5 Toxic Behaviors that Doom Relationships

Jessica Wildfire


Photo by Kirayonak Yuliya

His wife told him over text, while he was driving. Over the last few weeks he’s been trying to figure out why.

Why did she want a divorce all of a sudden?

She'd never complained about their marriage before, not once. He thought they were doing just fine. Her decision caught him by complete surprise.

He's not the only one this has ever happened to. I’ve got another friend wondering the same thing. Her husband moved all his stuff out while she was at work. He left her a note on the fridge. Now it looks like she’ll be raising two kids by herself.

Almost half of my friends are getting divorced. They’re all asking why. After listening to them, I’ve come up with a simple list. It points back to the basics. We think relationships end because someone falls out of love. But that’s not how it happens. Someone makes a decision to quit, months or even years before they decide to leave.

Relationships end because…

1. One of you stopped trying

All you have to do in a relationship is try. If you honestly try, then you can weather all kinds of screw-ups. Relationships end because one person stops.They stop doing acts of service. They stop talking or touching, or helping. It’s a choice, even when nobody wants to admit it.

Giving up isn’t always a conscious act.

2. One of you got greedy

Relationships aren’t supposed to be fun all the time. They get harder and harder every year. Some people don’t understand this, and they expect their partners to make them happy.

You can’t expect someone to make you happy if you’re not making the same effort. This sounds obvious, but we forget all the time.

You can’t just do the things you want for a relationship to survive. Making your partner happy should count for something, even if it means little sacrifices and compromises.

Putting yourself first all the time makes your partner feel like crap. It creates a cycle where you’re both just pleasing yourself.

3. One of you cheated

You don’t have to sleep with someone else to ruin a relationship. Emotional infidelity hurts just as bad.

One of you started telling your dreams to someone else. You started sharing your deepest thoughts and fears. You started telling them things you wouldn’t tell your partner. That cuts pretty deep.

It sucks to find out your partner’s been sharing secrets and growing close with someone you don’t even know. They don’t care if you ever plan to sleep with them, or fantasize about them at night.

Most of us want to confide in our partners, and we want the trust returned. You’re allowed to keep family secrets and best friend secrets. You’re allowed to keep secrets you’ll never tell anyone. But making deep new “platonic” friends of the opposite sex while you’re already married or dating… is a little weird. Don’t expect them to be down with it.

4. One of you didn’t help out enough

All of my friends fought wars over simple divisions of duties. Usually, the guy played golf or trained for triathlons while his wife did all the cooking, all the chores, all the groceries, and raised the kids.

On top of that, she was an equal breadwinner.

The dad barely changed a diaper.

This isn’t cool anymore. Maybe that flew in the 80s, but now it’s the key ingredient of divorce. Whoever winds up doing all the housework feels anger and resentment, even it she doesn’t show it all the time—you know, because the kids are watching.

5. One of you stopped talking

One of the biggest mistakes we humans make is expecting problems to take care of themselves. We dread confrontation. So we pack down what’s bothering us and sit on it like a hen.

What’s bothering you always hatches.

The guy who leaves a note is the same as the woman who texts her plans for divorce. Neither of them tried talking. Maybe they hinted at their problems, or they left little clues. That’s not enough.

It assumes your partner can’t change. Maybe that’s true, but you owe them a chance. Most of us don’t know what we’re doing wrong until someone points it out and shows us different. When you love someone, this becomes part of your job. You’re supposed to help each other become better — not silently judge each other for what you screw up.

There’s nothing wrong with divorce

Sometimes you get married for the wrong reasons. Your partner turns into a swamp thing, maybe thanks to drugs or alcohol. They start to scare you, or hurt you, or they betray you in a way you can’t forgive. There’s lots of good reasons to get divorced. But you have to try first.

You have to be willing to change

About half of marriages end in divorce now. You could say that’s because we’re not built for monogamy. Maybe that’s true. But it’s possible that a lot of us just forget the basics.

We try to follow some Hollywood playbook full of fairy tales and skyscraper expectations. We try to always sleep in the same bed, all cuddled up—because we think we’re supposed to, even if our partner snores like a beast and ruins our circadian rhythms.

We assume we’ll stay the same person we were on our wedding day. Heads up, that person didn’t really know what they were getting themselves into. They were ready to make a commitment.

Honoring a commitment forces you to change. You can’t expect the you who walks down the aisle to be sufficient forever. You’ve got to get used to stretching your emotional IQ and adapting. When you refuse to change, that’s when relationships end for good.

Meanwhile, we don’t talk. We don’t do research. We don’t see a counselor. We’re so afraid to go off script, we make ourselves miserable.

And we grow further apart.

Everyone who wants it deserves someone to stand there with them. Don’t be afraid to love someone you already love.

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