Top 10 Relationship Killers

In Marriage, Relationships by Debra Fileta14 Comments

“We’re getting a divorce”, she explained, with a look of disappointment on her face.

Her tone of voice changed, as she tried to look on the bright side. “But it’s for the best. Things haven’t been working out for the past few years. We’re just too different.”

“For the best…Too different….” Her words echoed in my mind for hours after our conversation ended. I thought about the list of differences my husband and I possess. We are SO different in so many ways. Could it really be possible that a couple can be “too different” to have a thriving marriage? The thought didn’t sit well with me.

As a Professional Counselor, every day I see couples who come into therapy with their marriage on life-support. But their struggles often have nothing to do with the trauma of affairs, addictions, or abuse. Instead, they are dying a rather slow and painful death.

Phrases like, “We’re too different” or “We’ve grown apart” or “Life has just gotten the best of us….” phrases that sound so innocent- yet are extremely lethal.

There are so many factors that can get in the way of a good marriage, but often, they are the small, unnoticed things that make their way in. In order to make sure our marriages survive and thrive, here are some relationship killers every couple should be on the lookout for:

1. Family: The number one relationship stress for most couples has little to do with their relationship and much to do with the relationships they are surrounded by. The role of your parents, in-laws, siblings, and friends all shift the moment you say “I do”, because when you join together as one, you’ve chosen to put your spouse above all others. Too many marriages are struggling simply due to a lack of priorities- finding themselves pulled by everyone else in every which way, except toward each other. Healthy marriages learn to choose one another above all others.

2. Lack of Communication: It’s true that the average couple invests in quality conversation only a few minutes a day. It’s easy to let life get busy and stop connecting with the one you love. But there’s no such thing as living in neutral, because drifting happens the moment we stop moving forward. Take the time to connect and communicate with your spouse often.

3. Stress: It’s so easy to take our stress out on our spouse. We can get into the habit of holding things in until we’re in the safety and comfort of our marriage-  and then we explode. From financial problems, to illness, job-loss, and grief, healthy couples allow their stress to pull them together, by relying on each other, sharing it with one another, and carrying the load together.

4. Technology: I read a blog post about a guy getting a divorce…except this guy chose to divorce his phone. But it makes sense, because so many of us carry this dangerous relationship killer right in our back pocket. In the world of technology crazed, iPhone carrying, Facebook posting mania- it’s no joke that we find our time slipping away into the inanimate- instead of investing it into the intimate. Unplug, disconnect, shut down- and invest in your spouse. (11 signs you need a break from social media!)

5. Selfishness: Marriage is one huge, ongoing, life lesson in “unselfishness”. And we’ll either allow the experience to make us better- or we’ll grow bitter. Putting someone first is an incredibly hard task because our flesh is wired to choose self.

Each time we say yes to ourselves, we’re saying no to our marriage, because marriage is not about Him vs. Her, it’s about We vs. Me.

6. Unforgiveness: Forgiving and forgetting are not one in the same. When we fail to realize that, we will hold on to our hurts for a very long time. And eventually those hurts begin wreaking havoc on our lives from the inside out. But forgiveness is not about excusing the other person,  it’s about freeing ourselves to receive healing from the God who forgives us time and time and time again.

7. Loose Boundaries: We tend to think about offensive play in marriage, forgetting that defensive strategy is just as important. We can be doing all the right things, while still failing to keep out the things that are harmful. Draw a circle around your marriage, and protect it by guarding your emotions, your interactions, and the way you spend your time.

8. The Past: The most paralyzing thing we can do for our relationship, is to define our spouse by their past, rather than by who they are in the present. The past may impact our lives, but it will only control our present if we allow it to. It’s important to be real with one another about our pasts, but more important, to respect one other’s pasts by seeing what God is doing in the life of our spouse HERE and NOW. Forget what is behind…so that you can move toward what is ahead.

