Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

Relationships: The 6 Reasons People Leave (And How to Avoid It Happening To Yours)

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No two relationships are the same but the reasons people fall out of love often are.

Love would be so much easier if the line between ‘in love’ and ‘out of love’ was a heavy bold one clearly visible from the distance on a stormy day. It would also be helpful if the path that lead to that line came with warning signs the size of billboards, blaring sirens on approach and a guardrail the length of the Great Wall and the height of the Sydney Opera House. Yes. That would be nice.

No relationship is perfect, most have a make it or break it point and all are damn hard work.

Here are the most common reasons people fall out of love and ways to stop them getting in the way of a happy ending – or any ending at all. Even if the reason for someone leaving looks to be something else, it’s very likely that the falling away started because of one of these. 

  1. They don’t feel appreciated.

    The emotional resources of a relationship are like any other – they need to be spent and they need to be replenished. The things that mattered at the start still matter and they always will.

    It’s not enough to expect someone ‘just to know’ he or she loved. It misses the point. Being openly loving and appreciative is fuel for any relationship and makes an intimate relationship different to any other. 

    I’ve made this mistake myself – a few times. When my world has become too busy and hectic – kids, work, life – I’ve take the person I love for granted. Eventually, I’ve realised and have able to pull it back. Every time, my cue has been that feeling of missing him – but when he’s right beside me. I can see how easily it would be for a relationship to slide slowly and silently into the zone of housemates, or strangers.

    Relationships have a rhythm. They ebb and flow. Sometimes they’ll be at the top of the priority list and sometimes they’ll slip further down. The most important thing is not to let it stay down the list for too long and to be committed to looking after each other and the relationship when the connection starts to run low. There’ll always be enough time for whatever you decide to put as a priority.

    You deserve someone who thinks you’re wonderful. So does the person you’re with. Adore them. Appreciate them. Acknowledge them. 

    If one person is doing all the giving without getting anything back, eventually the well will run dry and so will the relationship. When one – and it only takes one – feels unimportant to the other, the emotional connection will wither – it’s just a matter of time.

    It’s easy to take each other for granted when life gets in the way but try these to keep the sparks sparking and the person you love close:

    • Notice the little things.
    • Say thank you, often.
    • Tell them they’re wonderful.
    • Acknowledge what you love, even if it’s just the way they look in a white t-shirt.
    • Listen with your eyes.
    • Make them a cup of tea. 
    • Say ‘good morning’ or ‘goodnight’ as though it’s good because of them.
    • Throw a ‘you’ on the end of ‘Hello’. It makes ‘Hello’ sound like you mean it.
    • Be affectionate.
    • Praise or compliment them in public.
    • Send a text: ‘Missed you today.’
    • Kiss slowly. And often.

    It makes a difference.

  2. There’s no emotional connection.

    The friendship has gone, or perhaps was never there.

    Studies have shown that the love and passion that comes with the initial boost of marriage wears off after two years, which is why the best relationships are the ones that have genuine friendship at their core.

    When the initial passion cools, a mature, loving, compassionate, relationship takes over. That’s not to say it won’t sizzle sometimes, but being able to connect emotionally is what sustains a long-lasting relationship.

    Here are some ways to fuel an emotional connection:

    • Talk regularly.
    • Call for the sake of it.
    • Ask about their day, and listen to the answer.
    • Notice when they’re upset.
    • Notice when they’re happy.
    • Listen when they talk.
    • Just because something doesn’t seem important to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t important to them.
    • Acknowledge what they are feeling.
    • Laugh. At yourselves and with each other.
    • Know what’s happening in their world. Don’t just assume that you do.
    • Be responsive: When the world is driving them crazy, be the soft place, velvety place for them to curl into.
    • Be vulnerable. Open up and let your partner be there for you too.
       
  3. Boredom. The relationship is in a rut it can’t get out of.

    It’s so easy (and when it’s busy, so tempting) to do the same things you’ve always done, but this could lead to a ‘rut’ and eventually drain the relationship.

    Nobody wants to feel like you’re with them out of habit, a beautiful habit though they may be.

    This is difficult if you have small children (or bigger ones – tell me about it!) but if you can just try someone a little out of the ordinary it will be worth it. Here are some ideas:

    • Surprise them with things they love – her favourite magazine, his favourite ice-cream.
    • Bring home her favourite bottle of wine and share it with her.
    • Bring him a DVD he loves and watch it with him.
    • Make dessert.
    • Hang out together, not just next to each other, but together.
    • Send an email asking him/her on a date with a list of restaurants (or take-away) to choose from.
    • Leave a note on the windscreen. Just because.

