You know you’re unhappy and you sense that your partner might be unhappy, but what are the signs that a relationship is over? How can you know?
First, know that highs and lows in any relationship are normal. You aren’t always going to be head-over-heels in love with one another. He has traits that annoy the heck out of you and vice versa. When you’re having a bad day, those traits can be more annoying than usual.
This is how life works. None of us are perfect, so expecting perfection from your partner or your relationship is unreasonable.
Still, if a relationship is in an unrecoverable tailspin, there are indisputable signs to look for. Today, I’d like to share those with you.
Signs That a Relationship is Over | Emotional Distance
One big clue that things are looking bleak is when you feel a growing distance emotionally. You enjoy fewer moments of fun and spontaneity.
Josh and Kelly had been together for a couple of years when Josh started working through the night instead of during the day. He had his own home business, so he could choose his work hours. Kelly found herself waking up to Josh just going to bed. Not only did this mean they weren’t sleeping together, but their days were flipped. While she was awake, Josh was asleep and vice versa, leaving them little to no time to do things together. Soon, other things began happening, like Josh being condescending and finding reasons to avoid doing things with Kelly. She ended it and never looked back.
Clearly, Josh and Kelly had other issues, but then again, maybe not. Their problems could come from one or both of them having an anxious attachment style or having a significant lack of self-esteem and self-worth.
People create an emotional distance for many reasons. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t believe they deserve the love their partner is giving. Other times, they may begin to feel anxious as the relationship draws closer to a commitment. And there are dozens of other reasons why partners experience emotional distance.
While it’s not unrecoverable, a growing emotional distance is an indicator of a bigger problem, and a professional counselor may be your only option if you want to save the relationship.
You Fight. All. The. Time
Again, no relationship is perfect. You’re going to experience disagreements. Fighting becomes a problem when there are more moments when you’re fighting than there are moments of calm. You may fight about your fights, or you might not be fighting fair.
Fighting fair means you’re allowing both partners to speak and be heard. While he’s speaking, you’re listening. Period. You aren’t yelling back in his face to dispute what he says. That isn’t listening.
My mother always said that your ears don’t work if your mouth is open. Obviously, it’s an analogy, but a good one. You can’t listen clearly if you’re spending your time deciding what to say in response or talking over one another.
Fighting fair also means you don’t dig up old fights. If you’re arguing over him not mowing the lawn for your party tonight, don’t start fighting about the ten previous times he didn’t do something you asked him to do. A fight should be about one topic and only one.
In either case, the problems between you have grown very large. You aren’t really fighting about mowing the lawn. You’re fighting about another disappointment in a long line of disappointments. Your problem isn’t about the minor thing you’re arguing over, but something larger that you might not even be able to identify.
Again, with professional counseling, you may be able to get to the root of your arguments, but when fighting goes this far, it’s one of the signs that a relationship is over for sure.
Signs That a Relationship is Over | You Don’t Share Your Joy
You and your partner should be there for one another in the good and bad. When you get a promotion, he should be at the top of the list of people you want to tell. If he isn’t, why not?
Do you think he won’t care? Does it seem as if he’s more wrapped up in his own stuff than in what’s going on in your life? Of course you want to share this with someone you trust and who is close to you. Someone who will truly share in your elation.
If you don’t see him as that person, things have traveled down a wrong road somewhere. In some relationships, if things have really gone downhill, it might not even occur to you to share it with him, at all. You call your best friend and share it with her and others you’re close to but your partner is left in the dark.
You Find it Exhausting to be Around Him
You might not always want to be around your partner, but those moments shouldn’t be very frequent. If he’s going through something difficult, he may be difficult to be around. The amount of energy you must expend to accommodate his mood is exhausting, but you do it because you love him.
But what if those exhausting moments are too frequent? You feel as if he always needs something from you but when you need something in return, he’s absent.
Part of the problem in Josh and Kelly’s relationship is that Josh is needy. For a while, Kelly could deal with it, but the more emotionally distant he became, the less tolerant she was for his neediness. Then when his father came to visit after losing his wife, Kelly saw what her life looked like twenty years in the future. Josh’s dad was beyond needy.
Neediness is a sign of insecurity in the relationship, but it’s not your fault. It’s something within your partner that tells him he’s not worthy of you or he’s afraid you’ll leave him, so he uses his neediness to try and draw you back. Unless you’re someone who’s unbelievably patient, that level of neediness will likely push you in the opposite direction from what he’s hoping for.
Signs That a Relationship is Over | You Justify Staying for an Outside Reason
I wish I knew how many people I’ve talked to who say they’re staying together for the kids. This is the worst thing you can do for your kids. Most of the emotional trauma children experience in a divorce situation comes before the parents separate.
Kids see dishes flying across the room, fists aimed at one of their beloved parents, and they hear angry words shouted between you, even though you sent them to their rooms.
