Barbara Markway Ph.D.

Shyness Is Nice

3 Reasons Why Great Relationships Go Bad

Don't let these truths about relationships ruin yours.

Posted Apr 03, 2018

Dean Drobot/Shutterstock
Source: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Do you find yourself falling hard for someone in the early stages of a relationship, only to become disappointed? Maybe it’s only a few months, maybe longer, but at some point, you find yourself saying, “I thought he/she was the one; now, not so much.”

What’s going on? Why the change?

The reasons below might sound fairly obvious, but when you’re in the messiness of the moment, these relationship truths might elude you.

1. People change.

We all know this in theory, but when our dating partner or significant other appears to change, we can freak out or think we’ve gotten a raw deal.

Changes can happen due to circumstance. For example, Jeanine was attracted to her boyfriend because he was funny and carefree. He made her laugh. But when he decided to go to graduate school, she saw a serious side to him that she hadn’t bargained for. She wanted to binge watch Netflix on the couch like they used to. Now, he had to study. She was proud of him and wanted him to succeed, but she also felt abandoned and lonely.

Changes can also happen due to health reasons. For example, I’ve had two back surgeries and now live with persistent pain. My husband and I used to travel, and now this is almost impossible for me. Because I have a difficult time sitting for long periods of time, even attending concerts, something we used to do frequently, has to be carefully planned. I may need to take the next day off from work to recover, and I probably won’t be able to go out to dinner beforehand.

     Reframe your thinking: Not all change is “bad.” Some changes allow you to become more creative or can actually lead to benefits. For example, my husband and I can’t travel anymore, which leaves us with extra financial resources to do things to our home, give money to causes we care about, etc.

     Questions for thought: What changes have taken place in your relationship? How might these changes contribute to positives for you and your partner?

2. What initially attracts us may someday annoy us.  

I remember when my husband and I were dating (some 30 years ago): I thought his apartment was charming. He had newspapers and books all over the floor, and I thought this was a sign of how  intelligent and well-read he was. He wore wrinkled clothes from a thrift shop, and I just thought he was eccentric. Fast forward, and we’re married — and what I once thought was charming, I now view as messy and disorganized. It annoys me when he can’t find his keys. I buy all sorts of little catch-all trays for the stuff in his pockets, and they go unused. I’m sure he can find similar annoying things to say about me. These changes are not unusual and nothing to really get worked up about. When we’re in the romance stage, everything is filtered through rose-colored glasses. We’re much more apt to look at things in a positive light and see the good in the other person.

     Reframe your thinking: It's really not a big deal that my husband can't find his keys, and it happens way less often than I think it does. And it's also not a big deal that he's messier than I am. In the long run, it's our shared deeper values that have made our relationship last.

     Question for thought: Alice Boyes, Ph.D., author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit, offers a great question related to this: "What's a quality your partner does that both irritates you, and that you secretly admire in some respects?" In my case, I secretly admire that my husband is much more relaxed about a lot of things than I am. 

3. We attach our “ego” to our partner.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “marrying up.” In the past, this would usually mean we married someone who was in a higher socio-economic class. It sounds antiquated, but to some extent, we still think that if we are in a relationship with someone who is “successful” and attractive, it reflects well on us. Dating apps like Tinder may perpetuate this when decisions about whether to "swipe left or right" are made based on superficial attributes like appearance. Looks can be an important factor in determining initial attraction, but they're not everything. And if we’re basing long-term relationships on looks, remember Number 1, above: People change. Aging will reliably bring changes in appearance, no matter how much you dye your hair. Similarly, if you’re committing to someone because they’re financially successful, remember that it’s not unusual for people to lose their jobs.  

     Reframe your thinking: It's a myth that we need another person to complete us. Basing our self-esteem on our partner's objective qualities is a setup for disappointment. It's great to be proud of our partners' accomplishments, but these things are actually fleeting.  

     Question for thought: How might your over-valuation on your partner's looks or status put pressure on them? How might it limit their growth, and the growth of a mature relationship between the two of you?