Why relationships turn sour

Thursday January 28 2021
By Joan Salmon

When people get married, it is expected that they have found the love of their lives and will work together towards achieving happiness. Unfortunately, many times, this is not the case. Sometimes, one partner may become disgruntled and want to end the relationship while the other tries to hold on. This is when many end up hurting each other either physically or verbally.

Stephen Langa, a counsellor, says just like anything good in life, a couple must work hard to ensure their marriage is successful. When a spouse is frustrated with their marriage, there is no telling what they will do or not do. Esther Nsubuga, a counsellor, shares some of the reasons.

Unmet expectations

When joining the marrieds club, many have expectations. “For example, they will take care of me, my spouse can never cheat, and an exciting sex life. However, these expectations are one sided and sometimes unrealistic,” she says. When things do not work out as expected, one may opt to give the spouse a cold shoulder, which could lead to actions such as holding back vital information that in the end hurts the marriage. 


Nsubuga says this is one of the common issues straining marriages. “It is usually accompanied by several complications in the home, which ultimately strain marriages. For example, it breeds competition for money, time and attention,” he says. The neglected spouse may tolerate it for a while but with time, they may opt for a coping mechanism such as ignoring the adulterous spouse and spending more time with friends, or even secretly starting up their own investments. 



Forgiveness is one of the things that can help a hurting couple heal and get back on their feet. However, Nsubuga notes that it is not easy and some choose not to forgive. “They may opt for revenge and this may come in a number of ways, even the coldest such as murder because bitterness has consumed them,” he says.

Third parties in marriage

 It is always important that spouses love and trust each other for in so doing, third parties may have no room for disorganising the couple. “With the intrusion of third parties such as friends, relatives, neighbours, marriages are treading on shaky ground as these have the ability to tear the marriage apart through spreading rumours, and character assassination,” Nsubuga explains.

Failure to keep promises

Several promises are made in marriage and unfortunately, not all are fulfilled, which could cause problems. “The promises could be about financial commitment to a project or assistance with domestic chores. It is different when one fails, owns up and makes up and another when this happens many times, because even explanations cease to hold water at this point. Also, trust is broken, hearts are wounded and this can lead to cruelty in a marriage,” she shares. 

Unresolved issues

Conflicts are part of life and if handled well, they are usually a learning point. Given this fact, Nsubuga says it dictates that conflicts should be resolved in an appropriate and timely manner. “When unresolved, negative feelings build up, sometimes leading to a burst up. Eventually, the suffocated party, whose grievances have been swept under the rug, may opt to manage on their own. This means that the oneness is broken and people are looking out for their individual survival. As such, whatever it takes to survive, even when it hurts the other, is possible,” Langa warns. 

Unhealed wounds

Nsubuga says when people enter marriage with previous pain, they are likely to become potential abusers. “Even when the current partner is not to blame, relationship baggage makes them a target of cruel behaviour as long as they do something that reminds their spouse of the past. That is irrespective of if it is just a mistake. There is usually no telling what the spouse with baggage will do, but the action is usually hard on their partner,” he says. 


 A good relationship with God is key in keeping a marriage happy. “God teaches us to love, care for each other, forgive, and be patient with each other. So, the further one walks away from God, the easier it will be for them to be heartless to their significant other and never feel guilty,” Langa says.

Langa compares a marriage to a car that needs constant servicing if it is to run well. “A car cannot be driven for a long journey with scanty or no servicing as it will break down. The same goes for marriage. He says it is wrong for one to get married and expect good things without working for them.

Needed Ingredients

Stephen Langa, a counsellor, says every marriage should have five ingredients if it is survive toxicity. These include love, which should be right from the start, mutual respect, trust because when trust is broken, then the marriage will break. Lastly is knowing each other. It is important that you understand your spouse’s strengths and weaknesses. “Thereafter, you need to adapt rather than manipulate them if you are to have a beautiful marriage,” he says