Once you’re apart and the fighting and flying objects stop, kids are relieved. Children aren’t built to handle the emotions of an adult relationship, but each time you argue in front of them, that’s what you’re asking them to do.
You’re also putting them in the middle of your conflict. “Johnny, tell your dad how much you want him to be around more. Go ahead. Tell him!” Of course, Johnny wants his dad to be around more, but what he doesn’t want is to be a pawn in your game.
Don’t stay together because you share children or a business. The people who must put up with the two of you don’t deserve that. Figure out a way to work through splitting your time spent with your children or find a workaround at the office.
You aren’t doing anyone any favors by staying together.
He’s More of a Roommate than a Partner
There comes a point in a bad relationship where you treat one another with superficial kindness. Maybe you’ve decided to stop arguing and now, you just smile at him and keep moving.
This is where you’ll feel that emotional distance. You don’t feel love toward him any longer, so all there is left to feel is some superficial friendship.
When your relationship is like this, the fighting has stopped because you just don’t care anymore. You’re all fought out and exhausted by the whole thing.
Signs That a Relationship is Over | There’s No Trust
Trust is one of the cornerstones of a good relationship. Without trust, you have nothing. You trust him to be there for you when you need him. He trusts you to do the same. You trust him to come home when he says he will and to do things he says he’ll do. And vice versa.
Then, of course, there’s always the dreaded affair, the ultimate trustbuster.
Regardless of why the trust has eroded, it has and now you feel as if you can’t believe anything he says. It’s an endless stream of unkept promises.
When trust has eroded the relationship, the only way to rebuild it is to seek professional counseling.
Early in a relationship, he earned your trust by showing up for dates on time and doing what he said he would. But once that trust is broken, it’s much harder to build it again. You may think you can learn to trust him again, but those underlying causes will keep rearing their ugly heads.
A professional counselor can help you work through the valid doubts you have about his ability to keep his word.
You Don’t Want to Spend Time Together
It’s Saturday morning and the two of you are assessing what to do with your weekend. He wants to go watch football with his friends, which is something you’ve also enjoyed, but this time, you’d rather be anywhere else.
And this isn’t the first weekend you’ve wanted to have your own plans. You’re finding that you want to do your own thing on most weekends.
COVID forced many couples to spend a lot of time together as we all battled through our own issues of being shut in with nothing to do but the daily crossword and solitaire on our iPads. I haven’t looked at the statistics, but if I had to guess, I’d say some couples flourished while others fell apart.
There is a midway point between too much time together and not enough. Spending every waking moment together isn’t healthy for any relationship, but neither is spending all your free time apart.
But the real question is whether you want to spend time with him. If you just want to go shopping or you’re planning a big event that’s taking up some of your weekend time, that’s not the same thing. You want to spend time with him, but you have other temporary obligations.
It’s all about why you want to be apart from him.
Signs That a Relationship is Over | You Don’t See a Future with Him
In the case of Josh and Kelly, once Kelly saw how Josh’s dad was, she knew she was seeing her future, and it was bleak.
Kelly has never done well with neediness anyway and Josh’s dad reeks of it. She knows that being in a relationship with someone that needy will sap her energy and steal her joy.
You don’t need to see a future with your romantic partner in the beginning. In fact, it’s not a good idea to go there until you’ve committed to date only each other. Entering a new relationship with wedding bells on will scare him away, as it should.
But as your relationship grows and you become exclusive, there should come a point when you do start seeing the two of you together in rocking chairs with grandchildren.
If you can’t see that future, ask yourself why you’re still there. It might be time to recognize that you’re not as compatible as you once thought and go your separate ways.
There is a Growing Resentment Between You
You have all those arguments, and you feel like he sucks every last drop of your energy. You resent him for making you feel this way.
Resentment is like anger. People hold onto it for their own reasons. Sometimes, there’s a payoff for holding onto it. People feel sorry for you, or you use it for leverage in other arguments.
As you’ve already read, this is unhealthy.
Like anger, you can make a choice to let go of resentment. You can’t change the past, so resenting someone for something that’s over and done with doesn’t change a thing, except it keeps you in a negative frame of mind.
Instead, you can learn to forgive things from the past. This is always a better plan forward than hanging onto the past. But it might not be as simple as that to save your relationship. If you’ve held onto anger and resentment for a while, there may be an emotional distance between you that is too great.
Signs That a Relationship is Over | Your Goals Don’t Align
This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it truly can be.
Of course, when you first meet someone, you aren’t going to share all of your lifelong goals, but over time, you learn about one another, and you start to figure things out.
If your guy has dreams of traveling the world before he’s thirty while you’re still working on your career, it might not be the best time to become an exclusive couple.
One of the biggest goals that I see causing problems is kids. Many young people, especially those who’ve gone through their parents’ divorce, will proclaim that they don’t want kids. Maybe they don’t have confidence in their ability to parent, or they don’t have confidence that they can enjoy a happy relationship.
