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Is my relationship over? Signs, stages, and what to do after

Image credit: Shutterstock - Cookie Studio

Another huge fight, another unnecessary squabble, and more insults hurled in both directions. Both of you leave the argument feeling defeated and lost.

You ask yourself, “How did we get here? How did this happen?” And finally, you wonder, “Is it over?”

Is your relationship over? It can be difficult to tell.

Sometimes you just know, and sometimes you don’t. Some people come to the realization immediately and break up soon after; for others, they stew in a state of unknowing for months if not years, trying to cling onto a dead relationship.

No matter how intertwined your life might be with your partner’s, it is never a good idea to force yourself to stay in a relationship that is done.

Not only is it unhealthy for both parties, but it is a waste of your time and heartache.

In this article, we discuss everything you need to know to decide whether or not your relationship is over, and what you can do to finally move forward.

Signs: Is Your Relationship Over, Or Is It “Just Another Fight”

No relationship is perfect, and no couple stays together without working through their issues.

Any long-term couple will tell you – the key to longevity is compromise, and you don’t reach compromise without wobbling through a few arguments.

This is why so many people stay in relationships that are long-dead, even though everyone around them can see it.

We simply find it impossible to tell the difference between whether we are going through just another fight, or whether this is the fight to end all fights.

On one hand, we want to choose the option that makes us happiest: leaving a toxic and exhausting relationship.

But on the other hand, we want to stay loyal to the commitment and history built with our partner, and do everything we can to see our conflicts as nothing more than growing pains.

While the line between a dead relationship and just another fight can be vague and often moves about, there is one question you can ask yourself to determine whether your relationship is done.

“Is your relationship forcing you to break up with yourself?”

What does this mean? Ask yourself the following:

– Do you still remember who you are?

– Do you still know and practice your own values?

– Do you know yourself, do you respect yourself, and do you like yourself?

– Do you still feel that you have the power to make your own choices?

– Do you feel that you are relevant and important?

All relationships are meant to add value to our lives, whether that value is in the form of companionship, business relation, love, or something else.

A relationship is over when it is not only no longer adding value to our life, but sucking value from it.

But we don’t always recognize this when it happens. A part of us will continue to love the person that we are with, no matter how difficult things get.

And that part will keep you convinced that your feelings that the relationship is over are actually caused by different things.

Here are some of the ways we deflect ourselves from the truth and just take it out on our partner:

  • You can’t stand the thought of them touching you: You once fantasized about them, but now you are disgusted by the idea of being physically intimate with them. The pleasure of sexual satisfaction has all but disappeared.
  • Arguments don’t end: Arguments used to be short and quick, with a concise reason and point of discussion. Now everything is an argument, and old arguments never die.
  • You hate their habits: You once found their quirks and behaviors cute and unique, but now they drive you crazy. Everything from the way they chew their food to the way they sleep makes you want to scream.
  • You can’t stop being annoyed at them: Even when they are trying their best to have a good day with you, you just can’t stop being annoyed. There is no rational reason for you to be annoyed, but seeing their face is enough to trigger you.
  • You feel permanently stuck: You don’t imagine tomorrow anymore. You just seem to be waiting for something to end. You want them to break up with you so that you can be done with it.

Not Anyone’s Fault: Reasons Why Relationships End

One major reason why many people stay in relationships that are over is that they can’t imagine how a partnership that once had so much love could have become so sour.

We live in a prolonged state of denial, using the past happiness of the relationship to justify continuing it against all odds.

But we have to accept that even the best relationships end, and that doesn’t necessarily make it anyone’s fault.

It doesn’t have to be your fault and it doesn’t have to be your partner’s fault – sometimes the chips just fall where they may, and it’s up to you and your partner to accept it.

Here are some reasons why relationships end:

1. Shallow Foundations

For young couples whose relationships started in a blaze of excitement and lust, this fire often quickly flickers out once the novelty of each other’s bodies and company wears off.

Now you feel an obligation to see each other, even though you don’t feel like you have much in common.

You slowly start to resent each other, to the point that even the sex – the one thing that was amazing in the relationship – becomes boring.

This might be your relationship’s problem if…

  • You don’t have anything to talk about when you eat together
  • You barely share any of the same interests
  • You feel relieved whenever they leave after sex

2. Too Much Baggage

Almost the opposite of the “shallow foundation” problem, having too much baggage occurs when a couple has gone through too many fights, too many arguments, and too many bitter half-break ups.

You might love each other, you might laugh at each other’s jokes, and you might share all the same interests, but you’ve stepped on each other’s toes too many times.

No matter how much you two have tried to bury and move on from the past, the resentment from those fights just never goes away, until you can barely spend an hour with your partner without getting into a squabble.

