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10 Causes of Relationship Problems

Identifying what is causing problems in your relationship will increase the love in your life. These causes of relationship problems range from sabotage to laziness; they’re inspired by a reader who is realizing that she is causing problems with her boyfriend.

causes of relationship problemsIn Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last, John Gottman teaches you how to recognize attitudes that doom a marriage — contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling — and provides practical exercises, quizzes, tips, and techniques that will help you understand and make the most of your relationship. You can avoid patterns that lead to divorce, especially if you learn what is causing problems in your relationship.

“I think I am the toxic one in this relationship,” says Rachel on 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship. “I am manipulative and if things do not go my way, I lose my temper and throw tantrums. I’ve been wanting to end it and he just doesn’t understand that I am the cause of our relationship problems. I don’t even know how we lasted so long with my kind of attitude. It’s mostly him working on our relationship, not me.”

It’s easier to start dealing with relationship problems when you have an idea of what’s causing those problems. Relationships aren’t huge mysteries – unless, of course, you’re in the relationship! Then it’s difficult to see what’s going on, and what the causes of relationship problems are. That’s why it’s extremely helpful to see a marriage counselor or couples therapist. An objective, professional opinion can change how you see your relationship, your partner, and your self.

10 Causes of Relationship Problems

If you know your relationship is lacking in ways other than I’ve described here, please share in the comments section. I think I’ve covered all the possible causes of relationship problems, but I may be missing something…

Emotional or mental health issues

This is probably the biggest cause of problems in a relationship: unresolved emotional or mental health issues in one or both partners. If something in your life is holding you back from participating in a healthy relationship, talk to a counselor. Find ways to deal with your personal problems so they don’t destroy your relationship.


Rachel’s comment reveals a codependent relationship; she is one of the main causes of relationship problems, and her boyfriend is doing all the work. Her boyfriend may not be happy with an emotionally healthy woman. He may be drawn to Rachel because he is comfortable doing all the work. This is familiar and safe to him, because he’s been in similar relationships in the past.

If you recognize you and your partner in my description of codependency, read How to Untangle a Codependent Relationship. It’s one of the most common causes of relationship problems.


Some relationship problems – especially in long-term marriages that have been neglected for years or even decades – are caused by indifference. One or both partners don’t care anymore, and have no interested in putting energy or time into saving the relationship. This may be caused by a tragedy (such as the loss of a child), or it may just be the result of long-term neglect.

Lack of a common vision or goals

Couples who want different things in life will run into all sorts of relationship problems. Lifestyle, career, family, spiritual, and even physical health choices need to line up for the good of your relationship. If you and your partner are chasing different things of life, you’ll have problems uniting for the good of your life together.

Abuse and neglect

Abuse may seem like one of the most obvious causes of relationship problems, but it’s surprising how many people stay with abusive partners. Abuse isn’t just about being pushed, hit, or kicked. Verbal and emotional abuse is just as destructive.

If you suspect you’re in an abusive relationship but you feel confused, read Examples of Verbal Abuse in Relationships.


Do you find yourself destroying relationships that are going well? Perhaps you lie, cheat, or neglect your partner – and you find yourself more surprised than anyone that you destroyed yet another relationship. You’re good at starting and ending relationships, but the problem for you is maintaining a healthy relationship.


Is being emotionally or physically unfaithful a form of relationship sabotage? It depends on the reasons for the infidelity. Emotional disconnection is one of the main causes of relationship problems that lead to infidelity. If you and your partner aren’t connected on a heart level, you’re more likely to stray into other relationships.

Fear of intimacy

causes of problems in relationships

10 Causes of Relationship Problems

A surprising number of people are scared to get too close to the ones they love. Why? Shame and guilt are often the reason for this type of relationship problems. We feel ashamed of ourselves and guilty for the things we’ve done – or the things we were told we did – and we don’t feel we deserve to be loved. We feel we aren’t lovable, so we put walls up. We’re scared to be vulnerable.

Family issues

I’ve written several articles on how parents affect our love lives. Family issues, such as controlling parents or drug-addicted siblings, can be a cause of relationship problems. If you and your partner have family issues, you both need to decide that your relationship is more important than your family. You need to choose each other.

To learn how to deal with stress as a couple, read 6 Ways to Solve Problems in Your Relationship.


Substance abuse, gambling, workaholism, overeating, and other forms of addictions are a huge problem in relationships. There are so many good things in life that become the main thing, that overcome our hearts, minds, and souls. We become a slave to what drives us, instead of a healthy happy partner in a relationship. Addictions are especially difficult to overcome when the addict can’t or won’t admit there is a problem.

I welcome your thoughts on the causes of relationship problems. I can’t offer relationship advice or counseling, but sharing your experience might help you cope with the problems you’re facing.

Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.

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My prayer for all couples facing relationship problems is for peace, love, and joy in their union together. May they realize they’re on the same side, and treat each other with love and respect.

3 thoughts on “10 Causes of Relationship Problems”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on these causes of relationship problems, Dianne. It sounds like you and your partner have fallen into a comfortable routine, and it’s difficult to shake off those problems in your relationship.

    May you find a source of inspiration and hope in your life. I pray for wisdom and clarity about what to do in your relationship, and for guidance as you think about how you want to spend the rest of your life. For your life is not over, is it? You’re still young, and you still have so much potential.

    I pray you find ways to solve the causes of your relationship problems, and that you move forward with a new sense of joy and peace in your life.


  2. Ive been with my partner for ninteen years we arnt married because he asked me twice but never put any effort into it nothing special so i never gave an answer. i was just disapionted and felt like i wasnt worth the effort. We have two children one 15 and one 12 initally i stayed home to look after the kids and he worked on his job hence why he has a pretty good job today and i am where i am. I did all the houshold and gardening chores and felt this was equall as he had to go to work i now go to work but only work 30 hours paid work a week, because i tried fulltime and i felt like i was working as much as him and was doing all the domestic stuff as well. but he does minimal to help with household chores and its caused arguements for years, latelely he has helped with the dishes wich i assigned to him as a task he could do to help and left him to do it how he wanted, but i now find myself wiping benches the stove packing away items used during cooking and filling the sink for dishes to soak because he wont tidy or clean the kitchen in any form until he gets up inthe morning and does it before he goes to work and takes the kids to school because i startwork a 6am. I aso have to endure his picking on me or we cant talk about things in general about alot of stuff because i feel i am always wrong and feel i have to shut up. on my white board on the fridge i have the letters RNTT which stand for remember not to talk. I find it hard to leave finacily because we have set ourselves up comfortably and i know my standed of living would be a big change. he would end up with more because of everything is in his name because or resons im not willing to say and he has a super from his years of work and mine is minimal not enough to live on in retirement. his career position and income level compared to mine because of the earlier years he got to work on his. i did study a tafe course but had to do another becuse i couldnt get into that industry. I feel as long as i do the chores and accept what help i get and try not to get upset when he says something in a put down way to me and just dont comment and keep doing what im doing everything is find except for the resentment i feel and no interest in loving him. he says he loves me alot but i can hardley ever say it. I feel i could to if somebody was doing everything for me.

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I actually don’t agree with the quote in this article – and I wrote the article! Sometimes you can’t solve or avoid relationship problems just by focusing on the good things about your partner. Sometimes, the partner IS the problem in the relationship, and focusing on his good points won’t change anything.

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