How do you know when your relationship is really over? Nine times out of ten, the warning signs are present but we live in denial and refuse to accept the reality. Ending a relationship is hard, and getting over it is even harder. When you part ways with the person with whom you shared your life, things are bound to get emotionally messy. But at some point, you have to acknowledge the obvious and begin the process of healing.
Kimber T. Barber astutely said, “The loss of love is not nearly as painful as our resistance to accepting it is.” Keep this in mind as you read about the signs your relationship is over. At this moment, things might seem bleak as you will go through the denial phase but trust me, every next person has felt the same at least once in their lifetime. Moving on may not be easy, but staying in an unhealthy relationship can be far more detrimental to your mental and emotional health.
Have you pondered over the harm this emotional distance from your partner is causing to your mental health? How much are you sacrificing to stay in this relationship? Once you do, you may feel differently and try to accept the warning signs that your relationship has run its course. We’re here to help you recognize these signs and figure out how to deal with the end of a relationship, in consultation with counseling psychologist and researcher Megha Gurnani (MS Clinical Psychology, UK), who’s currently pursuing her second masters in organizational psychology in the USA, and specializes in relationships, parenting, and mental health issues.
How Do You Know When Your Relationship is Really Over?
Every couple goes through relationship rough patches that are hard to navigate. Things can’t be sunshine and rainbows all the time. But when the differences become irreconcilable, the relationship doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and both partners feel like they are drifting apart like two icebergs, it is normal to wonder, “Are these signs a relationship is over?”
When faced with such a realization, our instinctive response often is to hold on to the relationship even tighter. How can you accept that the relationship you nurtured with so much love is about to end? The aftermath is terrifying to consider, especially in the case of a serious relationship.
As hard as it may be to face the truth, you can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that you’re no longer in a healthy relationship that brings you joy, helps you grow, and nurtures you emotionally. It’s important to know when to call it quits. The question is, how do you know? What are the signs a long-term relationship is over? Here are some indicators to watch out for:
- Both physical intimacy and emotional connection take a serious hit
- You’re constantly fighting about even the smallest things
- It is difficult for you to be the same room without lashing out at one another
- They are not your friend anymore and you don’t feel the same excitement in sharing your happiness with them like before
- You begin to find your partner clingy and look for excuses to not spend time with them
- Trust and respect in the relationship begin to take a hit
- The spark in the relationship is gone. The time you spend together isn’t as fun or romantic as it used to be
If you resonate with one or more of these, it cannot be a harbinger of good news for your relationship. According to Megha, the most important sign your relationship is not working out anymore is when you stop trusting the other person and stop thinking about them altogether.
She says, “It may sound very simple but if you really look for these two factors, a bunch of other relationship challenges will become apparent to you. A lot of times, when people start dissociating from each other, this is how it all begins. They don’t understand each other and refuse to see things from the other person’s perspective. So if you want to do a litmus test, trust and empathy – or lack thereof – are what you need to look out for .”
Related Reading: 9 Expert Tips To Cope With Depression After Breakup
10 Signs Your Relationship Is Probably Ending Soon
Each relationship is unique and has its own trajectory – with all the ups and downs, it’s a roller-coaster ride itself. But there are a few common indicators of fading emotional connection that can be spotted in a relationship that has reached a dead-end. Calibrating when to end a relationship? Go through the upcoming points with a clear mind and objectively evaluate if your relationship is exhibiting any of the signs that it’s almost over. You will have your answer.
1. You have a gut feeling
A reader from Milwaukee wrote, “I was uneasy for the longest time before my relationship actually ended. And there was no way to put a finger on it. I didn’t even do much about my discomfort but accepted that the end was inevitable. That mental agitation was my first clue to eventually figure out that things would not last.”
Breakups, like fingerprints, are individual, unique, and different. However, people usually feel an upcoming breakup in their bones. This feeling could be prompted by the specific actions of your partner (like cheating, lying, or emotional or physical abuse), but many a time, there may be no tangible reason behind it. Then how to know if your relationship is over? Your intuition tells you that this partnership is going downhill.
2. You’re lying to each other
This is one of the most important signs your relationship is over. When either one of you begins to lie in the relationship for whatever reason, the relationship stinks of toxicity. After sharing an intimate space, lying or withholding information is a way of creating distance. This distance, though not created deliberately, is a crack in the pavement that will grow over time. These lies can be of two kinds. Trivial details about your whereabouts and major life incidents like losing a job or having an affair. Whatever the nature, lies and deceit have no place in a healthy relationship.
