susan, I love your perspective! We’d be so much healthier and happier if we always remember that our experiences serve us and make us better, stronger, and wiser. If we remember that, we might be less likely to get upset or heartbroken about events such as breaking up.

    Thanks again, all!


  21. Gosh, so many life lessons for all of us.
    I’ve gotta say that I’ve learned my biggest lessons from my relationship experiences.
    And, here is what I tell my clients… until you learn the lesson, the “challenge” won’t go away.

    For me, I’ve learned about myself during relationships that I refused to leave, yet I knew were not good for me.
    I learned about forgiveness from relationships that let me down.
    I learned about love from relationships that refused to let me go…

    It’s astounding how much our life experiences truly are meant to serve us. And, to enable us to give back to others. I applaud all of you who are using what you learned to empower others.

    Warms my heart.

    :) Susan

  22. Emotional Abuse in Relationships

    However, if a relationship has a component of emotional or psychological abuse, the relationship can be impossible to maintain, and a miserable experience for the victim.

  23. I have just got out (for the fourth time) of an emotionally abusive relationship, compounded by neglect. That is the life of the spouse of an alcoholic. I am blogging to help other spouses understand that this is not OK. Click my name to read my blog.

    Interestingly enough, most comments on my blog page come from ex-alcoholics who are astounded to see their picture from the other side.

  24. I understand why couples break up, but I don’t get why they keep getting back together! Relationship problems don’t just END after a breaking up and making up, yet people seem so surprised when they still have bad relationships.

  25. I can totally relate to what you’re saying, Susan! In my last relationship (we broke up two months ago, after seven years of being together), I never said anything about things that bothered me. I always just let things go. In my next relationship, I want to be more aware of potential problems for couples so I can stop them.


  26. So sad when good relationships break up when good communication could have prevented it.

    For me, I find myself entering relationship danger zone when I allow my “resentments” to build up… or perhaps I should say when I allow all the little things that bug me to bottle up until they become resentments.

    It can feel scary to communicate this stuff, in the moment. I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, don’t want to be rejected because of how I feel, or sometimes I don’t want to seem too knit picky.

    Yet, the times that I step into my fears and choose to communicate what is bothering me, my relationships actually deepen. Something to remember in those moments of fear.

    Loved reading your article.
    Thank you for your inspiration today.

    :) Susan

    PS. Gonna go have a conversation now…