Identifying what is causing problems in your relationship will increase the love in your life. These causes of relationship problems range from sabotage to laziness; they’re inspired by a reader who is realizing that she is causing problems with her boyfriend.

In Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last, John Gottman teaches you how to recognize attitudes that doom a marriage — contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling — and provides practical exercises, quizzes, tips, and techniques that will help you understand and make the most of your relationship. You can avoid patterns that lead to divorce, especially if you learn what is causing problems in your relationship.

“I think I am the toxic one in this relationship,” says Rachel on 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship. “I am manipulative and if things do not go my way, I lose my temper and throw tantrums. I’ve been wanting to end it and he just doesn’t understand that I am the cause of our relationship problems. I don’t even know how we lasted so long with my kind of attitude. It’s mostly him working on our relationship, not me.”

It’s easier to start dealing with relationship problems when you have an idea of what’s causing those problems. Relationships aren’t huge mysteries – unless, of course, you’re in the relationship! Then it’s difficult to see what’s going on, and what the causes of relationship problems are. That’s why it’s extremely helpful to see a marriage counselor or couples therapist. An objective, professional opinion can change how you see your relationship, your partner, and your self.

10 Causes of Relationship Problems

If you know your relationship is lacking in ways other than I’ve described here, please share in the comments section. I think I’ve covered all the possible causes of relationship problems, but I may be missing something…

Emotional or mental health issues

This is probably the biggest cause of problems in a relationship: unresolved emotional or mental health issues in one or both partners. If something in your life is holding you back from participating in a healthy relationship, talk to a counselor. Find ways to deal with your personal problems so they don’t destroy your relationship.


Rachel’s comment reveals a codependent relationship; she is one of the main causes of relationship problems, and her boyfriend is doing all the work. Her boyfriend may not be happy with an emotionally healthy woman. He may be drawn to Rachel because he is comfortable doing all the work. This is familiar and safe to him, because he’s been in similar relationships in the past.

If you recognize you and your partner in my description of codependency, read How to Untangle a Codependent Relationship. It’s one of the most common causes of relationship problems.


Some relationship problems – especially in long-term marriages that have been neglected for years or even decades – are caused by indifference. One or both partners don’t care anymore, and have no interested in putting energy or time into saving the relationship. This may be caused by a tragedy (such as the loss of a child), or it may just be the result of long-term neglect.

Lack of a common vision or goals

Couples who want different things in life will run into all sorts of relationship problems. Lifestyle, career, family, spiritual, and even physical health choices need to line up for the good of your relationship. If you and your partner are chasing different things of life, you’ll have problems uniting for the good of your life together.

Abuse and neglect

Abuse may seem like one of the most obvious causes of relationship problems, but it’s surprising how many people stay with abusive partners. Abuse isn’t just about being pushed, hit, or kicked. Verbal and emotional abuse is just as destructive.

If you suspect you’re in an abusive relationship but you feel confused, read Examples of Verbal Abuse in Relationships.


Do you find yourself destroying relationships that are going well? Perhaps you lie, cheat, or neglect your partner – and you find yourself more surprised than anyone that you destroyed yet another relationship. You’re good at starting and ending relationships, but the problem for you is maintaining a healthy relationship.


Is being emotionally or physically unfaithful a form of relationship sabotage? It depends on the reasons for the infidelity. Emotional disconnection is one of the main causes of relationship problems that lead to infidelity. If you and your partner aren’t connected on a heart level, you’re more likely to stray into other relationships.

Fear of intimacy

A surprising number of people are scared to get too close to the ones they love. Why? Shame and guilt are often the reason for this type of relationship problems. We feel ashamed of ourselves and guilty for the things we’ve done – or the things we were told we did – and we don’t feel we deserve to be loved. We feel we aren’t lovable, so we put walls up. We’re scared to be vulnerable.

Family issues

I’ve written several articles on how parents affect our love lives. Family issues, such as controlling parents or drug-addicted siblings, can be a cause of relationship problems. If you and your partner have family issues, you both need to decide that your relationship is more important than your family. You need to choose each other.

To learn how to deal with stress as a couple, read 6 Ways to Solve Problems in Your Relationship.


Substance abuse, gambling, workaholism, overeating, and other forms of addictions are a huge problem in relationships. There are so many good things in life that become the main thing, that overcome our hearts, minds, and souls. We become a slave to what drives us, instead of a healthy happy partner in a relationship. Addictions are especially difficult to overcome when the addict can’t or won’t admit there is a problem.

I welcome your thoughts on the causes of relationship problems. I can’t offer relationship advice or counseling, but sharing your experience might help you cope with the problems you’re facing.

My prayer for all couples facing relationship problems is for peace, love, and joy in their union together. May they realize they’re on the same side, and treat each other with love and respect.

READ MORE:  7 Signs For Being Yourself In A New Relationship

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