The fact that yours is rife with it indicates that the end is nigh. Dishonesty corrodes the foundations of trust in the relationship and causes pain to both partners. Megha says, “More often than not, people lie when they are afraid of the other person’s reaction to the truth and they want to avoid another conflict/confrontation. So it’s just easier to hide or modify the truth. Lying indicates so many things. It signals to a third person that things are going off between this couple. And it definitely points to two partners slowly drifting apart .”
3. Your partner tries to isolate you
It could be from your family, your close friends, or your colleague. One way or another, they might try to detach you from the people who happen to be your strongest support system. This is one of the classic tactics of a manipulator who resorts to emotional abuse and power play to establish dominance and steer a relationship in a direction they seem fit.
If your partner is outright ordering you to cut off contact with your best friend or asking you to quit your job, it sure spells doom for your relationship. This is one of the most valid reasons to end a relationship, no matter how long you’ve been together or how much you love your partner.
People with a streak of manipulation may go to the extent to convince you that your family is against you when in actuality, it’s they who are the root of the problem. Megha agrees, “When your partner is pulling you away from your circle of people, it clearly says that they can’t be good for you. Sometimes, with partners who are abusive in a very manipulative way, it can be hard to identify how toxic they are. But this one is a major sign that this relationship will die a tragic death.”
4. When do you know a relationship is over? There is an unavoidable space between you two
A surefire way of knowing you need to end a relationship is when your partner is not your go-to person anymore. They are not your safe space and you don’t feel safe discussing your problems with them. Maybe both of you still share your achievements and accomplishments. You call each other and give basic updates. But it is quite evident that the priorities in the relationship have shifted from companionship to personal space.
We asked Megha whether it’s possible that the relationship is failing when two partners enjoy their me-time more than being together and she says, “Yes and no. It depends from person to person, their personality, and their relationship dynamics.” She shares an observation:
“I have seen couples who are pretty comfortable spending time on their own for almost 80% of the day and they might just need their partner when they come together to sleep at night. Perhaps one person is an introvert and the other person understands they need more time and space for themselves to feel energetic. So it might really work out for them not being in each other’s company all the time.
“Granted, everyone needs their own space even in a relationship or a marriage. But if your partner tries to reach out to you during that time (perhaps they call you or come to see you) and you find it irritating, that’s a matter of concern. A partner entering your space shouldn’t throw you off or evoke such a negative reaction and if it does that’s how you know your relationship is over.”
Related Reading: 21 Signs You Should Break Up For Good
5. The end of rituals is a sign that your relationship is over
In the New York Times’ Modern Love column, there was an essay by a man whose wife used to cut his hair until he came out as gay and their marriage ended. The essay recounts the last haircut she gave after their breakup. They both decided then, that parting ways were the wise thing to do.
Sharing a cup of tea in the morning, kissing when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s eve, or taking a trip to the mountain once a year, a long-term, committed relationship is made of rituals and feel-good traditions, big and small. When such rituals end, it signals the end of a relationship. They portray that the shared blocks of life are being taken apart step by step.
6. Your relationship has turned into a shouting match
The clear sign of a relationship ending is when you’re miserable together instead of cherishing your “happily ever after”. When the fights and showdowns start to outweigh the kisses and conversations, it’s a sign of trouble in your paradise. And don’t get me wrong, having arguments is normal. It is healthy up to an extent too.
But bickering constantly, nagging each other and being disrespectful, and being unable to spend time together or even be in the same room just goes to show that you should call it quits. When do you know a relationship is over, you ask? Megha says, “Any good psychologist will tell you that it’s when you find it more enjoyable or comforting to confide in and speak to other people, and with your partner, every conversation turns into a fight. It’s an indicator that you either didn’t pick the right partner from the beginning or maybe you’ve drifted apart over time. Either way, it’s a sign you need to move on.”
7. Talking about a breakup more frequently
When you or your partner talk about breaking up, and not in a dark humor kind of way, it might be a premonition. If thoughts of ending the relationship have been frequenting your mind, then that’s one of the clearest signs your relationship is over. This becomes all the more true if your knee-jerk reaction to fights is breaking up with each other. When leaving each other is a topic that comes up more often than it should, perhaps it’s time to do just that.
Related Reading: Men vs Women – 5 Differences In How They Handle A Breakup
8. How do you know when a relationship is over? By introspecting
If you haven’t already broken up and are confused, ask yourself, “Why am I in this relationship? What would I be without it?” The answers to these questions can be a big help. If you’re afraid to initiate the breakup, then understand that not wanting to be alone isn’t a good enough reason to be with someone. Your relationship is unhealthy if this is its foundation.
