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10 Warning Signs a Relationship Is Going to Fail

by Elise Wile

The warning signs of a relationship's impending failure can be both subtle and as loud as a blaring car horn outside your bedroom window at 3 a.m. If you recognize any of these signs, take action to try to improve your relationship soon, or it will likely be over.

Jealousy and Selfishness

Jealousy can trigger behaviors that will drive off a love one, says "Psychology Today" editor at large, Hara Estroff Marano. Contrary to popular belief, jealousy is not equated with the strength of love. Rather, it is rooted in relationship-destroying insecurity. Jealousy's evil twin, selfishness, can also cause a relationship to fail. Generally speaking, people get back what they give. If a relationship suffers from one or more partners putting their own needs and desires first, it is unlikely to last for long -- or, at least, not happily so.

Distance and Disconnection

Even if you don't argue much, your relationship can still be in trouble. Couples who are conflict avoidant may withdraw and become disconnected, says psychologist Robert Solley, Ph.D. in an article on PsychCentral.com. Couples may put physical distance between themselves, such as the hypothetical case of Ann and Joshua, where Ann has chosen to work two jobs in spite of not needing the money, and Joshua is planning a summer jaunt through South America -- without Ann. Or the relationship may simply have emotional disconnection, with both parties preferring to engage in solitary activities and avoid joint activities and conversation. Either of these are a sign the relationship is in trouble.

Sneering and Insulting

John Gottman's four horsemen of the (relationship) apocalypse include criticism and contempt. Unproductive criticism, in which a partner is criticized to no end -- such as a spouse who tells the other that her cooking is awful, yet wouldn't notice if she became a four star chef -- is corrosive to a relationship. Too much of this behavior and the relationship will likely fail. A close cousin to criticism is contempt. If a girlfriend sneers at her boyfriend that he's "not a real man," for example, a death knoll has sounded for the partnership.

Defensiveness and Stonewalling

Gottman's other two horsemen are defensiveness and stonewalling. If partners get in the habit of blaming others for legitimate problems in the relationship, problem-solving will come to a halt and the relationship may end. Look out for statements such as "I wouldn't get drunk if you didn't stress me out so much," as these signify a defensiveness that is a relationship killer. A result of defensiveness -- and other problems such as unproductive criticism, is stonewalling. If your concerns about your relationship fall on deaf ears, or if you storm out the door when your partner attempts to discuss a problem with you, the length of your relationship will likely be short.

Infidelity and Abuse

Infidelity and abuse are real deal-breakers for a relationship. Not only does cheating destroy trust, but it exposes the cheater's partner to sexually transmitted diseases. If one partner is emotionally involved with another outside of the relationship, he will have little energy to invest in improving his current partnership. In the case of abuse, if the relationship is not over soon, it should be. Verbal and emotional abuse can rapidly escalate to physical abuse, according to Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. at HelpGuide.org.

About the Author

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.

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