This might be your relationship’s problem if…

  • You have a long history of fights and making up
  • You feel like you have to walk on eggshells around each other
  • You are tired of saying (and hearing) sorry

3. Personal Changes

People change. We go to school, we get jobs, we evolve in our careers, we develop new interests, we want to become different and better people.

But we don’t all change at the same rate and in the same ways. While two people might have been perfect for each other at one point in time, that doesn’t mean they will continue to be perfect for each other forever.

It’s not your fault or your partner’s fault. If one person starts to feel that they are at a different period of their life and need something else, they can’t help but feel that their partner is holding them back and keeping them from their true potential.

It’s something that we rarely ever admit, and instead it ends up manifesting in needless and petty fights.

This might be your relationship’s problem if…

  • You or your partner has recently gone through a big life change
  • You or your partner has been talking about dreams and ambitions
  • You or your partner has become content with the status quo and thinks the other person is as well

4. Circumstance and Indifference

Personal changes don’t always have to be big, monumental life-altering events and realizations. Sometimes they can just be small, gradual changes to the way you live your life, and these subtle changes can be notable to the health of your relationship.

For example, if one partner decides to start spending a few more hours working every day, that lost time can make a big dent to the connection in the relationship.

Slowly the indifference creeps in, and what used to be time spent together is now time spent apart, without caring about the effects on the relationship.

One thing might lead to another, and in just a few months, your entire intimate connection and sex life could be gone.

This might be your relationship’s problem if…

  • You argue about time and priorities
  • You don’t feel like your partner understands why you do the things you do
  • The arguments have made it difficult to feel attracted to your partner

The 5 Stages of a Dying Relationship

Stage Thoughts / Actions
Stage 1: Precontemplation – No thoughts of change My relationship makes me happy.

There is not much wrong with the relationship.

Issues are normal in a relationship.

Stage 2: Contemplation – Some thoughts of change Maybe this relationship isn’t working out.

Sometimes this relationship makes me feel bad.

I don’t know if this relationship is still healthy.

Stage 3: Preparation – Mentally preparing to end the relationship I need some help figuring out the best way to end this relationship.

I don’t want to hurt my partner, but this relationship needs to end.

I need to find a way to get out of this in one piece.

Stage 4: Action – Doing what needs to be done to end the relationship I don’t talk with my partner much anymore.

I imagine myself living a life outside of this relationship.

I have confirmed with my partner that I want to be out of the relationship.

Stage 5: Maintenance – Keeping the relationship done I do what I need to do to avoid seeing and interacting with my partner.

I threw out everything that would remind me of my partner.

I am starting to date other people.

Everyday Habits That Kill Relationships

Image credit: Shutterstock – By Roman Kosolapov

Relationships don’t always end because of some grand reason.

Sometimes it’s the little everyday things that you could be unknowingly doing to your partner (or vice-versa) that’s nudging both of you closer to saying “let’s just break up”.

Every little interaction you have colors your perception of each other.

Every fight, every celebration, every minute detail of the seemingly ordinary things you do for each other ultimately adds up to how your partner perceives you.

It’s easy to get lost in everyday things because we dismiss them as normal excusable behavior.

We never think that something so natural as raising your voice or ignoring a question can lead to unhappiness in a relationship – and that’s precisely why they’re dangerous.

When left unchecked, these things grow into habits that can ultimately destroy the relationship.

Here are some everyday things you or your partner might be doing that’s contributing to the unhappiness in your relationship:

1. You take the other person for granted

All relationships eventually plateau and move from intense to stable, no matter how passionate your early days might be. Although this sounds like the end of times, it’s actually a good sign of progress because you’re both ready to live out the not so exciting parts of life together.

Growing more comfortable around each other takes the pressure off being perfect. Instead of trying so hard to put on your best self, you’re at a stage in your relationship where you know your partner is here to stay even if you don’t project what you think they want to see.

However, some couples tend to go from not trying so hard to not trying at all. Suddenly the nice things they do for you don’t feel as nice anymore. You stop feeling like you have to go out of your way to make the other person happy because you’re already in a “safe” stage of your relationship.

Taking each other for granted comes in many forms – from forgetting to say “thank you” or ignoring a chore when they’ve asked you for help. At the end of the day, these gestures still have the same effect: they remove the very thing that makes the relationship feel special.

What to do instead: Don’t forget to highlight what makes them special. Whether it’s their knack for booking the best restaurant or just being simply responsible, always make sure they feel appreciated for the little ways they inspire you and make your life better.

2. You stick to the routine

As your life moves forward, you might find yourself prioritizing things that have nothing to do with your relationship.