       

  4. They’ve lost their sense of self.

    Remember the person you fell in love with? What needs to happen to bring them back?

    It’s important that both people in the relationship have a healthy independence with their own friends, passions and interests.

    Hopefully one of their passions will be you, and one of yours will be them, but having something separate to each other is important to maintain a sense of self.

    You are both more than the relationship you’re in and though it’s probably the most important thing in your life, it’s perfectly okay for it not to be the only thing. You fell in love with them because of who they were, not because they were a version of you.

    Problems come when the balance between me and us is wrong – too much time pursuing separate lives can be as damaging as having no separation at all. Support them in pursuing what they love.

  5. Negativity has chipped away.

    Studies have shown that a healthy relationship:

    >>  needs 3 positive emotions to counter every negative emotion.

    >>  needs 5 positive verbal and emotional expressions to counter every negative expression.

    The bottom line is that it needs a lot of good to counter any bad.

    Negativity takes to trust and intimacy with a chainsaw and includes anything that feels bad – eye rolling, sarcasm, the silent treatment, insults, judgements, mocking, nastiness and emotional indifference. It turns a relationship from being one that feeds the people in it to one that starves them.

    The more positive energy there is in a relationship the more affectionate, close and fun it will be.

    Don’t judge and don’t criticise. Ever. That doesn’t mean you can’t speak your mind, just don’t be cruel about it.

  6. Loss of physical intimacy.

    Physical affection is more than sex and is what holds a relationship together.

    It includes any form of affectionate touch and can be as simple as touching his back as you walk past or playing with her hair while you watch TV.

    Research has found that non-sexual intimacy is key to long-term happiness in a relationship.

    Anything skin-to-skin releases the same bonding chemicals in your brain as sex.

    Research has found that humans have an innate ability to interpret emotional messages via touch alone. In a 2009 study, blindfolded people were able to correctly interpret eight distinct emotions (anger, fear disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, sadness), solely through the touch of a stranger with 78% accuracy.

    Physical intimacy communicates trust and love and is what makes an intimate relationship different to every other relationship.

    Loss of physical intimacy can be a death knell and is often the first step towards a loss of emotional intimacy. It’s such a critical part of a relationship that when it’s gone, people will be tempted look for it somewhere else.

    Sex is an important part of any relationship, for at least one of you. It’s just another way to fuel the intimacy of your relationship and let the person you love know that they matter. Of course, if both partners agree, a relationship can also survive happily without sex but in these circumstances there will likely be another source of intimacy and affection.

    If physical intimacy is missing and you want to bring it back:

    • Start complimenting and noticing the little things – and let you partner know.
    • Let them know what you appreciate. This will start to bring back the emotional connection.
    • Try to touch at least ten times a day, but start small – touching incidentally (a brush when they walk past), then deliberately (holding hands, your hand on his knee, stroking). This can feel awkward and forced when there hasn’t been any physical contact for a while, but keep going anyway. The important thing is to start.
And finally …

Even the strongest relationships have their highs and lows. Being with someone means being attentive and being involved – this takes constant effort, but what a beautiful reward when it works.

Don’t be fooled by the fairy tales. Perhaps they all come with happy endings but the love you want is one with no ending at all. And that will always take more effort than the flourish of a magic wand.

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22 Comments

CD

Lack of good communication skills on both sides, and lack of transparency/authenticity/self-esteem. Those are pretty much what lead to all these other things listed here.

Reply
Lisa

But what if there are multiple infidelities, verbal abuse and disrespect mixed with generosity and support? Then on my end, withdrawal, disdain and disrespect for his actions which make it hard to be affectionate even when he is nice. It’s a confusing, vicious cycle with both of us accusing the other for being the cause of our unhappiness. Is there such a thing as too much water under the bridge even though we’ve been together for 25 years and have 3 beautiful children?

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Hey Sigmund

25 years is a long time and it sounds as though you have invested a lot into this relationship. In my opinion, it’s always possible for too much water to pass under the bridge, but you’re the only one who can decide if this is the case for you. An investment in a relationship doesn’t always mean the investment will be worth it and sadly, all the love and affection in the world doesn’t guarantee long term happiness.

