Causes & Signs Of An Emotionally Exhausting Relationship And How To Fix Them

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“It’s probably how it is for everyone; relationships aren’t rainbows and butterflies all the time, right?”, you might tell yourself while desperately trying to convince your own mind that what you’re going through in your relationship is just a rough patch. But when your partner rings you up in the middle of your day, and instead of love and excitement to pick up, the very thought of speaking to them incites dread, then yours just might be an emotionally exhausting relationship. 

Of course, that isn’t the only indicator that your dynamic may be leading you toward burnout, but if you’re waiting for your partner’s business trip to another continent more than s/he is, something’s probably up.

Since you don’t want to be overanalyzing such questions by yourself, we brought along counseling psychologist Shambhavi Agrawal (MSc. in counseling psychology), who specializes in anxiety, work-life balance, depression, grief, and life transitions issues, to talk about emotionally exhausting relationships. So without further ado, let’s get right into it.

Signs Of An Emotionally Draining Person

Sounds like a brutal label to put on anyone but you cannot run away or ignore the possibility that the person you’re with may just fit the bill if your relationship has been leaving you drained and exhausted rather than making you feel invigorated and secure. You could be in an emotionally exhausting relationship if the thought of spending alone time with your partner makes you anxious and want to run in the other direction.

Don’t get us wrong, you probably do still love and care for them dearly. But relationships are hardly a well-paved path and sometimes they can lead you to places you don’t want to be in. If you’ve found yourself noticing the signs of an emotionally draining person in your boyfriend or girlfriend, consider double checking with the points we’ve mentioned below.

  1. They are needy and clingy: You might just feel like you are in a codependent relationship because your partner seems to always cling to you and not give you any space. This is one of the first warning signs of an emotionally exhausting relationship or partner
  2. They never accept your point of view: And during arguments, it is especially difficult to get them to understand your side of things and accept your perspective. It’s either their way or the highway
  3. They are possessive about you: To the point, that you feel nervous to mention a female friend to your girlfriend or a male coworker you get along with to your boyfriend. You know that if you do, all hell will break loose and the questions won’t stop raining
  4. You keep making sacrifices for them: And they never do it for you. One of the biggest signs of an emotionally draining person is that they will never go the extra mile to make you happy but will expect that out of you

What Is Emotional Exhaustion & What Causes Emotionally Exhausting Relationships? 

Before we get into how to fix an emotionally draining relationship or if ending an emotionally draining relationship is a good idea, let’s first make sure we’re on the same page about what emotional exhaustion is. To feel emotional fatigue in relationships is essentially a state of feeling physically and mentally “drained”, unmotivated and hopeless about the future.

A sense of depersonalization sets in where things may not feel all too real, let alone loving. Since hopelessness, decreased motivation, and difficulty concentrating on tasks are all major symptoms, making your way out of emotional exhaustion can be extremely difficult. 

Everyone is susceptible to this kind of thing. The causes of falling into an emotionally exhausting relationship range from prolonged periods of stress/anxiety, depression, financial struggles, and, of course, a relationship that causes long-term stress to you and your partner. 

An emotionally exhausting relationship can be the leading cause of emotional exhaustion in a person. When you’re with someone who sucks the life out of you, it’s bound to affect your mental as well as physical well-being. Shambhavi lists out the following reasons behind an emotionally draining relationship:  

1. Unrealistic expectations  can lead to an emotionally exhausting relationship

“When a partner has expectations that you are not able to fulfill, or vice versa, there’s a very obvious misalignment in your dynamic,” says Shambhavi, “When there is a mismatch between both partners about what’s expected and what can be delivered, it can lead to a lot of emotional exhaustion.”  

Managing expectations in relationships is not the easiest thing to do, owing to how someone might expect their partner to read their mind. If your partner has ever asked you to “figure out” why they’re angry, all the while giving you the silent treatment, it’s not the healthiest dynamic in the world, is it?

2. Gaslighting or a toxic scenario 

If a healthy dynamic feels like a nice massage on your tired muscles, a toxic relationship feels like hard pressure on a bruise. Shambhavi tells us how experiencing gaslighting may be the reason behind an emotionally exhausting relationship. “When a person has some narcissistic traits, gaslighting will end up causing a lot of mental harm to you. 

“Perhaps they’re overly dependent on you and it’s taking a negative toll on your mental health. This type of dynamic is bound to turn into an emotionally draining relationship,” she explains. If you think you are in a relationship with somebody who tends to gaslight or discredit you, you should probably think about ending an emotionally draining relationship.

