Relationship failure is tragically common and often takes us by surprise. There’s a lot you can do to prevent things getting that serious, and even if breakdown seems imminent with a little common sense and a lot of goodwill you can still pull it back from the brink.

A learning point

When a  relationship gets into trouble it can be a time of great uncertainty, confusion, and even pain. It doesn’t matter if it is a personal one, like a marriage (Note to PC Guys: I’m using the term figuratively not literally), or a business relationship. If it is important, at some time, differences will inevitably appear.

It’s how you approach those differences that matters. One of the most significant aspects of successful, long-term relationships is that the partners learn from their experiences. Differences in opinions and habits are accepted as valuable learning points, rather than evidence of incompatibility.

Difference not division

For those who don’t, how differences are expressed can easily be confused with the core problem, with the result that time and effort are wasted, and the relationship failure may eventually result. So diiferences themselves aren’t the problem; it’s how we talk about them and whether we accept them or not, that causes friction

All too often, when a relationship gets into difficulty the early signs go unnoticed, ignored, or denied. Later on, when things have ‘got serious’ the indicators (arguments, differences, problems communicating, breakdown) are seen as ‘the problem’, whereas really, they are symptoms of a relationship that’s not working as well as it could.

The answer? Well, there are many, but the one I’m giving here is about honesty and self-awareness early in the relationship.

Dysfunctional relationships are perpetuated and can to grow into relationship failure if both parties collude in avoiding things that really need to be discussed and resolved; neither side dares or knows how to raise the topic, things drift on… etc.

  1. Sorting this out means first understanding yourself, your needs, and your identity. If this is difficult to do it’s only because you lack practice, so stick at it if you want to help your relationship and yourself.
  2. Engage your partner in meaningful conversation about the relationship, why it exists, and what you are expecting it to do for you both. This fail unless you both share a ‘higher vision’ about the relationship’s importance to you. This can be the hardest part because it is potentially inflammable.
  3. Start small (“Yes we both agree we want the protect and grow the relationship”), and at all costs avoid talking about what’s ‘wrong’ with it (All relationships have things that are ‘wrong’, focus on that and you’ll soon fulfill your own predictions).
  4. You’ve started, you can find your own way from there. Keep the conversation going, don’t ever expect to finish it or settle anything (successful couples keeps this channel open and revisit it regularly as part of the relationship maintenance strategy).

Avoiding relationship failure

The thing is, for a relationship to survive and flourish, both parties need to be mature enough to face what needs doing, and get on with it. Relationship success is defined not by the absence of disputes, but by how well you deal with them as they arise. You can’t do that until the foundations have been properly laid.

Relationship failure is inevitable if you haven’t taken this step.

Health Warning:

If your relationship puts you at serious risk of emotional or physical harm, get out or get help. I am not suggesting that you should patch up something that threatens your safety.