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Relationship Killers and How to Avoid Them

Don't let your relationship fail. Learn about five relationship killers and begin to heal the underlying fears that cause these relationship killers.

As a relationship counselor, I'm constantly asked why many relationships fail. In the 15 years that I have worked with couples, I have discovered five major relationship killers:


Most people enter a relationship with a deep fear of rejection, which motivates various forms of controlling behavior. Controlling behavior falls into two major categories ñ overt control and covert control.

Overt control includes many forms of attack, such as blaming anger, rage, violence, judgment, criticism, and ridicule.

Covert control includes compliance, enabling, withdrawal, defending, explaining, lying, and denying. Often a person at the other end of the attack will respond with some form of covert control to have control over not being attacked.

Controlling behavior always results in resentment and emotional distance, bringing about the very rejection it's meant to avoid.


Many people enter a relationship with a deep fear of being engulfed and controlled of losing themselves. The moment they experience their partner wanting control over them, they respond with resistance withdrawal, unconsciousness, numbness, forgetfulness, and procrastination.

The relationship becomes immobilized when one partner is controlling, and the other is resistant ñ, which is an attempt to handle not being held. Partners in this relationship system feel frustrated, stagnant, and resentful.


Many people enter a relationship believing that it is their partner's job to fill their emptiness, take away their aloneness, and make them feel good about themselves. When people have not learned how to take responsibility for their feelings and needs and define their self-worth, they may pull on their partner and others to fill them with the love they need.


Most people who feel empty inside turn to substance and process addictions to fill their emptiness and take away the pain of their aloneness and loneliness. Alcohol and drug abuse, food, spending, gambling, busyness, Internet sex and pornography, affairs, work, TV, accumulating things, beautifying, and so on can all fill the emptiness and avoid fears of failure, inadequacy, and engulfment. And they are all ways of shutting out your partner.


Many people are acutely aware of what their partner is doing that is causing relationship problems but utterly unaware of what they are doing. For example, you might be very aware of your partner's resistance or withdrawal but unaware of your judgmental behavior. You might be very aware of your partner's anger but utterly unaware of your compliance. You might be very aware of your partner's addictive behavior but unaware of your own enabling. As long as your eyes are on your partner instead of on yourself, you will continue to believe that everything would be okay if only your partner changed.


All relationship killers come from fear of inadequacy, failure, rejection, and engulfment. As long as you are coming from any of these fears, you will be behaving in one or more of the above ways.

The way is to develop a loving adult self who knows how to take full responsibility for your feelings and needs. You will only move beyond controlling, needy, and addictive behavior when you learn how to fill yourself with love and define your inner worth. When you are willing to take your eyes off your partner's plate and turn your eyes entirely on yourself, you can begin to do the inner healing work necessary to heal yourself and your relationship.

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