Your happiness is so important. The question I always think is the one to ask yourself is, ‘Do I feel good more than I feel bad in this relationship?’ Think about this with an open heart. There is cycle that happens in a lot of relationships where tension mounts until it reaches breaking point, as which point something happens that causes a disconnect – there is a fight, an affair – something that causes a major disconnect. After that there is the honeymoon part of the cycle where you come back together. You reconnect. You hear regret and a commitment to work on the relationship and you hear love for you. This is great for a while (which is why it’s called the honeymoon) until the tension starts to mount again and off you go on another cycle. The problem with this cycle is that the good part of the cycle – the honeymoon part, however small – is enough to keep you in the relationship because you keep waiting for the day that the honeymoon doesn’t end. Generally, the time between cycles gets shorter and the cycles can become more volatile. Sometimes, even though you are together, it can feel as though the other person walked out the door a long time ago and stopped fighting for the relationship. In this case, it’s very hard to feel affection. It’s important to remember that you can’t fight to keep a relationship when one person has disengaged. You sound loyal and generous and committed and you deserve someone who knows what they have when they have you. Nobody can answer about your relationship except for you. If it’s worth the fight, keep fighting, but only you can answer that.

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Pi

Dear Lisa. Verbal abuse, disrespect and multiple infidelities. Either you want these things in your life, or you don’t. I have been in a similar relationship. Like you say, it is very confusing when it is mixed with love and support. But the fact remains: there is verbal abuse, disprespect and multiple infidelities. And confusion is immensely energy consuming. What it comes down to is how much you value yourself and what you believe you are worth. And, of course, fear. Fear of never finding love again, fear of loss of security. I took me so many years to realize this for myself. The answer is, if all these negative aspects are there, it does not matter how many positive aspects are there. You should never accept being subject to any of the things you describe. You deserve better. You deserve so much better. Start by believing in that.

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Lisa

Just went back and read your comments again. I wanted to thank you for your kind, clear words and let you know that they were impactful. I feel like I’m on the right path, but as you articulate, it is fear that keeps me questioning if I did the right thing by divorcing my husband. Thanks again for reminding me that I do deserve so much better.

Reply
Lillie

My husband and I been married 12 years.I am unhappy with our marriage.He is always negative and talked negative.Yesterday we got argument because the way I was acting (tired). I feel liked fall out of love.I am thinking about leaving (third marriage).

Reply
Hey Sigmund

12 years is a long time and it’s important to know that all relationships go through stages – sometimes they’re close, sometimes they move apart for a while. It must be very difficult living with someone negative though, and nobody can know what’s best for you better than you do. Here is some information about getting the spark back if you’re not quite ready to let go. This article is about finding the desire again https://www.heysigmund.com/desire-in-long-term-relationships-getting-it-keeping-it-and-finding-it-when-its-gone/ and ways to recharge your relationship https://www.heysigmund.com/9-surefire-ways-to-recharge-your-relationship/ . I hope this helps.

Reply
Richard Watson

I have just come out of a 27 year relationship with one child all those things relate to me although there were other factors as well but it started going wrong somewhere. I believe i did all of the above but never received them back . After my wife left me for the forth time in four years i finally found the courage to end the marriage myself.To my complete amazement i met a wonderful women who loves the same as i love know i have all of the above 🙂

Reply
Hey Sigmund

When you let go of the things that are wrong for you, the things that are right for you can find you. It sounds as though you have somebody beautiful in your life who fills it with the love and light you deserve. I’m so pleased you had the courage to clear the way for her to find you.

Reply
Matthew Coast

Great job with this article. I agree! Especially with the loss of sense of self… always important to maintain a sense of self in a relationship.

Reply
Joanna

I have been married 25 years off and on. I am 65 and he is 75. He has left 5 times-the longest was 5 years. Each time I have taken him back. There has been no infidelity. The entire marriage I have complained that I am always at the bottom of his list of priorities. The first five years he was an alcoholic. I wish treated as the second class citizen I’m still am. My mantra was: what about me? we have no children together. Recently he has admitted He Has Turned Me Out 4 25 years. He also admitted that my opinion has had no merit all those years. As he’s getting better that keeps the same behaviors.
My problem is never knew I never knew leaving was a choice for me. I grew up in the home where my mother was a quadriplegic c & could not leave so leaving never occurred to me.
Since his retirement in September I have been exposed to his Behaviour on a daily basis. We have no communication literally. He shows no empathy towards me but I have seen him exhibit it towards other people. This causes me a great deal of hurt and anguish which quickly turns to anger.

