That said, we all know of a couple who got hitched after knowing each other for a fortnight, or a pair who shared decades together and suddenly called it quits. There’s no universal love formula or scheduling timetable for people to follow. Couples may choose to get married straight away, feel comfortable in a long engagement, turn their nose up at formal proceedings or choose to not label anything to begin with.
But even though all of that is true, there is still a pattern of break-ups that can be observed. On TikTok, couples counsellor Kim Polinder lists years three, seven, 11 and 15 as the big relationship breakers — or hurdles, depending on who you ask.
While many of us are familiar with the honeymoon phase, which lasts anywhere between a few months to a couple of years, these four relationship milestones prove to be testing.
@kp_counseling108 If you don’t learn how to resolve past fights and resentments, your relationship will not last. If you sweep fights under the rug, it will eventually break the relationship. Either that, or you will become detached and resigned about growing a deeper bond with your partner. #couplescounselor #couplescounseling #marriagecounseling #relationshipgoals #relationships #relationshipproblems #relationshipadvice #communication #marriage #marriageadvice #marriagegoals #marriagecoach #love #couplegoals #couples #conflictresolution #loveadvice #datingadvice #breakup #fighting #cheating #infidelity #effectivecommunication #badbreakups #badbreakup ♬ original sound - Kim Polinder
“When couples call it quits early on, such as [during] years two or three, they generally have not learned how to resolve conflict. The honeymoon phase has worn off and past resentments start to overwhelm the relationship,” Polinder says.
This “absolutely” resonates with 24-year-old Stacey, who ended a three-year relationship in her first year of university. “It was extremely tumultuous, [and] probably quite unhealthy, but it was the classic high school romance where you're a teenager and just feel like everything’s the end of the world,” she tells Refinery29.
“In my case, [I was] 17… I didn't have the skill set to actually communicate in an effective way and… the charm of the honeymoon period had worn off and then [we] just found each other intolerable.”
Polinder suggests that seven-year breakups are predominately driven by stagnation and growth in different directions. For 27-year-old Petra, this rings “100%” true. Her seven-year relationship started as an “innocent, first love” story when she was 13 years old.
“We had a really lovely relationship, probably just plagued by the normal things that teenagers — as you're turning from teenagers to adults — go through,” she tells Refinery29. Just before her 21st birthday, the pair decided to end things.
“I think we had become so familiar and so comfortable after spending like that long together. The reason we broke up was essentially that he was moving overseas to London,” the Sydney-sider says. She mentions that her partner, who grew up rurally, was super excited by the move across the pond but that there was no mention of Petra going along with him.
“It would have been the perfect time for me to go on that adventure with him. But it sort of made me stop and think, ‘Well, hang on, if your gut instinct isn't to have me come with you, we’re at completely different places right now,” she confides. As Polinder proposed, growth in different directions is what ultimately pulled Petra and her boyfriend away from one another.
Once past the decade milestone, couples will run into different obstacles. “By year 11 or 12, couples will prove whether they have put in the work to move past that stagnation and make the bond stronger,” Polinder says.
“If couples are struggling at year 15, it's because they have forgotten how to become friends. They've drifted apart and started living their lives as just roommates. They never really learned how to resolve conflict, but instead of breaking up, they just learned to kind of disengage and go through the motions of a relationship."
Conflict, communication, friendship and growth are bound to fluctuate throughout the course of a relationship’s lifespan. Rather than shirk away from them, we can face these hurdles, hand-in-hand, together.