6 Things That Can Destroy a Marriage or Long-Term Relationship, and How to Avoid Them

It’s a cliché that the biggest problems in marriage revolve around money and sex — but these aren’t the only areas that can make or break a long-term relationship. A host of unhealthy dynamics, hurtful behaviors, and poor priorities can mean the difference between thriving and failing.

To maintain healthy, happy romantic relationships, it’s important to spot (and root out) common problems that can lead to discord or even divorce. In one way or another, many of the things that destroy marriage are rooted in the so-called Four Horsemen. But others go beyond this rubric. Little, everyday conflicts can add up to marital strife, or sometimes it’s deeper issues that rear their ugly heads.

Here’s a look at seven common behaviors that can destroy a marriage or long-term relationship — and how to fix them before they do.

1. You Communicate Poorly or Not at All

No one will be surprised to learn that poor communication degrades relationships. If one or both members of a couple feel unheard, put down, or shut out, it’s difficult if not impossible to build connection.

Unhealthy communication has many faces within marriage. In some cases, it can look like an inability to talk with your spouse about how you’re really feeling. This can eventually lead to volatile emotions. “Without being able to express feelings on a regular basis, small issues turn into suppressed, bottled-up emotions that boil over into explosive conflict when least expected,”

.“If the conversation is too intense for partners to have respect for each other, then a short break in the conversation is needed, so that everyone can remain physiologically calm.”

2. You Let Outsiders Gain Too Much Influence on Your Marriage

A healthy marriage needs a support system of relatives and friends — but some external relationships can exert undue influence. A parent, friend, or even a child can hold inappropriate sway over your marriage. “When a third party becomes too involved in a couple’s decision-making process, it can lead to conflicts and decisions that may not align with the couple’s own values and priorities.” “The presence of a third party can erode trust. If one partner feels like their opinions and preferences are consistently overridden, they may lose trust in their spouse’s commitment to the relationship.”

3. You Don’t Seek Help for Addictive Behavior

Addiction can show up in unexpected ways. Besides well-known culprits like drugs and alcohol, activities like social media, work, shopping, gambling, and gaming can all become addictive.

Whatever the source of addiction, it can drive a serious wedge between you and your partner. “When someone is struggling with addiction, their priorities often shift away from their relationship and loved ones. The substance or behavior of addiction becomes the central focus, leaving less time and emotional energy for the relationship,” he says. People embroiled in addiction may also develop secretive behaviors and end up isolating from their spouse because of shame.

Trite as it may sound, identifying an addiction really is the first step toward healing — for yourself and your relationship.

4. You Withhold Sex or Physical Affection From Your Partner

A study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior found that a satisfying sex life and a warm interpersonal climate are both associated with marital satisfaction.

Similarly, research published in April 2023 in Scientific Reports revealed that affectionate touch was robustly related to the degree of love reported between partners. Sex and physical intimacy are, after all, what distinguish marriage and romantic relationships from other relationships.

Of course, lots of factors can create a desire discrepancy, and sexual frequency ebbs and flows with the rhythms of life, affected by child-rearing, stress, and physical health. A season of less sex can be quite normal. “An unsatisfying sex life can create a wedge in the relationship, but just because there is a struggle in this area does not necessarily mean the relationship will be doomed.”

5. You’re Not on the Same Page About Money

It’s okay if you and your partner have some differing ideas about money — but being on totally opposing pages about finances puts a serious strain on your relationship. Everyday life entails innumerable decisions about money, so disparate financial philosophies may cause daily struggle.

Though it’s normal (and even healthy) for couples to have some strongly worded discussions about money, a healthy relationship is marked by the way it handles these conflicts. Again, clear communication is key. “Couples need to discuss the value and meaning of money in their lives, and what it symbolizes for them. Couples almost always differ in terms of their weekly spending habits and can disagree or have ‘fair fights’ about those topics.” As long as you’re striving to understand each other and working toward compromise, she says, financial disagreements don’t have to drive you apart.

6. You Let Apathy Creep In, or You Fall Into a Rut

As innocuous as apathy might sound, feelings of ennui can be just as damaging to marriage as red-hot anger.

Apathy can creep in when you and your spouse neglect quality time together, don’t share interests, or simply fall into a rut. “While stability is essential, excessive routine can lead to feelings of monotony and disinterest.” “External stressors such as work, financial issues, or family problems can also divert attention and emotional energy away from the marriage.” Long-term unresolved conflicts or resentments can eventually create emotional distance, too. If partners don’t feel supported or validated, they may withdraw emotionally from the relationship.

To keep the spark alive in your marriage, counteract apathy with a bit of excitement. Surprise your partner occasionally with gestures, small gifts, or surprises. It also helps to focus on the things you have in common. “Identify common goals or projects that you can work on together. Collaborating on shared objectives can strengthen your bond.” And of course, regularly communicating with your partner about your feelings, needs, and desires keeps your connection strong.

Sign up for Updates

3 Responses to 6 Things That Can Destroy a Marriage or Long-Term Relationship, and How to Avoid Them

  1. Iyanuoluwa Isinkaye October 16, 2023 at 7:20 am

    I love the way you articulated this topic. I know it will help a lot of people understand it better. Thank you

  2. Ibukunoluwa October 16, 2023 at 9:06 am

    Hmm, thanks.

  3. Adegbola Opeyemi October 17, 2023 at 8:49 am

    Spot on!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of new posts by email.