Whatever the reason, people who want kids and people who don’t shouldn’t get into a relationship with one another. It’s like dog people and cat people trying to decide what type of pet to get. Someone is going to be unhappy.
Before you get into a deeply committed relationship, you should share your most important goals so you know if they align.
On one hand, this might seem shallow to you, but it isn’t. It’s actually very important because it’s through pursuing our goals that we find confidence and satisfaction in our lives.
Nor do Your Values
While a misalignment in goals can sometimes be worked out with a compromise, a difference in values can be tough to overcome.
Suppose you’ve always been a saver. Your parents taught you to save and you’ve done so like a champ. But your boyfriend is a spendthrift who has, at most, ten cents in his savings account. You know, just to keep the account open.
This is a misalignment of values that is probably going to come between you.
Other things that might cause a problem are your values where work, family, and even living a healthy life are concerned.
You don’t need to be aligned on every value, but there should be enough overlap that where there is a misalignment, it isn’t a big deal.
It also depends on how important that value is to you and whether there is a way to appease you both.
A couple with children should be aligned on how to discipline their children, whether to engage them in different activities and even how to manage childcare if you’re both at work.
When you’re first in love, these things can seem like they’re not important, but they can become huge mountains that stand between you if you don’t take the time to address them.
Signs That a Relationship is Over | Jealousy
Jealousy is really a symptom of a bigger problem – low confidence and self-esteem.
When you’re jealous, you’re really saying that you fear your partner will abandon you for someone else. Why?
Because you don’t believe one of two things: you aren’t good enough for him or you don’t deserve him.
In either case, your self-esteem is low and it’s causing you problems.
Of course, jealousy can come from trust issues as well, but more often than not, it relates to you and your level of confidence and self-esteem.
Confidence plays a role when you don’t feel confident in your ability to either create or maintain a healthy relationship. You’ve had so many failed relationships in the past and this will be just one more. So it’s only a matter of time before he finds someone else.
Often, jealousy rips a couple apart before the person who’s jealous has time to identify and fix the low confidence problem, but once you see it, you can and should fix it before you enter into another relationship.
You may even find that you have a pattern of feeling jealous in relationships. That’s a huge red flag.
Of course, the opposite side of this is being with a guy who’s jealous, in which case, it’s his confidence and self-esteem that are low. You find him driving by when you’re having lunch with your friends. He claims he was in the area, but you know he was checking to see if you’re where you said you’d be.
Or you discover he’s tracking you through your phone or another tracking device.
Regardless of who has the jealousy problem, it’s one of those signs that a relationship is over.
You’re Building Walls, Not Bridges
Sammi and Joe had been together for many years and had a few beautiful children to show for it, but slowly, they were building walls instead of bridges.
Joe was staying at work later and when he did come home, he’d spend hours outside or in the basement, away from Sammi and the kids. After the kids went to bed, and sometimes even before if Joe was in the house, Sammi would go to their bedroom to work instead of spending time in the same space with Joe.
This is building walls. You’re segregating yourselves from one another instead of trying to build bridges or intimacy between you. When you’re building bridges, you’re sharing experiences and developing more intimacy through those experiences. When you’re building walls, you’re putting physical or emotional barriers between you.
Walls can be very difficult to tear down once they’re built. They can lead to arguments and resentment at the most extreme and at the least, emotional distance.
Signs That a Relationship is Over | You Aren’t Having Sex
Physical touch is a very strong bonding agent. When you’re in love, you want to touch your partner and you want to have sex.
Now the exception to this is if you’ve both agreed to abstain from sex until you’re married. That’s not a problem as long as you’re both on the same page.
The problem is for couples who’ve been having sex and then it drops off to nothing or close to it.
You may justify this with things like being too tired or staying at work late to avoid being there when your partner goes to bed. Some parents will use snuggling with a child and then forget to leave before they fall asleep there.
Regardless of how you’re covering it, the lack of sexual intimacy in a relationship is a big sign that a relationship is over.
That’s a Wrap!
There are probably as many signs that a relationship is over as there are couples, but these are the signs that crop up most often.
What you may notice is that in many instances, if you’re both willing to seek counseling, the relationship can be turned around.
It all depends on how much you want the relationship to succeed and whether both of you are willing to seek that counseling. If one of you isn’t, it’s yet another one of the signs.
If you recognize some of these signs in your own relationship, it’s time to evaluate what it is you want for yourself, then communicate that with your partner. It’s very likely that he feels the same things you do are wrong and you can move forward from there.
To date a man, you must understand a man. Men and women do almost everything differently, and sometimes for different motivations. To a man, his financial status indicates how well he can take care of you and your family. It's a source of pride for him to be able to do so, even if you make your own money and can support yourself.
It's how he was raised.
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