As a relationship counselor, I am constantly being asked why so many relationships fail. In the 37 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, and this fear motivates various forms of controlling behavior. Controlling behavior falls into two major categories – 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 attack will respond with some form of covert control in an attempt to have control over not being attacked.

Controlling behavior always results in resentment and emotional distance, bringing about the very rejection that it is 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.

When one partner is controlling and the other is resistant – which is really an attempt to have control over not being controlled - the relationship becomes immobilized. 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 own feelings and needs, and to define their own self-worth, they may pull on their partner and others to fill them with the love they need.


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