We get it: people get busy and preoccupied and it’s impossible to maintain a relationship 24/7.

It’s when you completely stop putting the effort to introduce novelty and fun in your relationship that things go sour.

Instead of doing something fun and exciting, you or your partner might start choosing the easier, more comfortable option.

You blame work, time, or money for not doing the things you used to. After all, it’s so easy to swap fun nights out for quiet movie nights indoors.

What to do instead: Actively make time for each other. Whether it’s trying a new move in bed or eating at a new restaurant, make sure you have time to do things that are outside your routine.

Don’t underestimate the power of novelty. Keeping your relationship fresh with new experiences is a proven way to keep it going.

3. You stop talking

When things were new, you would spend hours talking each other’s ears off.

You would talk about your dreams, fears, prejudices, expectations, and share those with each other so openly.

Eventually, it’s those very things that have kept you in their company, even after the high of attraction has passed.

It’s normal to stop having these “deep” conversations the more you get to know your partner. After a while, it feels like you know everything about them which means there’s nothing left to say.

Really talking to each other doesn’t just mean physically talking to each other whenever possible; it means preserving the curiosity and sensitivity you had when you talked about things other than your work, family, and gossip.

Your partner should be the person you could talk to about anything. If you find yourself (or them) talking more about work and nothing else, it’s bound to turn your relationship from stable to stale.

What to do instead: Strive to have interesting topics for conversation. Read a new book or watch a new movie together and discuss those with each other.

People in relationships that don’t talk about anything else other than their daily routines are going to realize sooner or later that there’s nothing keeping them from calling it quits.

4. You hide your feelings

Biting back mean and unnecessary comments during fights is one thing, never saying anything back is another.

The natural response for couples is to bring things into the light, no matter how uncomfortable and awkward, to try and resolve things.

Even in your most heated arguments, you should still be thankful if both of you still care enough to actually talk about what’s wrong.

Emotional vulnerability – whether it’s in times of anger or happiness – means they are still willing to let you become a part of their life.

What’s more alarming than a complete shoutfest is completely ignoring what you feel for the sake of “peace”.

We hide things when we truly believe there are no options.

Why bother getting into a heated argument when they won’t be interested to hear what you have to say anyway?

So instead of explaining your piece, you hide the anger and all the emotion, and let bygones be bygones until you have nothing else to say about every aspect of your relationship.

What to do instead: Whether it’s out of consideration or exhaustion, always strive to be communicative with your partner.

Even if you don’t feel like talking, it’s good to let your emotions out so your partner knows what’s going on in your head.

This way, they (or you) may adjust appropriately and make improvements on the relationship.

5. You over criticize

Giving the other person constructive feedback from time to time is part of any normal, caring relationship.

However, what most couples don’t realize is that feedback can sometimes be a little too intrusive.

Criticism about your partner’s clothing, behavior, and habits may feel like innocent comments but they can ultimately snowball into discontent.

When suggestions go from helpful to naggy, it’s a clear sign there are communication problems in the relationship.

Criticism should help the person improve; it should organically inspire them to become a better version of themselves.

But if the words are doing nothing but alienating the other person, it’s time to take a step back and rethink these “casual comments”.

Over criticizing your partner can apply to anything – from the way they do their chores or the way they interact with other people.

At one point, it’s important to realize that the person you are in a relationship with is still their own person and that there are some things, no matter how simple or big, that just doesn’t warrant criticism.

What to do instead: Know when it’s time to stop. Criticism, no matter how helpful, can still breed self-doubt. If you must criticize something, do it sparingly and gently.

Preface your suggestion by letting your partner know you appreciate them and would never want to hurt them intentionally.

Otherwise, you can just do something according to your preference to avoid conflict.

My Relationship Is Over: Now What?

How to tell if someone is lying

Sometimes broken relationships heal and become stronger but for the most part they remain broken forever.

Even after putting in the time and effort to fix your relationship, there will be situations when the only solution left is to part ways.

If you’ve determined that the relationship is over, the first thing you should do is plan how to break the news to your partner.

There’s no point in avoiding it because once you internalize that the relationship is over, it’s hard to go back and pretend that you still cherish being with the other person.

You can’t trick yourself into wanting the relationship just by staying in it.

Once you realize that the relationship is over, you will only grow more resentful of your partner until it ends in a gruesome break-up.

On the other hand, if you find yourself on the other end of the rope, be considerate towards your partner’s feelings. Hear out what they have to say and use those as points for self-improvement.

Before convincing them to take you back, ask yourself whether you’re doing this out of remorse or just fear.

If your answer is anything but “I can make myself a better person this time around”, let the other person go and use this as an opportunity to improve yourself for your next relationship.

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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