Even couples who have been together for what seems like ages can — and do — go their separate ways. And that can be one of the most confusing break ups of all, for both parties involved. Why would your decade-long relationship stop working? According to experts, there are many reasons long-term couples break up, spanning from a change in values to a lack of physical touch, and none of them are likely easy to accept or understand when you're going through it.
You may start to notice your relationship heading south over the course of a few months, or it can hit you suddenly one day that things between you and your partner just don't work the way they used to, which can be difficult to grasp, and understandably so. In an effort to try to accept what went wrong in your relationship, it might be helpful to take a look at some of these common reasons long-term couples break up.
1. Unresolved Issues
There may be some issues that you and your partner argue about a million times and still can't seem to agree. Although you're bound to disagree on things here or there, relationship expert Susan Winter tells Woman's Day that, "ongoing fights that never reach common ground promote the type of lingering animosity that destroys any love that exists.
These ongoing disagreements can make couples feel like they can't work together as a team and foster doubt in the validity of their partner selection process, Winter explains. "Couples need to be able to move through life's challenges together in order to feel confidence in their relationship," she adds.
2. Chronic Dismissal
Falling into a routine or allowing a relationship to become habitual are common issues couples may face over the course of their long-term partnerships, which can result in a lack of spontaneity and adventure. When that happens, "it's easy to stop making an effort and begin to take our partner for granted," Winter says. "No one likes to feel like a non-priority, [and] the aggravated version of this behavior is chronic dismissal."
Chronic dismissal can show itself in various ways, she explains. Your partner could consistently interrupt your self-expression, criticize what you say and think, make you feel unimportant and unheard, dismiss your feelings, or refuse to take responsibility for making you feel badly. "Our self-esteem plummets when the one who is supposed to love us makes us feel unseen, undervalued, and discounted on a regular basis," Winter says.
3. Active Addictions
Although addiction is a disease outside of anyone's control, it can still hurt a relationship. "Partners who have active addictions create a chaotic and unstable environment," Winter says. "They're emotionally unpredictable because their life revolves around the highs and lows of feeding their addiction."
In a relationship dynamic, the non-addict often becomes the parent, and the other becomes the child, which Winter says can lead to resentment and hostility from both parties. "Unwillingness to get treatment can become the death knell of a marriage or long-term relationship."
4. A Life-Changing Experience
When someone goes through a life-changing experience like a health scare, a death, or job loss, they may gain a new perspective on life that causes them to reevaluate the things they once wanted. Going through an experience like this can make "them realize that they want different things than their partner does, and they want to be more fulfilled in the years they have left in life," Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., author of new release Detox Your Thoughts, tells Woman's Day.
Regardless of how long you've been with your partner, if he or she does something that causes you to feel betrayed, that could be detrimental to your relationship. "Things like financial dishonesty or sexual infidelity can split a couple even after decades," Bonior says.
6. No Space for Growth
Relationships are built differently. Some give partners the space to individually grow over the course of a relationship, while others may not allow that change. With the latter, "new hobbies and interests and habits take their toll over time to the point where emotional intimacy is gone,"Bonior says. "The couple is not truly sharing their lives in a meaningful way besides living together." This issue sometimes comes to light with newly empty nesters, when a couple may realize they don't have much in common besides their kids anymore.
7. Conflict In Values
At one point in your long-term relationship, you and your partner may feel like you're at a crossroads. You value one thing, and they value another, and that can be difficult to grasp. "As we get older, we often become more aware of what our values are, and we're less willing to live out of alignment with those values," Los-Angeles based therapist Dr. Lauren Cook tells Woman's Day. People change over time, and it's possible that you and/or your partner change too drastically to fit together perfectly like you once did.
8. No Longer "Dating"
You've probably heard that you have to continue to date even when you've been together for decades. It's normal to stop engaging in exciting experiences because you're already so comfortable with each other, but it's important to keep dating throughout your entire relationship. If you stop dating, "the human brain starts to get bored with the monotony, and a relationship can feel stagnant, especially if this has been the case for years on end," Dr. Cook says.
9. Lack of Physical Touch or Intimacy
Sex is a big part of a relationship, but it's not the only way to be physically intimate with one another. "It's the little moments of a kiss goodbye, holding hands, and cuddling on the couch," Dr. Cook says. "When a couple is no longer engaging in physical touch on a regular basis, it's easy to feel like roommates rather than partners."
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