Couple happy

The Five Big Marriage Killers and How to Avoid Them

By on Jun 17, 2017

Earlier this week I wrote for MindBodyGreen about the five most common reasons that relationships end. These are the Big Five, the silent marriage killers that strike so many relationships the world over and lead to emptiness, heartbreak, and broken families.

Let’s look at the Big Five relationship killers and how you can dive deeper if one of these issues is affecting your relationship.

1. Recurring Fights

There is fighting in every relationship at some point. For many, however, there’s also a clear recurring pattern; couples fight the same issues over and over again. The proxy issue might change, but the underlying topic is always the same.

This is because each of us has emotional triggers, issues that evoke our deepest needs and wants. The fight might be about the laundry, but it isn’t really about the laundry; what has us heated is that not putting away the laundry signals that our partner is not reliable and might not be there for us in our moment of true need.

There are usually only one or two emotional triggers for each of us, things that really get us worked up. Once we recognize the real concerns, we can stop the cycle of fights by tackling the real issues.

For more on this topic, watch my video, Rekindling the Spark in Your Relationship.

2.  Checking Out Emotionally

There’s a lot you can do for your relationship by working on your half of the partnership. That said, strong relationships take both partners. A second relationship killer is when you or your partner slowly checks out emotionally and stops working on the marriage.

The reason that people slowly drift away from their marriage and stop investing emotionally is because they are not having their needs met. When we feel our partner is not listening to us, and we’re all alone, we eventually tune out and handle things ourselves or go numb. Both lead to the creation of distance and a slow strangulation of the partnership.

While there are many ways we can fix this issue, one of the best is learning how to avoid turning our wishes into complaints. When our needs sound like a demand or an attack, our partner is much less likely to work with us on meeting our needs.

Learn more about this challenge and how to stay connected with my video, Saving Your Marriage.

3.  Mismatched Values

So much of the dating game is about finding a partner who has the same values as us. The truth is that we never can find someone who aligns with our values 100 percent, and even if we do find that perfect person it is nearly impossible for us to stay completely in alignment because both of us are growing all the time.

Values mismatches will happen, therefore, and this often creates struggles around money, sex, kids and other important topics that can rip a relationship apart.

Harmonizing our values is the key to avoiding this relationship killer, and that requires better communication and listening skills so we can get on the same team regarding important topics. Compromise is not the key; coming together on these important topics is where we want to go. That takes better communication.

Discover some good techniques for coming together on values differences by watching my video, Money, Sex and Kids.

4.  Not Understanding Ourselves

Blaming others is a lot easier than fingering ourselves as the problem.

While our partner might not be perfect, one of the biggest relationship killers is thinking that the challenges in the relationship are coming from our partner instead of it being a reflection of ourselves.

As Debi Maldonado says, life coach and co-founder of the Academy of Jungian Spiritual Psychology, we give our partner the script to play out and interpret them through our own perspective. If we’re worried about them cheating, it might actually be an issue within us. If we’re feeling like our partner is not hearing us, it might be because we’re not hearing our partner.

So many challenges in our relationship come from not fully understanding ourselves and the scripts we are handing others, especially those we give our life partner.

For more on this important topic, watch my video, The Power of Projection.

5.  Growing Apart

We don’t like to admit it, but here’s the truth: Our relationship is changing all the time. While it would be easier on the partnership if we and our partner stayed the same, that’s just not how it works because people grow and change. Not growing is death, so this change is a good thing.

Change also can be a bad thing for our relationship if we don’t grow together with our partner, however. The fifth big relationship killer is not growing together with our partner.

How we grow together is by consciously and consistently adjusting our roles and expectations with our significant other. Working together is a big part of it, but what sometimes gets missed is evolving plans and expectations as we grow. We are not the same person we were 10 years ago, and we make these mental shifts regarding ourself all the time. What we all too often fail to do is also make these shifts as our partner grows, and we don’t do it with our partner.

You can learn more about this topic and how to grow together by watching my video, Relationships Never Stop Changing.

If you need help with this or any of the Big Five relationship killers, you also can give me a call at Kowalke Coaching. I’ve devoted my life to helping you and others have strong relationships filled with love, connection and happiness. So please reach out if you need help with your relationship, or if you suspect one of these five relationship killers is present in your marriage. I’m here to help.

Talk with a Coach


Peter is founder of Kowalke Coaching. He also is founding director of the Philia Mission, a small charitable organization. Contact Peter.