Neon letters saying "Game Over"

5 Signs Your Relationship is Over

One of the hardest things in intimate relationships is having both the perspicacity and the courage to say they are over.  Let’s look at both of these.

This blogpost has been inspired by two conversations in which I’ve been involved over just the past couple of weeks.

These were instances where nothing would save the relationships.  They were over.  The partners just had to realize it and then have the courage to move on.

I consider in this blogpost some signs a relationship is over.  These are not all the possible signs.  But they are ones I have found to be among the most common.

Most of the blogposts on our website are about how to improve your relationship.

But what about if there is nothing really there to improve upon?  How do you know when it’s over?

There are a few signs that are indicators it's time to move on.

1. Your partner is physically abusive.

If your partner is physically abusive, you need to get out. Fast.

Partners who are physically abusive generally don’t change. They may go into remission for a while, but then the urge to abuse comes back and soon they are at it again.

Waiting for them to change is like waiting for Godot, the literary character around whom a play by Samuel Beckett was created.  The whole play consists of two people waiting for Godot to show up. He never does.

The abuser likely will tell you one or more of four things:

  1. I will change!
  2. You asked for it! You got what you deserved!
  3. What do you mean, physical abuse? That was a love tap, or a gesture gone awry.
  4. I thought you liked it!

Unless you are also eager to buy the Brooklyn Bridge for $5 at a one-day sale, don’t fall for these excuses.  They are sucker plays and you are not a sucker.

There is a small chance you have a love story of abuse (horror story) and actually do seek to be a victim.  But that’s not likely, and even if you do, get out of the relationship and get yourself into therapy.

This relationship is dangerous and some people in such relationships end up injured for life or, worse, dead.

This one is a total no-brainer—really. If your partner is physically abusive, get out.  If you need help, call a hotline.  But you need to get out right away.

2. Your partner is emotionally abusive.

Emotional abuse often is a harder call than physical abuse.  But the signs are usually, although not always, pretty clear.

They usually take one or more of four forms.  Keep in mind that these are not the only forms.  You have to be aware of different kinds of emotional abuse.

a)  They demean you.

They enjoy pointing out how inadequate you are.  They tell you that you are nothing, or less than nothing.  They say that you could not live without them.  They tell you that you’re pathetic or worthless or that you do everything wrong. The exact words differ, but the intent is the same—to make them feel better about themselves by making you feel worse about yourself.  They are so insecure in themselves, so lacking in self-worth, that they can inflate themselves only by deflating you.

b) Emotional withdrawal.

They are checked out.  They may or may not be there physically, but emotionally, they are gone.  There is little or no intimacy left.  You are living together but like distant roommates.  Essentially, whatever intimacy once held the relationship together is gone.

c) Intolerable lying.

You just can’t believe anything they say anymore.  This means that you don’t even know what kind of relationship you have.  You sometimes wonder whether they have reached the point where they even can distinguish truth from falsehood.  Can you live with that?

d) Intolerable cheating.

Let’s start with the fact that people have different definitions of cheating.  In a polyamorous relationship, for example, multiple physical partners would not be cheating. You have to decide with your partner what is allowable.  Look, everyone screws up sometimes.  You don’t want to be with anyone who claims to be perfect, either because they are deluded or because they are lying.  Only you can decide what, for you, is intolerable cheating.  You just have to watch that you don’t keep lowering the bar, much the way some politicians have lowered all our bars for what is minimally acceptable in the politicians’ behavior.  Once someone falls below your bar, you need to give them an ultimatum.  If they do it again, you’re out.

3. Your partner is seriously depleting your resources without your consent.

Depletion of resources can take a number of forms.  The depletion can be of physical or emotional resources.

  1. The partner is addicted to gambling or buying expensive cars or widgets, or whatever. You see bankruptcy in your future!  Well, maybe you don’t--the addiction does not have to result in huge financial costs. The addiction might be to pornography or to worse.  But if the partner cannot take responsibility for curing their addiction, or keeps promising to conquer their addiction and fails to come through, then you had best get out before you have nothing left. Soon, you may find yourself depleted of emotional as well as of financial resources.
  2. The partner is literally stealing stuff from you, usually money.  You perhaps have separate accounts and yours is sinking while theirs is growing, because they are siphoning off your account or hiding resources.
  3. War! Your partner is super-contentious.  Everything is a fight.  If only you’d known that earlier, but you didn’t.  Now you know.  And you realize that your partner may have a war story, but you don’t.  And you don’t want to live the rest of your life fighting a world war!
  4. It’s all about tit-for-tat, nothing more. The relationship has become tit-for-tat.  They do something for you—they immediately expect you to do something for them.  Look, every relationship needs a sense of equity and balance—each partner has to contribute to it, hopefully, roughly equally.  But relationships don’t work when they become like straight business deals, where everything one gives, the other expects something immediately in return. Even people with a business story of love need to have something more than a strict exchange relationship. They need to have a “communal” relationship, where they view themselves as a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

4. You are bored beyond belief.

If you are seriously bored in a relationship, you owe it to your partner and yourself to do everything you can to get the excitement back. What can you try?  You can start a hobby together. You can take a trip or two or three together (at least, after the COVID-19 horror is over).  You can enliven your love-making. You can see more or better movies.  You can start talking again. You can start playing a sport or become avid sports spectators.

Some people do not view boredom beyond belief as a reason to end a relationship.  That’s a call we all have to make for ourselves.  But a relationship is a journey, and sometimes we just end up on different roads, perhaps seeking different destinations.  In this case, you both might do better with partners who share your preferred destination and way of getting there.  First try to get the spark back.  If you can’t, think about whether there is any spark to be gotten.

5. You are only staying because of ………

There are so many rationalizations one can create to stay.  The marriage is awful but you are staying for the kids; or because you have invested so much time; or because you have invested so much money; or because you’re pretty sure you’ll never find anyone else; or because you are so damn exhausted.  You don’t really want to stay but….

In these cases, I recommend that you not rush out.  You really do have to consider your alternatives.  If you have kids, splitting will affect them.  The effect depends a lot on the atmosphere in your household, how you both handle the split, and the resources you each can bring to the split. If you do not have the financial resources to split, you definitely need to see a lawyer or other professional to see whether you could obtain them.  If you are pretty sure you will never find anyone else, you have to decide whether it might not be better just to be alone but free. And you may well be wrong and find someone who really does fit you much better.

You don’t want to rush a decision to split.  But people are more likely to do the reverse—they think about it, and think some more, and then think some more, and watch the years go by.  Eventually, life passes them by.  If you are truly unhappy, you have to give serious thought to whether your relationship truly is salvageable.

Leaving a relationship requires three things.  It requires the perspicacity to realize it’s, well, over.  It takes the courage to say your leaving. And it takes the courage actually to leave and set up on your own.  Do you have that perspicacity?  Do you have that courage? That’s not something you’re born with.  That’s something you decide for.  It’s up to you!

Try your best to make your relationship work.  But not every relationship is made to last forever.  Not everyone will decide that the best course of action is to stay together.  Whether you decide to stay together  or decide the time has come to move on, we’re here for you at!

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