Then I become a maniac. Each time he exhibits
old behavior again, it opens the floodgates of emotions I have experienced for the past 25 years.
My goal is acceptance without resentments but I have not been able to get there.

I am FAR from perfect. I feel like the right thing to do is leave but I don’t want to be alone. I am his 5th wife. All of the other last a very short time except his last one-they bore a child together and she left him. Being a bit a narcissist, he never got over it. She-the ex- controlled our marriage for many years. When I objected to anything they conspired about, he said it was for the good of their daughter. This was not true. We attended the ex’s church, saw her family-they live in my town-and he treated his ex better than he treated me.

I am stuck. I need help. We are in counseling and it is not helping. Any suggestions?

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Joanna I can hear his this is hurting you. There is no magic solution here. There are two choices – to leave or to stay. The saddest thing is that changing him isn’t one of those choices. You have been with this man for a long time and he has shown you how he feels about you. That is no reflection on you and a very sad reflection on him.

What is your goal of counselling? If it is to see him change it is not surprising that it isn’t working. What is his goal for counselling? Is it to treat you better or to get you to change? This might be something to raise in your session. If his goal is to treat you better, what is he doing outside of counselling to support this? If the answer is nothing, or if his goal of counselling is to change you in ways that won’t work for you, (such as making you more tolerant or patient so he can keep treating you as he does) then perhaps you’d next move should be counselling to support you in moving on from this relationship. You deserve better than what you are getting, and with the right support you can move towards this.

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GBK

My husband and I have been married for 12 years and is an amazing man. He is a super hard worker, he helps with chores, he is an amazing father. If a diaper ever needed to be changed and he saw it first he would just take care of it, even if we were in public. He is there for the girls at all of their events, even girl scouts he will volunteer to help. He has helped my aging parents many times. He accepts my quirks, my scathingly brilliant ideas, and things like glitter and crafts in the house or the occational rescued animal. He definitely shows his love of our family. I would go as far as saying that I would say that he may even adore us. I watch other families and the fathers seem to care more about making money, work, having their guy time away from their wives and kids or let their wives do all of the household and kid duties.
I know this, and I feel so blessed to have him in my life and yet here I am completely confused as to why I also feel so done. He has one of the most negative, trouble causing mother in the world, maybe universe. He has no ambition, even though he is ridiculously smart and strong. He is self deprecating and will tell you that he can’t do things. “I can’t go back to school for my masters, I will never be able to afford to.” “I can never build muscle” “I can never make up night time stories for the kids”. Trying to do things he deems as impossible makes him go flush in the face. He doesn’t like socializing, he has no interest in putting the effort into having his own friends. He is supposedly just fine with having just his family in his life. He is very inefficient and not proactive. Yet will be the first one on the scene when things go wrong and can be great at fixing them. It is all so confusing.
On special days he rarely does something. He doesn’t forget about birthdays or anniversaries, he may be the first to acknowledge it. But he will then tell you sorry and how he didn’t do anything. I mean, he apologizes right away and moves on. When he does get a gift every now and then he goes with material goods. Like a blender (I had said in the store that it was a good price and he bought one right there and then, then a week later on Christmas told me that was my gift.) Other times, especially when he really liked the gifts he received from me, I make get a gift for that holiday a week or two later. Then once in a blue moon he hits it out of the park and will be on time with something useful or with great meaning that makes your heart melt. This is like once every 2-3 years.
I’m not about just stuff, I really am the crazy ‘it’s the thought that counts kind of girl’ for our ‘tin’ anniversary I made him a tin hat with blinking lights. It was so funny! If I get him actual things I plan for it to get what he has been looking and wanting. I do ‘just because notes and goodies’ he seems to love them and I enjoy doing them for him as a way of saying, ‘thank you for being you’.
He will give me excuses ‘I didn’t have time to do anything’, ‘I am no good at giving gifts’, ‘you always say that I don’t have to buy you things’ (yes, no money needed to show you care) erg. I have explained that while i love all that he does and how great he is, this makes me feel hurt. That it makes me feel like he doesn’t care or that it is not important to him. He then pretty much tells me that I can come up with my own plan and give it to him. I tried that, it doesn’t feel right. His proposal went down exactly like I said was my dream proposal. Location, timing, even the ridiculously expensive ring I jokening pointed out saying ‘that is the one!’ Which is great right!? But why did it then feel like i practically proposed to myself?
Am I selfish? I know that he cares about us, I know that he loves me, I know that he looks after our kids and me. He does so much, yet I feel like he is just doing what he feels he signed up for as a husband. Anything above that is not needed nor important. That doing something like writing me a note or picking a flower for me or a midday message is just painful for him to do. Even if he knows that it is important to me. I feel like this makes me the horrible one, because I should probably just be happy with what I have. Yet, I am here, confused and still feeling lonely.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

