Why Relationships Fail

Relationships in Our Times

All too many relationships fail these days. Marriages fall apart at unprecedented rates. And partners who once thought the world of each other separate in deep hurt and sometimes in disgust.  How does this happen? And why does it happen so frequently? As you might suspect, the answer lies in character.

You have possess character yourself to make a relationship work. But you also have to be able to rightly judge the character of another. Judging character rightly at the outset is often hard to do. Some folks are really good at the art of “impression management.” (For more on this topic see: Deception and Manipulation.) They know how to charm and seduce. They present themselves as one person, and you find the person they present really attractive. You only realize the person they really are later on. And that causes a sense of  deep betrayal and shakes your confidence.

Relationship Risk Factors

It’s unfortunate, but many folks enter relationships either oblivious to or in substantial denial of clear risk factors. Maybe you met your relationship partner while he or she was still in a failing relationship with another person. In fact, your relationship with them might even be a major factor in the other relationship’s demise. It’s all too easy to ascribe all the blame for that failure to your partner’s ex. They’ll tell you they were just with the “wrong person.” But it takes two to make a relationship work. And to believe that you bring in your very person the key to relationship success is folly.

Past behavior is the most reliable predictor of future behavior. So, if your prospective partner had a relationship failure (or several), you’re already at risk. The statistics are clear: folks don’t seem to learn much from past relationship mistakes. The odds of a second or third relationship failure actually exceed the first. And if someone was unfaithful before, the chances are good they’ll have problems being a trustworthy partner to you.

Judging Character Objectively

The overly conscientious folks I affectionately call “neurotic” always want to give others the benefit of the doubt. They hate to judge and to judge too harshly. That’s one of the reasons they sometimes get duped. They want to see the best in folks. And when others only show their best, it’s too easy to be swayed. At the outset of a relationship, most folks put on their best face. And that face can truly charm sometimes. But a person’s relationship record provides a better picture of who they really are in character. And character better predicts relationship success.

To increase your chances for happiness and a successful relationship you have to become a better judge of character. (See also: Becoming a Better Judge of Character Parts 1 and 2.) And more particularly, you have to avoid trying to judge intentions and motivations. When it comes to character, actions speak louder than words or assumed intensions. So what you want to know is how someone conducts him or herself, especially in relationships. We define personality by the way someone prefers to relate. And we judge character by the integrity someone displays in the way they relate. How they’ve related historically best predicts how they will eventually relate with you.


My last workshop tour before taking a break will be in Pennsylvania beginning May 31. And Character Matters will again be broadcast live Sunday May 21, 2017 at 7 pm EDT. I can take your calls at (501) 258-8326 or via Skype (georgeksimon).

As always, many thanks to the readers for all the great comments and for recommending my books and articles to others.

2 thoughts on “Why Relationships Fail

  1. This article is interesting, reinforcing why I got where I am. I fit into the “neurotic” category. That is why I hung onto a bad marriage for so long.
    I still have a little Pollyanna in me, but not near so much after having been betrayed. And reading all these articles and comments from my friends here on the blog thank goodness I’ve come a long way to having changed for the better, to protect myself from the deceptive manipulators.

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