A psychologist breaks down the top 12 reasons couples break up

Many people come to therapy when their relationship is on the verge of collapse. They ask questions like:

  • “Should I have seen this coming?”
  • “Why do I always feel like I’m failing in love? Is it all my fault? »
  • “Is there a way to stop the ship from sinking?”
  • “What does this mean for my future?”

Whether it’s a relatively new relationship or a long-standing marriage, breaking up is hard. To research published in the Journal of Family Psychology shows that breakups increase psychological distress and reduce life satisfaction. Often, the negative effects of a breakup can impact mental health for months or even years after the breakup.

After a relationship has soured, it’s important to take stock of what went wrong. This can be done on your own or with the help of a therapist and it can prevent you from getting into a similar vulnerable situation in the future.

It’s also important to orient yourself to the common things that lead to breakups. It can help normalize your own situation and perhaps point you to a better path in the future. Remember that breaking up is a part of life: about half of first marriages end in divorce and to research shows that more than one in three single people between the ages of 18 and 35 have experienced at least one breakup in the past two years. In other words, it’s not just a “you” problem.

Here are the top 12 reasons couples break up, according to Scientific Research conducted on couples in Great Britain and published in the journal PLOS-ONE.

  1. Has separated
  2. arguments
  3. Infidelity
  4. Disrespect
  5. Different interests
  6. Moved
  7. Money problems
  8. Not sharing household chores
  9. Difficulties with sex
  10. Domestic violence
  11. Have no children
  12. Alcohol/drugs/gambling

Interestingly, the results were relatively consistent for both men and women. Both genders cited “breaking up” and “quarreling” as the two main factors for dissolution. ‘Lack of respect’ was a more important factor for women than for men, as were ‘money problems’, ‘not sharing domestic responsibilities’ and ‘domestic violence’.

Other to research published in the Journal of social and personal relationships found that many of the issues that ultimately led to a divorce (e.g., communication issues, infidelity, etc.) were present early in the relationship. It’s important to listen for warning signs and not expect these things to correct themselves.

It’s also important to keep in mind that, as difficult as it may seem, you heal after a breakup. A study found that divorcing couples derive significant psychological gains from the dissolution of their marriage, and men and women tend to benefit equally.

“Divorce works,” say the authors. “Evidence suggests that marriage dissolution ultimately produces an increase in psychological well-being. For couples who do, the leap into the dark appears to improve their lives.


Breaking up can be an emotionally devastating experience. But it is important to learn from it. Take the time to think about what went wrong and what you could do in the future to protect yourself from another disappointment. To research suggests that breakups hurt more when couples’ lives are more intertwined (e.g. you live together, you share finances, you have kids or pets together, you share the same network of friends, etc.) . Consider this when you’re ready to explore a new relationship.

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