Community + Relationships

Clear Signs That It’s Time for Your Relationship to End


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  • A relationship probably needs to end if you’re missing essential components like communication, affection, and/or love
  • Breakups suck, even if you’re the one pulling the plug
  • Don’t neglect your own health and well-being while you mourn your relationship’s end

Most of us have been through breakups, and there’s no way around how much they suck.

It’s terrible if you’re the one being broken up with, but it’s no picnic to be the one to end things, either. Some of us would rather hang on for a while longer and attempt to fix things—or simply ignore them and hope they somehow get better on their own. And for busy people like lawyers, relationships can be even more difficult to maintain. Every relationship has its rough patches, especially the longer the relationship lasts. Just ask your long-married aunts and uncles and grandparents about all the hard work they’ve put into their relationships. But every relationship is not meant to last, so how do you know when it’s really time for it to end?

Automatic Deal Breakers

Let’s just take a moment to go over some circumstances that warrant immediately ending a relationship, rather than thinking it over and having a conversation about what’s not working or giving it one last try. This may seem obvious, but abuse of any kind is a deal breaker. If your partner pushes, hits, ignores consent in intimate situations, or even verbally threatens to hurt you, there is nothing to be worked out—get out of there.

Abuse is not only physical, though. Emotional and psychological abuse is just as bad, and should not be tolerated. Belittling, name-calling, gaslighting, and generally tearing down your self-esteem is abuse just as much as hitting is. Run, don’t walk away from any relationship like this. And of course, the automatic deal-breaker rules go for everyone, regardless of gender.

What’s Missing

Before having The Big Talk about ending things, zero in on what the problems are. Ask yourself what you are not getting, feeling, or experiencing. The top culprits are usually:

  • Communication: Being unable or unwilling to share feelings and talk over issues with each other is a sure-fire relationship killer. A lack of communication makes it obvious that one or both of you is checked out of your partnership.
  • Affection: When’s the last time you held hands? Cuddled? Missed your significant other? If you aren’t getting, giving, or even feeling an interest in those things, the end is near. Everyone needs physical affection, and if you or your partner aren’t interested in touching and getting close, your relationship can’t possibly survive in a healthy way.
  • Respect: Being disrespected feels terrible. If your partner doesn’t apologize and isn’t considerate, what’s the point?
  • Self-esteem: Everyone has low points, but if you find that your self-esteem has dropped while in this relationship, that is a red flag. Your self-esteem can be gradually chipped away by small slights that build up over time.
  • Love: Ask yourself if you feel loved by and still feel love for your partner, and answer honestly. If it’s been weeks or even months since you’ve felt loved, it’s time to get out.
If you’re contemplating ending a relationship, what things do you find missing?

The End of a Relationship Is Not Automatically a Failure

Regardless of what rom coms would have us believe, not all relationships are meant to lead to marriage or last forever. What you don’t need to add to the stress of a breakup is guilt or shame that you “failed” at something. Having a good relationship that lasts a few years and ends in a mature, sane way once it no longer works is never a failure. Go easy on yourself.

Take Care of Yourself, Too

Just because you’re the one who is ending things doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be sad or have regrets. We mourn when things end, even if the ending is for the best. It’s quite painful to break up with someone—you don’t want to hurt your soon-to-be-ex and you’re experiencing your own feelings of loss around the end of what used to be a loving partnership. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and practice self-care rituals to get you through the many changes that come with the end of a relationship: You may have to find a new place to live, or live alone for the first time in a long time, or even avoid certain regular hang-outs while the break-up is still fresh. This can, of course, lead to anxiety and depression, so don’t forget to be gentle and loving to yourself.

Make sure you get enough sleep, eat enough, and keep in touch with friends who can make sure you get out to do fun and relaxing things. Conversely, take care that you aren’t sleeping too much, overeating, or drinking too much. A healthy balance—and peace—is what you should strive for, whether you are in or out of a relationship.