The Top Five Things That Make or Break a Relationship

couples-relationship-communication-0422137Relationships take practice. We can expect to improve our game of tennis by practicing regularly and changing our workouts; so can we expect improvements in our marriages if we continually practice and change our routines. In a recent article, relationship experts highlight the top five things that can make or break relationships. Some factors that predict risk of relationship failure include poor socioeconomic status and age. People who are younger, have fewer financial resources, and enter marriage already a parent, are more likely to have relationship stress than those who wait longer to marry and have children and those with more financial means. Another sign of potential relationship stress is having cold feet.  One study found that women who entered into marriage with cold feet were twice as likely to get divorced than those who did not have premarital doubts. Education also seems to protect people from divorce. According to some research, women who have bachelor’s degrees have an almost 80% chance of seeing their marriages pass the 20 year mark, while those with only high school level education have a less than 50% chance of reaching the same milestone.

But there are things people can do to protect their marriages. First and foremost, focus on the little things. According to University of Michigan’s Terri Orbuch, PhD, couples should make an effort to acknowledge and validate each other. She said, “Doing or saying small things frequently to make your partner feel special, cared for and loved … is very predictive of staying together, being happy and [preventing] divorce.” Communication is another sign of how long a relationship will last. John Gottman, PhD, founder of Gottman Institute, says that couples who resolve disagreements with respect and kindness will stay together longer than those who use defensive or hostile tactics or those who ignore their problems. Also, communicating about more than work, kids, and the house is essential. Couples who have successful, fulfilling relationships spend time talking about their dreams, hopes, and aspirations. They fantasize about the future together and actively pursue new and different activities with each other. In doing so, they prolong the dating phase by continually discovering new things about each other. These simple steps keep them from growing bored with each other the way stagnant couples do. Recognizing the little victories is another way to foster love. If each partner celebrates the positive moments in the other’s life, it creates a feeling of being honored and valued. Getting a raise is great, but even better if the one we love showers us with compliments and accolades for it. Finally, all of the experts note that loving our partner does not guarantee that we will stay together. Good relationships take practice. And practicing love with open communication, thoughtful actions, and a willingness to keep the spark alive will improve our chances of winning in the long run.

Miller, Anna. Can this marriage be saved? American Psychological Association 44.4 (2013): 42. Print.

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  • Ryan

    April 22nd, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Most people forget that marriage takes a WHOLE lot of work to be successful.
    It’s not just slipping a ring on someone’s finger.
    It is about the work, the communication, and the dedication that you need to have for and with one another.
    Most of the divorces I have seen come from couples just getting lazy, getting tired of putting in all of the hard work that a good marriage requires.

  • Jill

    April 22nd, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    From what I’ve seen over the years the lack of the “mystery” factor is what sets in the unhappiness. “Mystery” is what we do not know and are I. The process if discovering about our partner. As soon as the mystery factor no longer exists a sense of complacency sets in and that is when the troubles begin. So as has been mentioned talking about the future and your fantasies seems to be a great idea to maintain the mystery.

  • Michaela

    April 23rd, 2013 at 3:57 AM

    My soon to be ex husband accused me of prioritizing our four children over him. Three years ago he began an affair with a work colleague he had been working with for a few years. He had told me that she was in a unhappy marriage, but I sensed no danger in this because I thought our relationship was rock solid. I didnt think my husband would be capable of such hardness and cruelty towards his wife of nearly twenty years. He told me he had fallen in love with her and she with him. He no longer loved me and didn’t want to work on our relationship in spite of the kids. He wanted our kids to get to know her and her daughter and thought they would all make a great blended family. Just I should disappear as quickly as possible, get a full time job so I wouldnt financially burden him, and let him move on.
    It was his opinion that I hadn’t worked on our marriage , but doesn’t that take two? I had been a housewife and worked part time as an English teacher, as well as taking care of the four children. My family couldn’t support me because they lived abroad. once a week his mum came to see the kids for an hour or two while I gave after school tuition at home. He never told me he was unhappy but a few weeks before his confession and before he left us for her , he began to lose his temper easily with the kids and was aggressive to me.
    It hurts that he never gave our relationship a chance because he didn’t communicate that he was unhappy and frustrated that ” couple-time ” for the two of us was getting less because our kids were always around.
    Breaking his marriage vows led to my broken heart.

