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What Causes a Relationship to Fail



So often I hear people talking about "the one who got away" or their own personal version of it. So many carry the question of what made the perfect #relationship fail, the great mystery of what went wrong, and the burning question of what might have been.

"They were great, we were great together. I don't understand why it didn’t work.”

In many years of working with relationships and #coaching many people (and #couples) through all kinds of scenarios, I've come to find some really key things that always work to the detriment of a relationship. In each instance, I can almost always pinpoint one or more of these that were present in the relationship and therefore, in the long term, guaranteed failure.


The first thing I want to address, as gently as possible, is that the relationship was not as great as you remember it being. How do I know that? Based on results, it didn't work. We love drama, and one of the most profound dramas that human beings are addicted to is the drama of "I lost the Love of my Life."


It was not the Love of your Life. If it was it wouldn't have ended.


What I find most fascinating about this idea though, is that hanging on to the idea of "I lost the Love of my Life" actually prevents people from going out and creating a relationship with the #Love of their #Life.


This "lost" relationship was also not a loss—that’s the opposite, unhealthy extreme of this conversation.


This relationship was a lesson. This relationship was a profound opportunity for you to learn and grow and design yourself to be the person who can be ready for the Love of your Life when they arrive. I find that this shift in perception is an essential ingredient to being able to find out why the relationship didn't work and also what you can do about it.


When you can honestly say—


While it may have had perfect moments, it was not a perfect relationship.


There was fighting, disagreement, possibly resentment.


One or both partners were not having their needs met.


One or both partners were not being respected or appreciated to the degree they wished or deserved to be.


There were broken agreements, broken promises, possibly even lies or secrets.


When you can honestly see the relationship as it is, and rather than be defeated by this, you become excited about the possibility that this affords you in the future—


You are ready to learn from this experience and move on all the better because of it.


Now to the real question, why didn’t it work?


Often people say, “Well, it was them", "It was their fault”, “If they had been different or if they had only done this or that it would have worked.”


If you want to give away all your power and render yourself helpless not only in this relationship, but also the next, that's the way to go. If you want to empower and prepare yourself to create extraordinary relationships moving forward, then you want to begin by looking at what you did or didn't do, and how you participated that led to an unsuccessful relationship. After all, no matter how much of a disaster they may have been, you're the one that chose to have a relationship with them.


Which brings me to this point:


In many cases, you knew they weren't the one from the beginning and you chose to date them anyway.


I often see people get involved with someone who wants very different things than they do and they know this from the start. They go ahead with it anyway. They choose to subordinate their honest desires and go along with it to secure being with somebody rather than being honest with themselves and the other person and risk losing the relationship. They date from a scarcity of "what if I don't meet another person?" Rather than a commitment to meet the right person, the intention is to find the person who is "good enough". But so often the criteria on which "good enough" is based is very far from what truly matters in a relationship.


Someone may say they don't want children and you really want them. Rather than stand up for this and risk losing the relationship, you pretend you don't want children either and just hope for the best. Every time they make a comment about how they will never have kids, you feel a little part of you die inside. Over time this turns into resentment, because you feel that you have sacrificed your dignity for the sake of securing someone's Love. You think that you're angry at them, but deep down you're angry at yourself for having put yourself in this position.


I also see this happen when two people are getting involved and one says they don't want to be exclusive. The other person will often pretend to be ok with it hoping that the other person will come around. When the person doesn't, they become angry and resentful and they are hurt by the person's actions.


They told you who they were up front. When someone tells you who they are, listen!


If you want a committed relationship and someone says they don't, why on earth would you try to date that person? No matter how badly you desire a relationship, you have to begin in an environment where a healthy relationship can grow. You can try all you want to water a seed with bleach, it will never produce a healthy plant.


There are conditions which support successful relationships and conditions that do not. One of the most important things you can do to have your relationships work is to know what your non-negotiables are. When you can identify these and be uncompromising about them, and you find someone who is on board with them and willing to honor them, your relationship is off to a great start.


People often get into relationships for all the wrong reasons. So many relationships are based on a rush or a high, on the exhilaration that comes from being around the person, from wanting to make Love to them every second of the day, from being wanted by them in that way, from the nervous feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you're around them. This is far from the reality of a relationship.


We often think that the strong feelings we have for someone early on are something that will last forever, but the feelings we have at the beginning of a relationship are a phase that will either evolve or dissolve. I see it happen so often that people, a year or two into the relationship, find that they have nothing in common, or that their lives don't work well together. They made promises to Love each other forever but these promises were based on a feeling rather than a commitment.


Often people will remain together long after they should have because of the promises they've made and the fear of being without the person, but really they are holding each other back and neither person is fulfilled.


These relationships are doomed to failure because they aren't based on anything real. What should have been a temporary thing between two people is now attempting to be made permanent because of a feeling that was gone a long time ago and we sometimes spend years trying to get that feeling back. It's exhausting for those involved, and eventually these relationships come to an end. In the rare instances that they don't, the partners live a life of resignation and they miss out on the depth of Love that's available.


A strong recommendation I make for the people I work with is to wait a year before being too serious. You can't really know a person in less time than that, no matter how well you think you do. Make an agreement when you start getting serious with someone, let's do this for a year and see where we are. Go through some ups and downs with each other. See how you handle stress together, how you overcome challenges. See how they are when they're not on cloud nine, and how you are with them. Plan a trip together, meet each other's family. Practice having a relationship with each other before you decide to make it long term. Be conscious every step of the way. Ask yourself, “Is this really what I want? Am I willing to commit to this?“


Possibly the greatest challenge for people in having a relationship truly work, is that people don't want to work on themselves. You will either grow into your relationship or grow out of it. It's that simple.


Truly having a relationship work will require you to give up selfishness on a very deep level. It will make you a better person—truly it will—but you have to be willing to become that person. You must be willing to live with the responsibility that everything you do directly impacts another person, that every decision you make is not really your own, that there is someone else to consider in every equation.


One of the biggest obstacles I see destroying peoples relationships is selfishness. "I want to go where I want and do what I want. I don't want to have to answer to anybody. I want my freedom." I hear things like this all the time. The truth is this, you can’t have it that way and have a successful relationship. You can find a very submissive person, walk all over them, and count on their own co-dependent needs to keep them around, but keeping a relationship from breaking up is not the same thing as having it succeed.


A successful relationship is a partnership and partners make decisions together.


They plan things together. They work together so that both people can find a way to have their needs met. You may have one idea of how you want to spend the evening and your partner may have some emotional needs to be met.


Your commitment to the relationship and to the success of the partnership will have you do what is needed to have the other person feel loved and appreciated.


The reward of the intimacy that comes from this level of commitment far outweighs the cost, but this reward is very different from the thrills of having what you want when you want it.


"To find yourself, lose yourself in the service of others." --#Ghandi


One of my favorite quotes on relationships is that "Successful relationships are a contest of #generosity." I don't know who said that, but I find it to be extremely true. A committed relationship is the most profound way to be in #service to another human being. You don't lose yourself completely—you transform yourself in relationship with another. This transformation is one of the greatest gift that Life offers.



Shane Kohler is an international

consciousness trainer, coach, teacher

and The Creator of

The Living Relationship Curriculum.


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