Relationships are hard work, even the ones that are right for us. Intimate relationships require intentional focus, commitment of time, open communication, and tons of patience.
Close relationships can also bring so much joy into our hearts and meaning into our lives. Questioning or realizing when a relationship has run its course can be downright painful.
Still, not all relationships are worth fighting for. It can be difficult to make the final decision that it’s time to call it quits in a relationship, especially if you have already invested time and share love and memories with this person, even if there is an intuitive part of you that knows the relationship is not right.
So today, we are helping you navigate this confusing and painful terrain by sharing red flags, behaviors, and warning signs to help you guide your decision about the fate of your relationship.
Signs to End a Relationship
Starting a new relationship can feel intense, exciting, and rejuvenating as we get the unique opportunity to connect with another person on a deep level- to see them and be seen.
Ending relationships can be just as intense in the pain they may bring about. Breaking apart from a person who has become a central figure in your life not only interrupts your day-to-day interactions, but alters your sense of safety and trust in relationships and in the world.
As a relationship therapist, I am passionate about healing and repair. However, most relationship experts agree on this: the reality is that not all couples are willing or ready to do the intense work that is often required to heal relationships.
Certain behaviors in a partner should make you stop and think whether the relationship is beyond repair and whether you should stay in a relationship. This list is not prescriptive, but are signs to be aware of as you consider your options.
When to Call it Quits in a Relationship
A healthy relationship requires respect and reciprocity between both partners. Plus, healing a relationship requires a vulnerability in sharing emotions that is not possible if there is not an environment of safety.
If your partner threatens you when you try to discuss your concerns, exhibits controlling behavior, cuts you off from loved ones, or shows other signs of emotional abuse, your relationship does not have the conditions required to work on repair.
If you are on the receiving side of physical abuse or aggression, your partner will need to work individually on their emotion regulation before you can consider any kind of attempt at healing as a couple.
In fact, before addressing the physical abuse itself, attempts to fix the relationship could actually trigger more outbursts of aggression. If this is present in your relationship, it is crucial that you prioritize your own safety, no matter how much you love your partner.
Misalignment of goals
I’ve seen couples who have partnered with someone during a particular phase of life, and it feels seamless. Then as they grew and changed as individuals, they realized the visions they had for the future were quite different.
Compromise is an important part of relationships, but there are some mismatches of goals that will make couples incompatible (e.g. differences in desires for marriage, children, or where to live).
If you cannot align with your partner on where you want to go and have a shared goal, it will be hard to work on getting anywhere.
A difference in values is often a sign the relationship will not work. While some people are willing to alter their values or even religion to be with their partner, there are usually core tenants to someone’s identity that cannot be abandoned.
For example, a difference in values and beliefs about roles in the household, politics, or moral codes will likely continue to cause conflict in the execution of day to day activities.
Unwillingness to put in the work
One non-negotiable condition to work on a relationship is the willingness of both partners.
Healing past pain, creating new ways of communicating, and repairing relationships takes a lot of work, even if you are guided by a professional in couples counseling.
Sometimes one or both members of the relationship burn out and are not able to find the motivation within them to keep working and fighting for the relationship. If you are facing resistance in your partner or yourself, your attempts are going to fall flat and it’s likely time to move on.
Lack of trust
Trust in relationships is complex. While an aspect of trust may feel broken, there has to be at least the trust in your partner that they will be there for you if you keep trying.
Trust can be broken in many ways, and you may wonder- can a marriage survive infidelity? While your partner may have broken your trust, you at least should be able to trust that if you open yourself up to repairing the relationship, your partner won’t continue to abuse that trust.
You’ve tried everything
You’ve tried to be open about what is on your mind. And you’ve owned your part in the way your relationship got where it is today. You’ve tried to spend time together and put effort into doing things differently.
Maybe you even tried therapy together, (maybe even for the first time with couples therapy for young couples). You’ve tried building new communication skills and sharing your heart with your partner.
Through everything you’ve tried, you haven’t been able to relight the spark and find a place of mutual respect and genuine connection. Since you’ve given it all the effort you could, you can walk away with peace knowing that you’ll never have to wonder “what if.”
(If you have not tried therapy, we offer virtual services for couples in the state of Florida here.)
You would not want this relationship for a loved one
Sometimes, we accept behaviors or circumstances in our own relationships we would never wish on our friends, daughters, or loved ones.
Seeing the patterns can be hard if we think that the relationship we are in is all the we deserve. Take an honest look at the patterns in your relationship and the general sense of comfort, safety, and peace you feel. Would you want this relationship for your best friend? If the answer is no, it might be time to call it quits.
Breakups are some of the most painful experiences we have as humans. Remember that just because a relationship does not last forever does not mean it didn’t serve a purpose at a point in your life, allowing you to learn and grow in a new way.
The most important part is that you take time to reflect, learn about yourself, learn how to deal with breakup pain, and continue to move your life and future partnerships toward your own goals and values.
Leaving a relationship (even a long term one) does not mean you failed. Feeling love lost is painful, but it does not mean there is anything wrong with you. You deserve more than a relationship that isn’t fulfilling your needs or sharing the love back to you that you offer.
And if you were able to give so much effort in the relationship that was ultimately wrong for you, imagine all you’ll be able to give in the one that’s right.