My aunt used to say something I’ve followed like a touchstone, “I will not end up being married to someone I barely tolerate, just because I don’t want to be lonely for two hours every evening.” Radical as she may sound, it is worth noting that marrying someone just because you need them to keep you company for a while is selfish and unfair to both partners.
9. When kindness has left the building
Being kind to each other is fundamental in a relationship. When you cease to be empathetic, compassionate, and kind toward your partner, you just know the relationship is heading south. You used to share your hearts, your bodies, and your souls with each other. And now, nasty language and behavior have taken the place of love notes. It sure indicates that this bond is broken.
Megha says, “The amount of respect and courteousness depends on the level of maturity they have. Even when you know that this is not working out but the fact that you have shared so much history should make you more polite. When a relationship ends and two people are dividing the assets and the things that they shared, how judiciously they manage that process depends on how emotionally mature they are.
“It’s fairly common for people to grapple with a complete communication breakdown during such times. They end up bickering all the time, calling each other names, and suddenly painting the other person as the villain in their life. But if you were to ask me what we should be aiming for, I would say an emotionally mature response with just as much attention, effort, and respect paid as required.”
10. If you’re happy and you know it, it’s a sign your relationship is over
Knowing it is over may not always be a sad thing. Sometimes some old, broken relationships drag people down. Knowing that you both are not carrying that load anymore can be a liberating feeling. Being happy without each other, without ill feelings, is one of the biggest signs a relationship is over. Yet how wonderful it was while it lasted! Cherish the memories and honor the relationships, but rejoice in the possibilities open before you.
How to break it to your partner that The relationship is not working
Now, that you have undeniable proof that your relationship is not exactly going on the track that you wanted, it’s time to have “the talk”. Yes, nobody is thrilled about this part, especially if you were in a long-term, committed relationship, but here’s an obligation that you can’t avoid. And to make sure you handle this conversation the right way, we have a few quick tips:
|Rip off the bandaid and tell your partner is over||Don’t keep procrastinating the talk because you are afraid of breaking their heart or dreading the loneliness after the breakup|
|Always do it in person unless you feel unsafe around them or you think they don’t deserve any more of your time||Don’t break up over text or call|
|Tell them why you want to break up but without hurting their self-esteem||Don’t leave them hanging without a proper closure|
|Finish it once and for all||Don’t offer false hopes that can make them think that there’s still a chance for you two to patch up|
How To Cope With A Relationship Coming To End?
Now that you know the warning signs of a dying relationship and how to break the news to your partner, there’s only one thing left for us to figure out – a roadmap to navigate the ending of a relationship. Megha says, “When people are separating, they should consider having one last conversation that gives them closure. People often use it as an excuse to meet their ex again and again to prolong the breakup. I am not suggesting that.
“What I mean is that when you have that conversation, you actually go over the relationship and talk about the good and the bad and the ugly. And you do that in a way so it doesn’t make you feel emotionally reactive.” Sounds simple enough, however, putting it into practice and pulling the plug on a relationship can be a lot harder. A breakup brings a whirlwind of emotions in its wake. And coping with them isn’t always easy. If you find yourself struggling to come to terms with a breakup, seeking professional help from a mental health expert can be immensely beneficial. If you’re looking for help, know that skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
Here are some other ways you can cope with the end of a relationship healthily:
- Grieve the way you want. Cry an ocean or take off from work for a few days, whatever works for you
- Be gentle with yourself and don’t feel weak for giving in to the pain
- Don’t prolong the grieving phase after a breakup, otherwise, it will be difficult to get back to normal life
- Locking yourself in is probably not a good idea. Meet your friends and family and vent out your feelings
- Slowly take charge of your life again, one step at a time
- Remember it’s not the end of the world
- When trust and empathy take off from a relationship, it’s probably over
- You don’t feel any physical intimacy or emotional connection with your partner anymore
- There are frequent fights and you express your wish to break up repeatedly
- You don’t turn to your partner with your problems or share any happy thoughts and other people take that place
- If you feel happy with the prospect of not being in this relationship, it’s time to end things for good
Hopefully, we could offer you some clarity on the question, “How do you know when your relationship is really over?”, and the stages coming after. If you’re contemplating ending things with your partner, don’t stall, and just do it. You know how you feel, and you can identify the indications of a wrecked relationship. Just because you’re not with someone, doesn’t mean you are alone. There’s plenty of fish in the sea!
The article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated in 2022.