Why Do People Break Up?

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Every relationship can be unique, and the reasons for breakups can be just as unique. Still, there may be several common reasons that relationships come to an end. These can include infidelity, lack of effort, fading feelings, loss of trust, and a pattern of unproductive or unhealthy fighting. If you and your significant other have been experiencing issues, or if you’re having trouble coping with a recent breakup, online therapy can be beneficial.

The context of relationships

When things are going right in your relationship, it can be hard to see the potential for problems that many relationships carry. However, even good, healthy relationships generally require work and may not always be easy. The truth may be that a lot of people who break up once had a great relationship. If, at the beginning of the relationship, the partners each worked hard to make the other person feel loved, appreciated, and heard, what could have changed to lead to the decision to end this? If you understand the answer to this question, then you may be better equipped to have healthy relationships in your own life. 

It can be rare for a relationship to fall apart all at once. Usually, there are warning signs that things between the couple are becoming strained. When those problems continue without being addressed for a long time, the following things may happen and cause the relationship to end.

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Why do people break up?

  1. Infidelity

One of the biggest reasons that people tend to break up or get divorced can be because one of the people in the relationship (or both) cheated. For some, it may be possible to get through this period and move past the infidelity. For others, there may be no way to get around it, and it can end the relationship. 

Infidelity can happen even if there is no sex or other physical intimacy involved. Even if you manage to get past it, sometimes it can start to cause a wedge in the relationship in other ways, such as a lack of trust. It can be important to respect your partner's boundaries when it comes to what helps them feel secure versus insecure in your relationship.

  1. Lack of effort

When you first get into a relationship, you might both put in all kinds of effort, sometimes without it feeling like a lot of effort. In these circumstances, you are generally new to each other and interested in learning and experiencing everything about that person. It might not feel like a chore to be nice to each other or to do the little things that you know the other person loves. It can feel like second nature to take care of them and go out of your way to make them happy. Part of this likely has to do with the fact that you may be trying to make that person want to stick around, and vice versa. But as time goes on, it may become more and more difficult to attend to your significant other with the same amount of energy. You may not even think about it anymore, or it can start to feel like work, so the efforts might fade over time.

  1. Fading feelings

If you're happily in love, it may seem entirely impossible that you could fall out of love with your significant other, but it may be possible. Sometimes, you might find out further down the road that they might not be the one for you. Relationships with a high level of conflict can cause pain that can contribute to falling out of love. Maybe the relationship just doesn't feel the same way it used to, and you're not happy about what it's like now. Some of this falling out of love might have to do with number two above: that one or both of you have stopped putting in effort and trying to make your relationship special.

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  1. Loss of trust

Infidelity in a relationship can be a clear example of what can cause a lack of trust to occur, but there may be other examples of dishonest behavior that can contribute to doubts about your partner and the relationship as a whole. Maybe they lied about something small, and it ate away at you. Maybe they lied about something major, and it broke everything apart. Trust, once lost, can be difficult to regain. 

If your significant other lied about something, it could mean they've lied about other things, or that they might lie in the future. The person who was dishonest must generally admit responsibility and apologize. Forgiving people for mistakes can be a difficult but necessary thing to do on the road to rebuilding trust. 

Sometimes, one person hasn't necessarily done anything dishonest, but the other person in the relationship may feel so insecure that trust can be shaky to begin with.

  1. Too much (unproductive) fighting

As relationships progress, we might start to see our partner in a more realistic light, and vice versa. There may naturally be things your partner does that might start to bother you. Those little habits that were cute when you first started dating could now become irritating. Those new habits you didn't know about until you got closer have perhaps turned into something you can't stand. 

It can be normal to have disagreements and even arguments in a healthy relationship because the two of you are different people. It would likely be unrealistic to expect that you would be exactly alike or agree on everything. However, unproductive or destructive behavior during disagreements or conflicts can harm a relationship. Being able to approach and resolve conflicts in a healthy way can be crucial for successful, lasting relationships (romantic or otherwise).

Online individual and couples therapy

Perhaps you and your partner are going through a rough patch, or maybe you recently experienced a breakup and are having trouble moving forward. Either way, an online therapy platform may hold the solution. You can virtually connect with a licensed therapist on your own or with your partner to address any emotional challenges or relationship issues you’ve been experiencing. Often, online therapy sessions can be more convenient to schedule and attend, as you can receive help from any location with an internet connection at a time that fits your schedule.

This study stated that online couples therapy could be effective, and many couples reported a strong therapeutic alliance with the mental health professional they worked with. Meanwhile, this study found that individual online therapy was generally as effective as in-person therapy.

Getty/AnnaStills

Takeaway

The most common reasons for breakups usually include fading feelings, infidelity, a lack of effort, a loss of trust, and a pattern of unproductive, unhealthy fights. If you’ve encountered issues in your relationship or are struggling to move on after a breakup, you may wish to work with an online therapist who can provide insight and guidance.
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