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Ask Arya: Why relationships fail

In this episode of “Ask Arya Live,” I explore the two most common reasons why most relationships fail.

Believe it or not, it’s actually quite simple. And it definitely has very little to do with incompatibility, at least on the surface.

why relationships fail

Reason #1 Most Relationships Fail:

Couples Forget They Are Still Separate People.

When people hear, “and the two shall become one,” what many fail to understand is that what we become together does NOT take away from who we are separately.

What we actually become is a TEAM unit moving forward; two individuals joining forces to do life side by side. So if you mess with my partner, you mess with ME.

It’s no different than if you messed with any of my friends or my children – you’re messing with me too.

When I was growing up, my sister who is two and a half years younger than me was always taller than I was. As a fourth grader, I was still about the size of your typical second grader. Despite this, somehow I got on the sh$% list with some fifth grade girls (still don’t know how that happened to tell you the truth).

Well at recess one day, these twat waffles were harassing me and out of nowhere, here comes my actual second grader of a baby sister charging down the playground! She knocked those self-entitled wenches to the ground like a bowling ball for bimbos! Ride or die.

In much the same way, my man knows I have his back 100%. I am his greatest cheerleader and his closest confidant. We make decisions together, celebrate together, and share in times of loss together.

why do most relationships fail?

United We Stand But Divided We’re Still Having Fun

At the end of the day however, we are still two separate individuals with separate identities and separate preferences and needs. Sometimes there’s an overlap (e.g., we both love 90’s music, Star Trek & Star Wars, and traveling) and sometimes there’s just not (e.g., he loves online RPG’s and I prefer books).

Getting frustrated because our partners don’t want to do absolutely everything with us or even worse, agree with us on everything is a quick recipe for splitsville.

And side note, it is this sense of “other’ness” that keeps the sex hot too.  If I can’t see you as being separate from me, possessing qualities I don’t have, not always being around me so I can miss you, or being interested in your own things that light you up inside and get you all passionate and sexy like, my libido withers.

Great Love Requires Mutual Respect for Autonomy.

This means my friends, if we’re going to feel truly satisfied in any relationship, our unions must be characterized by one of my favorite terms in all of psychology – mutual respect for one another’s autonomy.

In other words, I gift you with your own path.

Your own “right” to be.

a healthy relationship requires respect for autonomyYou can choose to be whatever you like, enjoy whatever you like, hate whatever you like, and I will still be here in the morning, even if I disagree with you. And I hope you would do the same for me.

Most couples have a much easier time having respect for anyone else’s autonomy besides their spouse. Likely because out of everyone on the planet who we would want to agree with us, it would be our partners. When we feel criticized or critiqued by him/ her, it hurts a million times greater.

(Disclaimer – I am NOT referring to any form of abuse. If that s$% is going on, seek professional help immediately. The differences I am talking about gifting one another with fall under the realm of behaviors and preferences that could still be deemed as healthy for a relationship (e.g., hobbies, quality time vs. alone time, etc).)

So if your partner was an extrovert when you met but you are an introvert, it is unkind and unloving (and totally naïve) to think your partner will want to suddenly stay home every Saturday night for the rest of his/ her life. A great demonstration in mutual respect for one another’s autonomy could mean you all have a quiet and intimate date night on Fridays and then he/she goes out with mutually agreed upon platonic friends on Saturdays.

Reason #2 Most Relationships Fail:

Couples Fail to Adapt Over Time.

Ever heard the Buddhist saying, “You can’t step into the same river twice”??

It really drives home the point that everything is in a state of flux, including human beings. This goes for you and your partner too.

Lifelong Marriage Never Involves The Same People.

You may be married 30, 40, 80 years but it will NEVER be to the same man or woman.


Because our needs and preferences and “love languages” change throughout time, development as a person and as a couple, but also in response to new situations in life too.

Think about it this way – is what you were looking for from someone at 16 really the same as what you need now??

Most teenage girls are high on needing to feel desired and belonged to. It’s not that 30 year old women don’t want those things anymore, but they also typically tend to be high on wanting help around the house or adult conversation if they’re currently stay-at-home moms raising babies. So a woman in her 30’s may rank her need for freedom or survival higher than she used to.

I remember making the shift from stay-at-home mom to graduate psychology student to entrepreneur. At each developmental stage, my needs and wants from my partner shifted as well. If he was unable or unwilling to adapt with me, the whole system would collapse in on itself and I would’ve been left feeling very unloved.

couples therapy pensacolaWhat happens if, God-forbid, one of us comes down with cancer?? Talk about a perspective changer! Sex may take a backseat while we worry about survival or maybe it becomes more of a priority if we decide we’re not letting anything keep us from our fun and connection.

Many couples I see are hurting and struggling to connect because one of them has experienced a SHIFT in life and the other one feels abandoned or rejected as a result. The key is to move together.

I refer you back to reason #1. Gift him/ her with their own path and see if there’s a way to join in.

Wishing you many years of love, laughter, and great sex,


Additional Resources:

Handout on Seven Deadly Behaviors (and what to do instead)

Getting Together and Staying Together: Solving the Mystery of Marriage” by Dr. William & Carleen Glasser

Eight Lessons for a Happier Marriage” by Dr. William & Carleen Glasser

The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships” by Dr. John Gottman & Joan DeClaire

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by Dr. John Gottman, & Nan Silver

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last” by Dr. John Gottman

relationship therapist

Tamara Powell, LMHC is the founder of Arya Therapy Services, a counseling and coaching clinic in Pensacola, FL that also offers services globally ONLINE.

She is a relationship therapist and empowerment coach and is Arya’s resident “identity and intimacy guru” with specialties in gender, sexual, erotic, and relational diversity (GSERD) including polyamory and kink. If you’re interested in working with her, you can book a session with her here.

©Arya Therapy Services, 2016. All rights reserved.



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