How Do You Know When Your Relationship Is Over? 7 Signs


Every relationship has its ups and downs. But sometimes you have a nagging feeling of doubt that becomes hard to ignore. Maybe it’s just a rough patch, but you may be wondering if you should throw in the towel.

This is a complicated and confusing topic, because there are few total dealbreakers in a relationship — except maybe emotional and physical abuse.  In other situations, there is plenty of gray area.

When you assess the good and bad of your relationship, it can help you to decide whether your problems are worth working on or if you should go your separate ways. It is never easy to consider breaking up with someone you love. Getting counseling can be helpful in making that decision, and it may also be a way to save your relationship.

Whether you’re considering ending your relationship or you think your partner may be, here are 7 signs to know if your relationship may be over:

1. No communication. You used to talk about everything. You were best friends and confidantes. Now you’re not talking about what’s important to you. You’re no longer open and vulnerable with each other. Having a conversation feels very awkward.

If your partner refuses to engage with you when you try to make conversation, it’s a sign your relationship won’t last. How can you solve any problem if they won’t discuss it?

2. Your relationship is a battleground. Couples fight. But if it feels like you’re constantly bickering or the arguments are more heated, it’s a more serious matter. How couples handle conflict is important to a relationship’s success.  Ideally, both partners can admit when they make a mistake and apologize to the other. But couples can get in a pattern of criticism and defensiveness that escalates the tension. How can you resolve the conflict when one or both of you get defensive and won’t acknowledge your part in the dispute? Being defensive can feel like an attack (“You’re too sensitive”) or being the victim (“Why are you picking on me?”) Neither defensive approach helps address and resolve the conflict. John Gottman, Ph.D., an expert in marriage therapy and divorce prediction and author of What Makes Love Last? says a warning sign is when the couple has “failed repair attempts,” meaning they have trouble deescalating the tension during these emotional discussions.

3. You don’t trust your partner. When lying or cheating has broken the trust you had in your partner, it can be a huge problem. Trust is a vital part of a relationship. You’re bound to have unsure feelings about a relationship without trust. Some couples can get past an episode of cheating, but it may take a lot of work. For many, infidelity is a breach of trust that damages the relationship in a way that can’t be repaired.

4. You’ve lost that loving feeling. Do you miss your partner after some space and alone time?  Do you want to make future plans? Are you still affectionate with each other? If not, your relationship may be in trouble. Even though many people believe that conflict is the kiss of death in marriage, researchers have found that the main predictor of divorce is actually the loss of love and affection.

5. You have different goals in life. If what you want from life is very different, it may be hard to find a way to compromise. Maybe one of you wants children and the other wants to be a free spirit and travel he world. You may want to live in different places. These are early signs a relationship won’t last without some creative problem solving.

Another way different goals can cause problems is when your partner can’t or won’t support them. You want your partner to support, encourage, and celebrate what is important to you. If they don’t, you feel alone.

6. Your partner is mean. If your partner is treating you with disrespect, calling you names, mocking you or ridiculing you, this is serious and beyond criticism. As Dr. Gottman says, “Contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce.” How can you build a true connection with a partner without respect and compassion?

7. You can’t imagine a future together. If you’ve stopped talking about future plans or you have very different pictures of your future, your relationship is in trouble.

Bottom line

These warning signs indicate serious trouble for a relationship, but they don’t always mean it’s over. Many people think relationships should always be easy and should “happen naturally.” They think there is something wrong if they have to work at relationships. When the going gets rough, they believe it’s definitely time to get out.

But, when people have trouble communicating, it can change how you feel about your partner and lead to some of these problems. If you can learn how to communicate more effectively, you may be able to repair many of these issues. The point isn’t to eliminate all conflict.  The goal is to understand and accept each other, so you can get back on the same team and work things out peacefully.   

Your relationship isn’t over until one or both of you throw in the towel. Until then, it’s often possible to work things out. Don’t forget that commitment is sticking with the relationship through the good times and bad.

There’s no shame in looking for additional assistance if you’re mired in conflict and unable to compromise, or if you start taking the issues very personally or are drifting apart. Sometimes old patterns are so ingrained, it requires professional help to change them. Couples therapy can help you communicate more respectfully, lovingly, and effectively. Not all couples therapists are created equal. Get recommendations. Before booking an appointment, ask about their expertise and success with couples.

What do you think? What are the warning signs that you look out for? Is it hard for you to stay committed when faced with some of these major stressful situations? I’d love to hear from you.

Please share your experiences in the comments below.

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