Why do relationships end? Research talks more about the resulting actions that divide couples than what actually started their demise. One cheated, the other didn’t communicate, they argued into oblivion, money issues buried them, and so on. That once “perfect” white dress wedding becomes a Sigourney Weaver movie where contempt is the alien that now tears your life apart. But what really ended the relationship began long before the unfortunate poor choice of actions. And what can fix it begins with understanding contempt.
Why relationships end usually starts when one partner begins to feel they are not getting what they bargained for in the relationship. Love is no longer the focus. That leads to the downfall, prior to the thing that actually ends the once loving relationship. Contempt!
Once contempt arrives, how do you turn hate to love again? With contempt, you have a better chance of curing cancer by accident than healing the broken love.
But you can remove the contempt and that, my friend, not only makes you a better person, it ensures your future relationships are healthy even if this one is lost.
RESEARCH ON WHY RELATIONSHIPS END
First, we’ll go over the ugly list. Researchers Denise Previti & Paul R. Amato at Pennsylvania State University claim that extramarital sex is one of the leading reasons marriages end. Keith Sanford, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Baylor University, did a study in 2015 that shows withdrawal during arguments as another leading reason why relationships dissolve. Other research shows mixed reasons:
- Infidelity—extramarital affairs.
- Incompatibility—conflict or arguing.
- Bad behaviors, drinking, or drug use.
- Growing apart—lack of communication.
- Values and goals change.
- Trust issues.
- Your relationships lack respect.
- Lack of commitment.
- Different Expectations.
- In-laws get in the way.
- You hold on to the past.
- Differences in Priorities.
- You don’t forgive or forget.
- Moving Through Life at Different Speeds.
- Compatibility Issues.
- You grow apart.
I think every reason listed applies to someone somewhere. But again, these lists are, for the most part, the results of something prior. What I want to know is how to recognize and stop the whole downfall? Not, why do relationships really end? Not, why do relationships end badly? But how can we prevent it? How we can be better humans. How do we turn hate to love again?
THE TRUTH BEHIND WHEN RELATIONSHIPS BEGIN TO ERODE
Back to how and where the problems began. When one or both partners begin to feel they have the upper hand. They hold the cards on who does more. Who’s better, who’s making more money, who’s nicer, happier, calmer, wiser, a better parent or person, has better family members, they see themselves as the more patient partner, or something they feel entitles them or hurts them. This can turn into contempt and then erodes the relationship.
I’m sure you’ve heard the stories. One partner claims the other is not living up to the standard they entered the relationship with. Which sabotages the love, but the landslide to hell usually comes when one or both partners allow contempt in. And with the absence of love, all the things love once embraced, protected, and ignored are now replaced with contempt.
In history, contempt burned down cities, conquered empires. The story of Masada is a perfect example. The siege was one of the final events in the First Jewish–Roman War, occurring from 73 to 74 CE. The Romans wanted to take down Masada, a fortress, and enslave a small group, about 960 Jewish rebels. Contempt and persistence over a long battle led to every man, woman, and child committing suicide rather than becoming slaves to the Romans. It is no doubt a reflection of the average ugly divorce.
Love is blind, and contempt blinds you from love.
So, where does it start! Relationships are like the disasters caused by humans. In February 2006, an avalanche poured into the valley of Southern Leyte Province in the Philippines after a week’s long heavy rain and minor earthquake. The village of Guinsaugon in Saint Bernard was buried, killing thousands, including 250 children. The disaster is said to be an outcome of nonstop logging and unregulated mining surrounding the valley.
So, what ended the lives that day? Landslides or logging that caused soil erosion?
Logging, of course, led to soil erosion that resulted in landslides.
Relationships erode. They don’t explode. In other words, relationships don’t end because of the long list of dislikes. Dislikes are always there, even in great relationships. It’s when you scorn the person for the things you dislike.
CONTEMPT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST REASONS WHY COUPLES DON’T RECOVER STORMY WEATHER
I rarely meet a fighting couple or divorced client who speaks of their spouse as the loving person they married. The contempt they feel for their ex or soon to be ex is obvious.
What causes contempt in a relationship usually starts with the feeling of being superior. You might think it starts with anger, but when you tear it apart. The meaning of contempt is the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.
What comes first, “I hate my wife.” or “Why can’t my wife hold down a job like I do? I’m tired of her freelance drama and dreams. She doesn’t really make money.” The latter, of course, comes first. Contempt builds, and then hate surfaces. You are superior. Your partner is beneath you.
“When I married him, I expected him to finish his degree and then have time for me. That’s all he does is work. I don’t see him enough, and I’m sick of his selfish career choices. I take care of the kids alone. He never helps around the house! I make time for him, and he doesn’t even notice me! I wasted all these years with a selfish jerk!” For 15 years, his long hours were appreciated, his actions and lack of help were understood. But once contempt arrived, the past became a graveyard of his wrongdoing. A relationship can last forever when the couple outlaws contempt as an unfair tactic, where honesty is used in its place fairly.
Even the big infidelity topic can be solved when the cheated-on partner refuses to allow contempt in. Without contempt, couples can see that infidelity might be partly their own fault.
Once you allow the contempt from disappointment, anger, impatience, etc., to grow, you forget what you loved about your partner. You forget the fun you had. How much you loved them. How they were your world. How much you cried when they were off on a trip. The love letters you wrote. The dedication you felt. The moments that held you together vanish. But those couples who do entertain contempt solve the stress that comes with being the main provider in the relationship or the feelings of abandonment.