Related Reading: Are You A Toxic Couple? Take This Test To Find Out

3. Intrapersonal relationships 

Read that again; we said intrapersonal, not interpersonal. As Shambhavi points out, the type of relationship you have with yourself will ultimately define the relationship you have with those around you. “When a person is unhappy in their own skin, when there’s less self-love or self-care, the relationships around that person also turn out to be emotionally exhausting.

“For example, a person may be grieving, or they may not have a good financial structure, or they might be going through prolonged stress. If such a person is in a relationship, they’ll tend to lean on their partner for support and functionality. But if their partner is equally involved in their own engagements or struggling with their own issues, it’s bound to result in an emotionally exhausting relationship,” she adds. 

Signs Of An Emotionally Draining Relationship

what are the signs of an emotionally draining relationship?
What are the signs of an emotionally draining relationship?

If reading through the causes has got you drawing parallels, the signs will definitely make you sit up and exclaim, “My relationship is draining me.” But just like Icarus was unable to identify the reason for his downfall till it was too late, those in precarious situations can seldom see the most obvious relationship red flags

So, is yours an emotionally draining relationship, eating away at your mental peace? And are you blind to the culprit, perhaps even masking it as the cure? To make sure you don’t fly too close to the sun while idolizing it the whole time, take a look at the following signs to see if your relationship might be leading you toward a state of emotional exhaustion: 

1. A fight is always on the horizon in an emotionally draining relationship 

Does every conversation turn into a fight in your relationship? Does it also feel like you always have to think twice before you say something to your partner because you know they’ll react impulsively? Does it feel like you’re constantly treading on thin ice while wearing boots made of metal?

If yours is an emotionally exhausting relationship, your answer to those questions probably wasn’t too uplifting or comforting. Though every couple fights, such a couple will probably always be fighting. Now if that’s not an emotionally exhausting relationship, we don’t know what is.

2. You may start experiencing self-esteem issues

“When you’re constantly trying to prove your love to somebody and they haven’t been approving of it, your self-esteem is going to decline. It may leave you feeling unmotivated and riddled with insecurities,” says Shambhavi. A happy relationship leaves you more confident and helps you become the best version of yourself. When your partner’s disapproval makes you reject yourself, your doubts about your capabilities become a reality.

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3. You want a little too much alone time

Emotional fatigue in relationships can make you want to distance yourself from your partner completely. That weekend you spent with your partner seemed like a good enough idea, until, of course, the first fight rolled around somewhere around the thirty-minute mark. Personal space in a relationship is great, but when you’d rather wait for a Monday to come around than be with your partner on a weekend, it’s a cause for concern.

4. You feel neglected 

An emotionally exhausting relationship doesn’t really sound like one that features the best communication practices, does it? Chances are, since you might have to constantly take care of your partner in such a dynamic, your needs may well have been overlooked. If your needs and wants are given zero consideration because your partner’s issues “rank higher” and “need more care”, it’s a sign as clear as day that you need to get out.

Related Reading: 6 Types Of Emotional Manipulation And Expert Tips To Recognize Them

5. Health issues

Of course, when stress begins to take a hold of your body, it’s destined to cause some physical harm over a long time. “You may have trouble sleeping due to high stress, accompanied by a headache or other symptoms of anxiety,” says Shambhavi. When your mind is constantly occupied and on edge, it will most definitely reflect on your health as well. An emotionally exhausting relationship can very quickly start feeling like a physically exhausting one.

Effects Of Emotional Exhaustion On Relationships

When you can confidently say something like, “My relationship is exhausting me”, owing to all the signs being in accordance with what you’ve got going on, it takes a heavy toll on your relationship. “When it comes to the relationship, the major problem is that you lose that intimacy and you do not want to be affectionate toward your partner,” says Shambhavi, talking about the possible effects of emotional exhaustion on relationships. 

“There’s constant insecurity about the relationship. You don’t want to put in the effort, you lose trust in your dynamic and the whole thing may seem like more work than it’s worth, ” she adds. The signs of emotional exhaustion usually accompany symptoms of mental health issues like depression, stress, and anxiety. When one half of the relationship goes through an emotional exhaustion episode, it’s destined to spell doom for your dynamic. 

When you can’t wait to get alone time, some time down the line, you’re probably not going to want to meet your partner at all. Your dynamic will never feel safe; instead, the sword of Damocles looming over your head will kill you from stress before it kills you by decapitation.

