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Relationship Poisons and Antidotes

All of us want to have healthy, happy relationships that bring us joy, satisfaction, and feelings of positivity. It’s one of life’s main pleasures, and indeed, when all else fails, having the love and support of a partner can be the thing that sustains us through it all.

But as most of us also know, it’s not easy keeping a long-term partnership going. Over the months and years, big and small problems can “poison” what once felt so loving and positive.

Sometimes relationships (and marriages) die “a thousand small deaths” from minor issues. Others are more dramatically harmed by bigger, more serious concerns. No matter what the cause,  however, if we don’t find the “antidote” to these poisons, the relationship may succumb.

Common “Poisons”

What are some of the most common issues that tear relationships apart? According to research, they include:

  • Lack of commitment
  • Money problems/arguments over money
  • Frequent conflict
  • Infidelity
  • Feelings of incompatibility
  • Substance use issues
  • Abuse and violence
  • Growing apart/poor communication

Effective Antidotes

If any of these problems sound familiar to you, you aren’t alone. Many couples have faced issues like these and have been unsure what to do, or even whether to continue. While each couple has their own path to walk, what we do know is that there are some reliable “antidotes” to the poisons that destroy marriages and long-term relationships. They include:

  • Valuing strong commitment to our partners and our relationships

Research tells us that people who are consciously and actively committed to their relationships are more likely to stay together.

  • Reducing negative interactions and increasing positive interactions

Even minor negative moments can deeply undercut relationships over time if they occur frequently and are not “washed away” by more frequent positive interactions. According to respected researcher John Gottman, couples with a “ratio” of at least 5 positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction are the most likely to experience lasting, satisfying marriages.

  • Continuing to ”date” our partner with intentionality

“Dating” each other and spending dedicated time together can help keep couples together and maintain happiness in their relationships. Read more about the importance of date nights here and here.

  • And, most importantly, nurturing a strong and loving friendship with our partner.

 What does it mean to truly be friends with our romantic partners? It means that we have trust in each other and can depend on the other person to be there for us, both emotionally and physically. It means truly knowing the other person and loving and respecting that person. It means developing and maintaining positive and productive communication skills that acknowledge the other person’s point of view as well as our own.

Of course, not all marital and relationship problems are simple or can be solved by relying on these principles. But for many couples, these “antidotes” will help heal and strengthen the partnerships that mean so much to us.

Looking for ways to connect and get closer with your partner? Want to learn more about enhancing your friendship with your partner and increasing your positive interactions with him or her? The SMART Couples project is offering ELEVATE, a free, research-backed relationship enhancement class for couples, in Florida counties across the state. All our programs are taught by trained professionals and are welcoming to all. Sign up today!


Harris, V. W. (2010). Marriage tips and traps: 10 secrets for nurturing your marital friendship. Plymouth, MI: Hayden McNeil.

Power of Two. (n.d.) Causes of divorce. Retrieved from

Scott, S.B., Rhoades, G.K., Stanley, S.M., Allen, E.S., & Markman, H.J. (2013). Reasons for divorce and recollections of premarital intervention: Implications for improving relationship education. Couple & Family Psychology, 2 (2):131–45.

Stanley, S. M. (2017). Broken hearts and deal breakers: Reasons why people divorce. Retrieved from

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