When contempt takes over your relationship, the good memories and qualities are forgotten, at least while you’re in that moment of discomfort. And eventually, this lack of memory becomes your reality.
So, does it makes sense how contempt robs you of the truth? You can’t remember a single positive trait of your partner without someone reminding you. You’re now enemies tainting memories with rather cynical views. Basically, the truth vanishes, and in your mind, you now create the “Love was never there” feeling. Or, “couples fall out of love” theory. You create every excuse as to why it was a mistake.
Your relationship became the eroding soil that died in the landslide. If couples could remove contempt as a rule of thumb, more relationships would survive.
I have clients that swear their ex’s were diabolical, uncaring, selfish, liars, cheaters, lazy, self-centered, couldn’t be trusted, and so on. But when the contempt is removed from the picture, it’s a whole new story. The memories of why they fell in love return. It doesn’t mean the two will reunite or even should, but at least truth now is in control.
Damage can be irreversible in nature, but as humans, we can recover damaged relationships.
Damage can be irreversible in nature, but as humans, we can recover damaged relationships.
WHY SOME COUPLES SURVIVE TROUBLED RELATIONSHIPS
Have you ever wondered why some couples survive disasters like infidelity—extramarital affairs, conflict or arguing, finances, abandonment, or bad behaviors?
There is only one main reason I’ve ever seen. Couples that do not allow contempt in the door survive the storms. Without it, there is understanding, love remains, realistic views remain, non-judgmental reactions thrive, solutions are desired, and the whole blame thing is neutralized.
Most couples are both to blame. But the person who allows contempt in feels blameless, justified, and typically evolves into the horrible beast we all hear about as the ex from the dark side. This person tells their friends and family the gruesome story from their one-sided contemptible view.
You can see contempt in the little things: when the love is suffocated, she begins to notice he leaves his socks on the bathroom floor. “He’s a slob, and our house would be a train wreck if I didn’t clean up after him. He has no consideration for me! He’s the asshole in my life.”
You can see contempt in the little things: when the love is suffocated, she begins to notice that he leaves his socks on the bathroom floor. “He’s a slob, and our house would be a train wreck if I didn’t clean up after him. He has no consideration for me! He’s the asshole in my life.”
And he begins to notice that she’s too tired to have fun and always wants something from him on weekends. “She’s not devoted to me anymore. We don’t have fun or enjoy life together anymore unless I force it. She’s the bitch in my life.”
But think back, love at one time might have looked more like this. “She’s tired. We should get a maid on Fridays so that she’s not worn out for movie night. She’s so cute when she sleeps next to me. She does so much for us.”
“That man, she says with a smile as she picks up his socks without a thought. He works long hours for our family. I should surprise him tonight.”
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PARTNERS END RELATIONSHIPS BADLY?
Not everyone should or can heal their relationship, but it takes two to try. And it’s not always about healing a broken love. It’s about not ending relationships badly. Preparing for the future relies on it. Being whole, being happy inside is less likely when you stomp on that person you gave a vow of love to. Even if they deserved it.
The ironic ending is that most don’t deserve a bad ending.
Dr. Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. say that bitterness prolongs your mental and emotional pain, and leads to long-lasting anxiety and or depression.
It’s not worth it. There is too much to celebrate in every relationship. So, what if it ended for whatever reason. There were still good things, or you wouldn’t have been in the relationship. And only through those good things will you find the path to the next good thing that might be forever.
If you’ve ever tried therapy to heal your broken heart or wounded life after a divorce or long term relationship break up, you’ll find years will pass with little change until you face that person.
Many people go to therapy right after a divorce or breakup. They are broken and want to end the unstable feeling. They rush to that close relative, friends, and even give details in therapy. But, speaking about your ex when they are not present is not therapy. It’s more like a bashing session. Does it heal the issues between you and that person? Not usually. Facing that person you were committed to is unheard of, but I suggest it all the time. Yet, first it means removing the contempt to get the fairness.
Doesn’t it baffle you why after being in a long-term relationship, especially if there are children, both couples would not realize the crucial need to face each other and either work out the relationship as a couple or, even more, important sanity of humanity, for the kindness that we all truly desire. To be the kind of humans we were meant to be.
Many have experienced a date that never stops talking about their ex. Who wants to date that? No one. Even if you’re the quiet one who doesn’t talk about the ex but always thinks about them, you’re projecting that unfinished, bitter end. And it jeopardizes your future dating and love. You vowed to love and respect, give, and forgive. So, it’s like this, when you marry or have been in a long-term relationship, it’s your responsibility to find amicable endings. How else does one move on to the next relationship without the famous baggage?
Now you know why, many believe that if they are dating a person who didn’t end their marriage or past relationships on a the right note, they are not great candidates for the future. It’s not one hundred percent, but it’s got truth to it.
DO PEOPLE CHANGE?
Does it make sense that people change? Leopards don’t change their spots? If you married or were committed to a good person, you’re also divorcing or breaking up with that same good person. You both simply view each other without the love now. Perhaps that person began making mistakes, poor judgment, and so on, but they are that person you once loved. And remembering they were and still are a good person changes the whole process of divorce, separation, reconciliation, and your own happy future.
- Denise Previti & Paul R. Amato, Pennsylvania State University, Is infidelity a cause or a consequence of poor marital quality?