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Home / Relationships

Why do all my relationships end?

 So far all my relationships have gradually unwound and we’ve eventually broken up (Shutterstock)

Hi Chris,

How can you tell whether a relationship is going to last? Mine are generally quite good, and they usually last a fair while, but somehow they’ve all eventually come to an end. Not because either of us did anything particularly bad to one another.

In fact, I’d have said that my boyfriends and I were usually pretty good together. But so far all my relationships have gradually unwound and we’ve eventually broken up.

So how can I spot when things are going wrong?

Will He Last?

——

Hi Will He Last?

It’s actually surprisingly difficult to tell how long a relationship will last. Because everyone starts off full of optimism and thinks things will never end. Then you have your first serious argument. Instantly you’re scared, but you soon settle down again and feel closer than before. But that belief’s actually an illusion.

Psychologists have also learned not to trust their intuition about relationships. Instead they score couple’s behaviour, for example by counting verbal and non-verbal expressions of humour, contempt, anger, and affection. Because the couples who will stick together are the ones who use humour well, and who are calm, affectionate, companionable and supportive.

But psychologist’s scales are far too complicated for everyday use. Instead, there are a couple of very simple formulae you can use. The first goes like this:

Your relationship’s strength = How often you’re intimate - how often you quarrel

You want the result to consistently come out positive, because negative predicts misery.

This formula works because happy couples are intimate more often than they argue, while unhappy couples argue more than they’re intimate. It’s as simple as that.

So just count your moments of intimacy and your quarrels over the past few days, and put them into the formula.

Intimacy means everything from feeling emotionally close to being naked between the sheets, and a quarrel means anytime one of you gets angry, is physically or verbally abusive, refuses to talk, or storms out. Worry if a previously positive score goes negative, and start looking for the reasons.

Because your relationship’s fine so long as you’re intimate more often than you’re fighting. The other way round and eventually things will go wrong.

Another good check is to count how often a ‘bid for attention’ by one of you gets a positive response. For example, if one of you points out something in the newspaper to the other. Showing interest is a positive response. Saying ‘I’m busy, don’t disturb me!’ isn’t! 

If less than one in three of your bids for attention succeed, then you’ll not be together much longer. But if nine out of ten succeed then your relationship could last forever!

All the best,

Chris

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