The common reason for break ups that has nothing to do with cheating: 'Awful'

An online discussion has revealed a trend which can have a devastating affect on relationships.

Cheating may be the classic cause for relationship breakdowns, but there's another theme that often lingers in the shadows, affecting couples in ways they might not have anticipated: the troublesome mother-in-law.

In fact, family dynamics, parental involvement, and the intricacies of in-law relationships have emerged as a prevalent thread in relationship struggles, as revealed by a recent viral Reddit thread discussing the reasons couples part ways.

Meddling mother in law. Photo: Getty
People have opened up on Reddit about how a third person led to the end of their relationships. Photo: Getty

The Mother-in-Law factor

The Reddit thread, sparked by a question about why couples have broken up when cheating wasn't involved, revealed a recurring trend: relationships ending because of toxic behaviour from future mothers-in-law.


It's a scenario that many might dismiss as a stereotype, but the stories revealed the real and profound impact that in-law relationships can have on a couple's happiness.

The thread kicked off with the heartbreaking account of one user's friend breaking off an engagement because the prospective mother-in-law was excessively hostile, and their partner refused to address the issue or sever ties.

But the chorus of stories involving mothers-in-law didn't end there: "My grandma divorced my grandpa because of his mom," shared one contributor, "she was awful to her, and he did nothing about it."

Adding to the collective sentiment, another person shared: "My mother-in-law divorced and needed a spot to live. So, she moved in with us. She was very intrusive in our lives and relationship. Within a year, we also divorced."

Relationship and Intimacy Coach Susie Kim highlights the impact of proximity in the delicate balance between couples and difficult mothers-in-law. According to Kim, "couples can really struggle with overbearing mothers-in-law when they are relying on them for regular help (e.g. childcare) or living close by."

A couple holds as a child as an older woman looks on.
Research indicates an increase in challenges with in-laws after the birth of a child. Photo: Getty

"Studies show that issues with in-laws tend to be more pronounced after the birth of a child," Kim explains. "It makes sense as couples with young children are often more reliant on their in-laws for support."

In navigating these dynamics, Kim observes that both parents and grandparents are often in the process of figuring out their roles within the family structure, sometimes resulting in in-laws unintentionally overstepping boundaries.

Family matters

Beyond the stories of overbearing in-laws, the Reddit thread illuminated how family dynamics, encompassing both sides of a relationship, significantly affect its success. From disparaging comments about tattoos, appearance and social status, to overbearing parental involvement, it became evident that the experiences people have with their partner's families can influence their romantic journey.

"I know a few who divorced because of the in-laws. Sometimes a person's family is too crazy," one group member said.

Another user recounted how their partner lacked the courage to confront their parents about offensive remarks made, pointing out the difficulty some face when addressing hard conversations with family members.

"Unfortunately, not everyone can face an uncomfortable moment to nip it in the bud; they cannot have a critical conversation with their parents if their life seemingly depended on it," the group member wrote.

"If I had to be around my partner's extended family regularly I would not be able to stand it," a third person said.


Communication is key

Kim points out there are strategies to help couples when managing family-related conflict.

"Couples should always empathise with their partner's feelings and experiences, and try to understand their feelings. This is what lets them be on the same page emotionally," Kim says.

"It's also really important for couples to be aware of their own family of origin dynamics, and the role they played in those dynamics. It's very useful for couples to explore, share and reflect on their family roles and dynamics, though sometimes this is easier with professional support."

While cheating undeniably remains a pervasive theme in relationship breakdowns, the Reddit thread highlighted that the influence of family dynamics is a silent, yet powerful force.

Trouble can start in a relationship when family members interfere with your time alone together. Photo: Getty
Trouble can start in a relationship when family members interfere with your time alone together. Photo: Getty

Evidently, navigating the complexities of relationships involves not only understanding the dynamics between partners but also addressing potential challenges arising from their respective families.

Kim provides valuable guidance for couples grappling with the impact of in-law and family issues on their relationship: "The best advice I can give to couples is to get on the same page with each other," she says.

"Couples dealing with family-related challenges have the most conflict when they can't see and empathise with each other's perspectives. This can lead to split alliances, which can lead to more serious problems down the line."

"The couple needs to work to create a shared reality and be empathic towards each other's experiences of their families."

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