All couples go through bad patches, particularly over the long haul. There are always pressures from outside jobs, kids, distances, families, friends and occasional tensions between you, especially when you’re years in, living together and grappling with self-realization at the same time as being part of a couple. But with talking and communication and a certain amount of effort from both parties to prioritize the relationship and compromise on whatever’s causing the problem, it really is possible to come through stronger.Here are some of the signs that your relationship is over.
You are always thinking about ending it
Either in terms of ‘if I was single I would,’ or wondering whether you ought to, or knowing you ought to but not knowing how. If you ‘re constantly trying to reassure yourself that you should stay but struggle to come up with reasons why, then clearly your subconscious already knows it’s over, even if the rest of you is taking a while to catch up.
Both of you blame the other
The trouble comes when one person refuses to acknowledge the validity of the other’s feelings, or prioritize the relationship. Everyone’s unhappy sometimes, but it’s how the relationship deals with it that’s really a test.This is a tricky one, because sometimes one partner is more reasonable and responsive than the other, so blame can often be justified. But what I’m getting at is a toxic environment of resentment and mistrust – neither of you feel able to trust the other to meet your needs or look after the relationship, and despite often endless conflict neither of you seem able to improve things. Maybe make a last-ditch attempt to negotiate and/or salvage something from the wreckage, and if that doesn’t work out let things go. If you feel constrained by the other person more than you feel cultivated, and you blame them for that, it’s very difficult for blame and recrimination not to be bubbling away beneath the surface.
You don’t touch (or express affection in other ways) anymore
Okay, so some couples aren’t very physically affectionate to start with, so if this is you, feel free to replace touching with your preferred level and type of affection. What I’m getting at is that every relationship is held together by quotidian reassurances that you love one another and have a bond, whether that’s verbal affection or secret love notes or filthy texts or physical affection or some combination of the above. If that stops, and you’re living together but not touching affectionately or saying loving things or focusing on making the other person happy, then the relationship is basically an empty shell. Whether it’s because the feelings and impulses aren’t there anymore for you or the other person just feels so distant from you you can’t reach them, it’s definitely time to have a proper sit down chat about ‘what the hell we are doing here’, ‘can we make it better?’ and if not ‘should we stop.’
Lots of people try and sabotage relationships – intentionally doing things that will hurt or annoy the other person, breaches of trust, pushing their boundaries in the hopes they’ll end it so you don’t have to. Worse, then feeling contemptuous of their partners when they don’t. If this is you or your partner, just go already. One good friend posits ‘If you can’t respect yourself any longer if you stay with them’ as a deal breaker, and as well as its superlative good sense it’s also a risk in this situation – if you’re so unhappy in the relationship you find yourself doing things you can’t countenance or respect, like petty cruelties, then you need to leave for your own sake almost as much as the other person’s.
There’s more bad than good
This is a pretty good rule of thumb, actually. If the bad times consistently outweigh the good times (for longer than the period where the good times outweighed the bad) then yeah, it’s totally time to go. Obviously, if it’s a decade-long relationship of mostly good times and you have a bad few weeks (barring major betrayals), maybe hang in there and try and fix it. If you’ve been together four years and pretty much consistently unhappy for at least the last two, then you need to get out or get through. If you find yourself only getting through the present of the relationship by thinking about how good things used to be, then part of you already knows it’s finished, and it’s just waiting for the rest of you to realize.
Fundamentally different life goals
I am reaching the age where this is often about who wants children and who doesn’t, but it goes for any major ideological or practical goal. Not only in terms of practical commitments – you’ve always wanted to travel so you take the exciting international job, they are quite happy living in the town where they grew up with all their schoolfriends – but in terms of ideological choices and preferences. Often ending a genuinely good relationship is actually the right thing to do if you’re heading in different directions and changing tack would involve one of you giving up on a dream or changing who you are as people. Sometimes it’s better to split up and (after a decent interval) stay friends than stick around making one another unhappy.
You don’t laugh together anymore
In fact, the things you once found hilarious and endearing now bore or irritate you. If you’re having a bad day and being around the other person makes you feel consistently worse, not better, then you’re really not in a good place. (Particularly if it’s like this for both people). If what used to be a source of love and joy and succour and reassurance even mid-crisis becomes something difficult and/or draining you feel better away from, then it’s probably preferable to end it already than continue damaging both of you. Again, this is potentially fixable, especially in the early stages, but it’s potentially fixable with a LOT of hard work and effort and compromise and dedication and talking and trying things and then trying other things if they don’t work. If that all sounds like a bit much effort, then the writing’s on the wall.
You feel trapped, not enabled
If your relationship is really good, it’ll feel like you’re infinitely more together than you could be separately. Like your partner enables you to be yourself, but more and more fulfillingly. If instead the relationship feels like a trap or a limitation, something you have to take into account but are no longer moving towards or flowering out of, then it’s a pretty good sign it’s not working anymore. Worse, if your partner is continually placing emotional demands upon you, or interpreting your emotional needs as unwarrantedly demanding, then you’re obviously heading in different directions. If they’re expecting you to save them – from mental illness, the hostile world, having to adult, whatever – but show absolutely no inclination to work on saving themselves, then you’d really be better off on your own than having to parent another adult (and it’s surprising how often this comes up).