It sounds like what you’re missing is romance! There is nothing wrong with wanting this. That closeness and affection is a very valid need. It may be difficult for your husband to understand this if his need for it isn’t as strong, or if it is a need that isn’t as hungry in him because it is being met by you. There is no easy fix for this, particularly if it is a part of who he is. As with anything in a relationship there is nothing like talking about it. I can hear it’s not about ‘stuff’ for you but about gestures and acts of love. Make sure when you talk to him about this that you also acknowledge the tings you also love about him. Appreciation sounds as though it is as important for him as romance is for you.

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Tash

Hi I know exactly how you feel. I have been with my husband for 10 yrs and in that time I have asked for romance, but it was just too hard for him. We’ve had Many talks about it as the intimacy was disappearing in our relationship. Along with those problems we have trouble communicating & I haven’t felt supported with our 2 kids for quite some time
My husband is a hard worker as well & has a kind heart. And like your husband he has very little self esteem. Has no get up & go. He relies on us souly. I have to pretty much organize for him to see his friends.
I have unfortunately fallen out of love with him & lost attraction over time & have lost any will to try to make it work. I feel there’s nothing left. What brought us together in the beginning is not there anymore & I feel I want more than he can offer me.

Reply
Anjana

What is the solution for my problem?
we are in dating(happily) for last two years, but suddenly he left me and back to his first love,she was married lady,after couples of month they’re break up for family issues. Currently he is single and still I need him but he keep avoiding me and also told me that “i can’t forget my first love so try to understand me”

What should I do now..?

Reply
Karen Young

He has made it very clear that you will never be his number one. There is a better relationship for you, but not with this man. It’s time to stop looking st how to get him back and to start adjusting to letting him go. There will come a time when you will be grateful you did.

Reply
Vaibhav

Hi, please help me out.

I had this girlfriend soon after I graduated, I was still looking for a job when I bumped into her. She was interested in me initially but after a 2 months she told me she isnt sexually attracted to me. Later when I broke up she came back saying she was highly stressed when she told me that and she doesnt really mean it. We have had several fights in this long distance relationship. She comes back to the state every two months. Also she has her past which brings up saying she has lost confidence in relationships so she doesnt want me to take decisions specifically for her.
I am always stressed. This girl has once cheated on me in the past, 4 years ago. Its hard to trust her.
I also feel inferior because she always shows off her looks and hardly gives any compliment to me.
I feel emotionally drained too.

Reply
km

I have been in a marriage for eleven (11) years and the relationship for twenty-three (23) years. I am ten years his junior and I had two (2) children when we met. I wanted to get away from my current town because I felt like I was drowning. We moved to a completely different state together and I thought I was in love with this man. I had two (2) children by him and he helped me raise my two oldest children who went on to college and landed really good jobs. He became physically, emotionally, and mentally abusive for the next twelve (12) years. I was embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed, and hurt for twelve (12) years. When we went around my family, I would always smile like everything was ok, knowing that it wasn’t. A few years ago, we had a huge fight and I was so tired and afraid, I called the police and took out a restraining order against him until he called and called apologizing. Needless to say, I took him back. I became enraged at myself, I became bitter, angry, and resentful; feelings that I have to this day. I moved out a couple of years ago but I still came back to this man. I thought I loved him but I knew I had no self-esteem to stay away. When I came back, I prayed and I prayed for strength and guidance. I have a good job and I have made the decision to leave for good. My children are all adults and I have so much anxiety being in the same house with this man even when he’s seemingly having a good day. I cannot get over the past and all I see when I look at him is an evil monster. I’m not sure how I got to this point in my life but just making the decision to leave brings me clarity. I knew the relationship was a mistake from day one but I stayed for my children.

Reply

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