But does that mean there’s no hope left for an emotionally exhausting relationship? Is there anything you can do to help salvage the situation? Shambhavi tells us all we need to know about how to fix an emotionally draining relationship. 

unhealthy relationship

How To Fix An Emotionally Draining Relationship 

Unless your relationship features any type of abuse or is inherently bad for you physically or mentally, the only thing stopping you from salvaging it is the know-how. That’s where we come in. Did you really think we were going to leave you on your own after you’ve just admitted to yourself, “My relationship is exhausting me, what do I do now?” Shambhavi lays out 5 ways that can help you figure out how to fix an emotionally draining relationship: 

1. Take a step back and put your detective hat on 

Yes, we’re implying that taking some time off the relationship and spending it on deliberating upon what went wrong will do you good. “Take time out for yourself. Figure out what you’re looking for and what’s draining you in the first place. What are the emotions that you’re really drained of? Sometimes it’s a lack of happiness in your relationship, sometimes it’s intimacy, or sometimes just a general feeling of being loved. Getting to the crux of it is very important,” says Shambhavi 

2. Emotionally exhausting relationships will benefit from some couples’ activities 

“An emotionally drained relationship could be rooted in your needs or feelings not being met. For example, if the resultant sentiment of your emotionally exhausting relationship is a feeling of loneliness, try couple’s activities that fight that loneliness. Spend time with each other, plan some activities that both of you enjoy,” says Shambavi. Granted, a game of lawn tennis together won’t fix all your problems (especially if you lose) but at least it’ll get you two out of the house doing something together. 

Related Reading: 9 Signs Of Lack Of Empathy In Relationships And 6 Ways To Cope With It

3. Learn a new language: your partner’s love language

In his book The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman listed the five love languages that people subconsciously adopt. These are words of affirmation, physical touch, spending quality time together, gift-giving, and acts of service. Shambhavi tells us how understanding the love language your partner adopts can change your entire dynamic.

“The language in which your partner requires love might not be the language in which you’re giving love. Analyze each other’s love language and eradicate the miscommunication. For example, I like words of affirmation but my partner expresses love by spending quality time together. So when I express my love through words, my partner may not even appreciate it because, to them, love means spending time together,” she says. 

4. Get rid of the elephant in the room

You can’t expect to sweep fights under the rug or “pause” them forever and assume that everything’s going to be okay. Talk about the fights that never get sorted out and work on conflict resolution strategies. And if you’ve also been thinking of ending an emotionally draining relationship, consider expressing it to them too. Don’t give them an ultimatum but just tell them that you’ve had enough. Unfortunately, storming out of the house and blocking your partner on social media isn’t a viable method of conflict resolution.  

5. Couples therapy can help you heal your emotionally exhausting relationship

Trying to fix something as debilitating as emotional exhaustion with your partner might leave you in a loop of fights, disagreements, and confusion. That’s where individual or couple therapy can help. By introducing an unbiased and professional perspective into your dynamic, you’ll quickly get to the bottom of what’s bothering your relationship and why. 

If you’re considering seeking the help of a counselor to figure out how to fix an emotionally draining relationship, Bonobology has a multitude of experienced counselors, including Shambhavi Agrawal, who would love to help you during this trying time,

Key Pointers

  • A relationship can start to feel very exhausting when one feels like their partner is codependent on them
  • Talking to your partner and being open about your feelings can help
  • If you do not even feel like spending time with your partner anymore, consider couples therapy exercises to improve your relationship

Whether you want to label it as an emotionally exhausting relationship per se or not, any relationship that affects your peace of mind, your work, and your time — might need to be rethought. At the end of the day, a beautiful relationship is one where you feel like you are growing with the other person, instead of being bogged down. There’s only so much that therapy can also do. Give it one last go because you truly love them, but don’t put yourself through an excruciating experience, which is doomed to result in heartbreak anyway.


1. How do you fix emotional exhaustion in a relationship?

If emotional exhaustion has affected you personally, you can choose to work on yourself by seeking therapy and developing healthy habits like exercise and self-care. If it has affected your relationship, communicating with each other, spending quality time, and understanding the other’s love language will help.

2. Is it normal to feel burnout in a relationship?

Yes, burnouts in relationships are normal and can be caused by going through a prolonged period of stress/anxiety. The cause of the stress can often be the toxic dynamic relationship itself, or other causes such as a mismatch of expectations. These may cause burnout in a relationship.

3. Why do I feel so emotionally drained?

According to Healthline, a feeling of hopelessness, a prolonged period of stress or anxiety, depression, financial struggles, having children, and being grief-stricken, are all reasons why a person can feel emotionally drained.

4. Is my relationship emotionally draining me?

If you feel like your partner never makes any sacrifices for you, or that your partner is very needy and never gives you any space, it is possible that you are going through an emotionally exhausting relationship. Some other signs of an emotionally draining person in a relationship are that they are uncompromising, stubborn, and do not accept your point of view.

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