Hi. After reading your last few responses, I was wondering if you could explain the psychology behind something I, and my guy friend, do. Ex: I meet a nice guy, he is polite, interesting, everything is fine, brings me flowers, the perfect bf material, but I get bored and have to break it off. My guy friend had the perfect gf for a year, she cooked and cleaned for him, his parents loved her, they got along great, breaks it off for no reason he can explain coherently. I bring him up because I thought I only did that. Why do people end relationships that are, to the outside world, fine? I mean my ex and I had great sex, communicated well, but there was something missing. I’m assuming same thing with my friend and his ex gf. What is that thing that people want in a relationship? Sorry if im too vague. You’re really well-read in psychology and very knowledgeable so I was wondering if you could provide some insight. Thank you so much.
This question makes a lot of sense, thanks for asking it! There are a whole bunch of things that could contribute to something like this happening, and you’re definitely not alone. So many relationships end without there necessarily being a “falling out.” I really enjoy what (now several) people say about the end of relationships. A relationship that ends is not a relationship that has failed. You always, always gain something from the people that you’re with. You become stronger and smarter in your dating styles and you really learn what you want as an individual in a relationship. So, I suppose that is your simple answer. Sometimes seemingly good relationships just end. Who says a good relationship has to last forever? A confusing sentiment to make, but an interesting one. No relationship lasts forever until it does.
Here are my actual thoughts to your question in reference to why this might be happening.
What you’re looking for
Like I said above, you learn what you’re looking for in a relationship mostly through experience. You have some good dates, you have some bad dates, you figure out what your needs are. Sometimes two people get along very well and appear to be the perfect couple, but inside are fighting some sort of battle with themselves. It makes them happy (perhaps) but it doesn’t fulfill all of their needs.
Not ready to settle
Some people find themselves in wonderful relationships but hit a point of conflict. They’re in love, but they don’t want to give up on the benefits of being young and/or single. That could include continuing to explore what their needs are, having casual sexual/intimate relationships with other people, or having more independence and freedom before they feel like they need to “settle” with someone. Someone who lives a very active and busy lifestyle could also fit into this category. A relationship isn’t their main priority, or they feel like they aren’t ready to have that relationship be their main priority.
People change. Particularly in their mid to late 20s when they’re finishing school or figuring out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. They become, for the most part, who they’re going to be for the rest of their lives. Their personality solidifies. They lose a lot of the “discovery” phase that hits so hard. There is some leveling out. If you’re with someone during this time it can be particularly difficult if your partner becomes someone that you’re not familiar with. They might decide they have major life goals that make your relationship difficult to maintain. They may develop their personality further in a way that confuses you or you’re not used to. If you want to be with someone through this period you may have to deal with loving your partner as a different/changed person. Getting over that hump can shake up otherwise well stabilized and setup couples.
The Honeymoon Phase
The most obvious one on the list is the honeymoon phase. You’re with someone and everything is new and exciting and wonderful and you’re learning and exploring and your chemicals are all crazy and your brain is pumped up… and then your hormones level out, you become used to your partner, and despite a maintained level of happiness/contentment, you realize that things have changed. It doesn’t matter that you’re happy necessarily, that initial excitement is gone and that can be disconcerting for a lot of people. What does it mean? Do I still love them? Am I really happy?
Grass is Greener
This leads perfectly into the grass is greener thought. We believe that other people must be more perfect or more exciting than our current partner. That’s simply because we don’t know their own faults yet. Sure – someone else could be a better fit for us, but why does that lead us to leave our current partners if they’re making us perfectly happy already? Is it to just see whats out there? Is it the endless curiosity if you’ve settled too soon, or for not enough? This is where you’ll see a bit of regret in couples who break up and explore new options and realize, clearly, that the next person is just as human as the last.
They’re not actually happy together
Any couple can look like a good couple on the outside, but a smile and a laugh between two people who happen to like the same things and hang out in the same crowd doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy together. Maybe they’re just happy people. There are people that you can love, and like, and have sex with, but none of those things necessarily mean that the relationship is a fully functioning one that satisfies what they’re looking for in a relationship.
What is “happy” – ?
What does happy look like? A lot of “happy” can be pulled down into non-verbal communication. You smile, you laugh, you spend lots of time with someone, you tell people that you are good, fine, great, or you’re constantly busy and trying new things. Your definition of “happy” or “fulfilled” might not be the same as the next person. That’s why it’s so hard to look at someone and determine whether or not they’re actually happy. We think that if we have X and Y we’d be happy, so we presume that people who already have X and Y must be happy. That isn’t always the case.
Ultimately I think in most cases otherwise well-off relationships simply end because they’ve run their course. The chemistry dies down, they got what they needed, they realize they want something else. This rounds right back to the intro. Who is to say that a relationship that worked out that well “failed” in some way?