The Psychology of Failing Relationships

psychology failing relationships

The reason why many romantic relationships fail is because one or both partners is or becomes psychologically inflexible. Instead of being present with their partner and themselves – by paying attention to their partner’s emotional world and their own deeper needs – they defend.

failed relationships

Instead of actively engaging in difficult (but necessary) conversations, they avoid them or resort to blaming, insulting, and yelling. They fail to set priorities for the relationship, fail to make time for tending, and fail to use setbacks and challenges as opportunities for growth.

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Psychological inflexibility is not a birth defect.

It’s not something you either have or you don’t, and if you have it, you are in bad luck. Instead, it’s a way of acting that can be disrupted. People can learn to practice flexibility skills, so they not only become mentally stronger as individuals but also more satisfied and secure inside their romantic relationships. There are already studies examining the effectiveness of training couples in flexibility skills using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) or related methods. This new meta-analysis will make that work even more important.

Read Is Your Partner A Potential Cheater? Take This Infidelity IQ Quiz To Find Out

Psychological flexibility is a set of skills. And if you learn them well and apply, you not only empower yourself to become happier and better adjusted, but also might just empower your relationship.

If you want to learn more about psychological flexibility and how you can practice it to become more happy and fulfilled, check out any of the major ACT self-help books from me or any of the other well-known ACT authors.


  1. S. Here is the reference for that cool new meta-analysis: 

Daks, J. S., & Rogge, R. D. (2020). Examining the correlates of psychological flexibility in romantic relationship and family dynamics: A meta-analysis. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 18, 214-238. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcbs.2020.09.010

Written by: Steven C. Hayes, PHD
For information on his training go to
Originally appeared on:
Republished with permission 
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