9. Dishonesty: Why is a small lie just as dangerous as a big lie? Because they both have the same impact on intimacy. Honesty in marriage is like the chain that holds you together. Removing one link, or ten links does the same thing- it causes separation. If you’ve made mistakes in your relationship or have been hiding things from your spouse, now is the time to seek truth and confession; because a relationship riddled with dishonesty, is no relationship at all.

10. Pride: “I am my biggest marriage problem” is the theme of Paul Tripp’s work in the field of relationships. To be able to look in, then, is the greatest step toward nourishing a relationship. To be aware enough to recognize and restore your flaws and shortcomings, before fixating on those of your spouse. But the sting of pride can make that really hard to do. It’s so much easier to point the finger and to shift the blame. But the moment you let go of your responsibility, you’ve let go of your relationship- because no matter what the issue at hand: it always takes two.

It’s time to consider where you’ve let your guard down before these sly intruders make their way in. May God continue to give you the wisdom to recognize these patterns and to lookout for the “small stuff” by protecting, nourishing, and prioritizing your marriage.

To learn more about attracting – and keeping – an amazing relationship- check out my book True Love Dates!

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter


  1. Great stuff, as always, Debra. Will be sharing this post with the Future Marriage University (FMU) community.

  2. these are the true reasons why my marriage is not working in right way, especially social media one. my hubby always holds his IPhone and plays stupid games while laying down on the bed. I’m tired of doing all house staff and taking care of my son only by alone. how should change this situation?
    help me. please

    1. Author

      Helen, it’s hard to change others! But I encourage you to continue working on your part, and changing what you can in your marriage, as well as communicating respectfully what you need and want from your spouse. Often times we just need to learn how to say what we need in a way that is firm, respectful, and bold all at the same time. May God give you the grace to have wisdom in how you love and the boundaries that you set in your marriage. May He bring healing to your life and marriage as well!

  3. I shared this post with my friends and they couldn’t help but agree it’s true especially the married ones. But their major concern was that it’s a whole different ball game when it comes to reality n practicality . They know the truth, but it’s difficult applying it in their marriages. I know it takes God’s grace…so i’ll keep praying for them and also for my home in the future.

    1. Author

      It’s definitely easy to talk about it- and harder to live it out- as with most things in life. Thanks for your encouragement and for sharing with your friends…it’s great to get their perspective as well! The best thing you can do is learn as much as you can now, and like you said, pray for your future…God is faithful, and He’s already preparing you.

  4. Good stuff, Debra. Just curious, as a professional, what characteristics do you think make a marriage last (other than simply refusing to quit) and even work, when the couple are not disciples of Christ? If I didn’t have nonChristian family members with a healthy marriage, I wouldn’t even think it possible nowadays. It seems to me that the dynamics that constitute discipleship are the very same dynamics that make a marriage work. So, if one isn’t a disciple, I guess they’d have to say yes to their marriage the same way a disciple says yes to Christ?

  5. This is so true….love it!!! Although both sides have to be willing to work things out…

    1. Author

      Thank you so much, Margaret! Glad you enjoyed it and hope you enjoy the rest of the articles!

  6. Hi Debra
    Informative piece of information. On selfishness, can you elaborate more. Is trying to improve yourself like education wise selfish or trying to do a business to bring in money selfish? I have been trying this and hubby always stands in my way and he now says am selfish. Can’t one improve themselves after getting married? Its really eating me up. Help

  7. Hi, my wife and I have been fighting for a period of long time about putting our relationship straight but am having problems here, can you please help me with this, my wife like to talk about serious things all the time we sit together and am fed up with that, we are not cracking jokes that often at all and she always want to be in control, she can fill free to attack me for anything that she thinks that goes wrong but if i make a comment about things that she didn’t do right she will get very upset and its turns as if am the one who does the wrong thing, can you please advise am really fed up, she is making me don’t want to sit down with her so i will tense to make my busy with other things in the house. Please help me with advice. Thanks

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