  • monique

    April 23rd, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    Just not having the ability to communicate with one another is a deal breaker. You have to know how to disagree with always having a fight, you have to know how to state your thoughts without belittling those of your partner, and you have to be willing to say enough is enough and apologize to make the peace. If you can’t do that then I believe that the relationship is doomed to fail.

  • Thomas

    July 17th, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    I am a man with a lovely fiancé and two children. We have been together for over 9 years. I truly love this woman and our children with all my heart. We are having difficulty now and after talking with her she expressed that she has not been happy for some time and it was me and my denial for my inability to be more intimate with her. I went to counseling to address my issues of which I have many. I struggle with them but now I know what they are. Now she explained to me that she is confused about how she feels about herself. We are both terrified of losing each other and want these feelings to subside. I do not know what to do but to back off and let her be, but we live together and the children as well. I do not know what to do. I do not want anyone else.

  • Sandra

    January 8th, 2015 at 10:17 PM

    Both of u should go 4 counselling! It wil work

  • faith b

    February 12th, 2015 at 3:28 AM

    it has been almost a month i do text but no replies if feel something is wrong and am totally worried coz ilove him so much

  • Carol F.

    September 22nd, 2018 at 1:31 PM

    The subject of failed relationships is a really complex one. I know I have learned a great deal from my two failed marriages, and many failed relationships. I never did give up completely on love an found it once again at the age of 54 years, and now we have been married for 16 years. I think it is easy for a relationsip to fail, IMHO, as all it takes is for someone else to pay doting attention of your partner, for your partner to fall in love with someone else. It takes maturity to realize that the early rush is just that, and that how your relationship develops and lasts depends on all the positive you put into it. I know that it takes way more positives to outweigh any negatives, but I find comfort in the low key nature of my 16 year marriage, where we know we love each other, where we do keep lines of communication open, where we use peaceful communication to resolve any conflicts, where we both are willing to humble ourselves and apologize as needed, and where we are considerate of the other person’s needs. I am thankful for all that I have learned though much of it was the hard way that is for certain. Also, personal boundaries are very vital in all of one’s relationships, and using the discretion encouraged by the format for personal communication, to keep one’s requests of your partner, reasonable and doable. I don’t call it work personally, I just call it applying what one has learned in life to getting along with your partner. Thanks for listening.

  • Eric

    December 14th, 2022 at 6:47 PM

    Mary is 72, I am 66, Im a widower, shes a widow, we are both Catholic. Together for a year and a half, she helped me prepare and leave for the Camino de Santiago walk across northern Spain which started September 1, 2022. I finished October 6 2022, and Mary joined me to travel in Spain and portugal for a few days, which was happy and blissful. Soon after returning to the U.S. Mid Occtober, Mary’s communications got more and more clipped. Finally she told me she realized while I was gone that she liked her house better without me in it than with me in it. I was shellshocked and blindsided. We met once after that for an great normal happy lunch. And I’ve not seen her since. She left for new Zealand 12/10 and will be gone for two nonths.
    I have trouble sleeping at night, I think about her constantly, and I wrack my brain thinking of the things I may have done wrong to cause this to happen. I feel worse about this breach with Mary than I did about my wife Kathy dying in 2018. I would love to hear from others with their insights. Thank you for reading this.

  • GoodTherapy Support

    December 15th, 2022 at 5:07 PM

    Dear Eric, Thank you so much for your comment! If you are looking to consult with a mental health professional, you can start finding therapists in your area by entering your city or ZIP code into the search field on this page: Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. You may click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. If you need help finding a therapist, you are welcome to call us. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time, and our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext 3. Kind regards, The GoodTherapy Team

  • Eric

    December 14th, 2022 at 6:49 PM

    Please give me your insights to my message.

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