Relationships are not a cakewalk. They are hard to build and maintain. Look at the divorce rate in the United States. The divorce rate stands at 41% for first marriages, 60% for second and 73% for third; and America isn’t even the nation with the world’s highest divorce rates. Visit Europe and you will be shocked. Even dating relationships with great potential are failing at alarming rates.

Does it mean human beings are meant to be monogamous? Not really.

Love is not the least bit random or illogical. All relationships have a system. Some systems work well, while others don’t. When something is amiss, the relationship is dysfunctional and risks failing. Here are some things that predict divorce or breakup in potentially great relationships you should watch out for.

1.   Having sex too soon.

You might find this hard to swallow, but it’s probably a good idea to wait as long as you can before having sex. Having sex too soon (on the first date) can force a budding relationship to move faster than both of you can handle. You might argue, “It’s just sex,” but studies show that sex has a strong effect on our brain, emotions and hormones. Once you have sex you release hormone that push you to “bond” with your partner, which can complicate things in new relationships where you’re still getting to know each other. If you insist you have a strong connection that sex on the first date makes sense, go for it. However, know that you might find you don’t even like this person after a few more dates.

2.   Avoiding sex altogether.

Sex is powerful and special. It is the glue that holds a romantic relationship together. With it you express your love and devotion to your partner in an exclusive, intimate way. If you are making excuses and avoiding sex in a marriage or long-term relationship, then the relationship is headed for trouble. Terrible arguments and a possible break up is likely where there is dwindled or nonexistent sex. Change your attitude toward your spouse and sex, make a real effort to light the fire on sexual intimacy and you might just breathe new life in to the relationship.

3.   Cheating on your partner.

An affair can kill a relationship faster than you can apologize. But, that’s not the only form of cheating that is damaging in a relationship. Chronic lying, dishonesty and deception betrays the trust and expectations one has that a loved one will be faithful and true in the relationship. No matter how great your relationship was or could have been, cheating will deeply hurt your partner, inflict irreparable damage on the union and quite possibly end the relationship forever.

4.   Not communicating.

No need to belabor the point, communication is key in healthy relationships. If you can’t talk openly, honestly and in a civil and respectful manner, then there is a problem. Things won’t be so rosy going forward. Speak up and say what’s on your mind. Don’t expect your partner to know what it is you want or feel by reading your mind. He is not a mind reader. Also, avoid vague statements and assumptions to prevent miscommunication and misunderstandings. Voice your thoughts and opinions clearly and respectfully. It will help your partner understand you and love you for who you really are.

5.   Not listening.

You probably already know that your partner needs a listening ear more than they need a rumbling voice. Not listening demonstrates a lack of respect and consideration for others and is the best way to kill a relationship. Your partner will pick up on the fact that you don’t listen to them and it’ll be the beginning of the end for you. You want your relationship to last so you must learn to listen keenly — not with the view to reply, but with the view to understand. Be the go-to person your partner needs whenever she wants to talk to someone or share an experience. That’s how to strengthen a relationship.

6.   Criticizing harshly.

Nobody likes to be criticized all the time. When you are constantly criticizing and chiding your partner, you are not doing anyone a favor. Harsh criticism and tongue-lashing from loved ones activates the survival alarm bell in our brain and sets off deep seated fears of being abandoned or rejected. This fear brings all sorts of problems that can ruin a potentially great relationship. For instance, hostile comments by a lover can trigger severe depression and force your partner to jump ship before the relationship sinks. Be gentle and considerate with your words. A little thoughtfulness can make a big difference.

7.   Fighting unfairly.

Constant fighting is not healthy. But, fights are normal and can be healthy in a relationship. Fights are a form of communication that help clear the air when couples inevitably differ. What ruins relationships is not fighting, but unfair fighting and not resolving fights. Fighting unfairly entails flaring up and letting go of all decorum and respect for your partner. If your blood’s boiling and you are about to blow-up, take a deep breath and call a time out. Establish ground rules for fair engagement that reflects mutual respect, such as not calling each other names. Watch your tone of voice and avoid the same fights all the time. The way you settle differences is what determines whether you will solidify or tear down your relationship.

8.   Neglecting fun and playfulness.

Putting off fun is a bad move for both new and long-term relationships. It can make potentially great relationships stale and cause two people who are in love to slowly drift away from each other. Yes, you are busy at work trying to secure a comfortable future for both of you, but are you really that busy that you can’t even send a quick text message to let your woman know she’s on your mind? Come on; bring back the sizzle and excitement in to your relationship. Go bungee jumping, or something. It will revitalize your relationship and help you avoid hitting a “happiness plateau” and or marital discontent. However, make sure you spend time with your partner only when you’re both open and loving for best outcome.

9.   Forgetting the little things.

The importance of tender, love and care (commonly referred to as TLC) cannot be overemphasized in relationships. Unfortunately, the mad rush of modern day living means it’s easy to forget the little acts of TLC that everyone craves for in relationships, such as reassurances, compliments and affirmations of self-worth. Starving your partner of these little things in the relationship can spell doom for your union. If you are keen on protecting your relationship and growing it to the next level, don’t overlook those little loving gestures. For example, pay her sincere compliments and offer to take care of things she hates. It will spice up your relationship and set you up for true happiness and fulfillment together.

10. Letting others come between you.

Sometimes it’s a good friend, dear parent(s) or even someone you hardly know. People can cast aspersions on the one you love and speak negatively of your relationship. When this happens, don’t side with others over your partner. Doing so only shows you don’t know where you stand in the relationship and are not fully committed or ready to stand up and fight for your love. If you are truly committed in the relationship, your partner comes first, especially in a marriage. Decided that nothing — not even your children — will ever come between you. That is a firm foundation that will keep your relationship afloat and help you sail through all the storms that inevitably come in life, which is how it should be.