Sometimes, what began as a passionate and happy union becomes something dull, frustrating or even deeply unhappy. If this sounds familiar to you, then you might be asking yourself “Am I in a dead-end relationship, or can we find a way to make this relationship work?”. While the end of a relationship is almost always painful and daunting, sometimes the only way you can thrive is to move on. But how do you know when you're just going through a rough patch and when you'd genuinely be better off apart?
This guide will look at how to know when a relationship isn’t working and has reached a place where it is simply beyond repair. We'll explore the thoughts, feeling, and experiences that are commonly experienced when a breakup is imminent, and consider some of the self-reflective questions you need to ask yourself in order to come to the right decision.
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof test that can tell you whether you should separate. However, there are certain patterns found in almost all dead-end relationships, and becoming more aware of them can open your eyes to the truth of your current circumstances.
Here are the most common signs you are in a dead end relationship. A single sign should be viewed as a wakeup call, telling you that your dynamic needs to be adjusted if you're going to be happy.
For example, maybe you need to communicate more directly or consider seeing a couple counselor. However, the more signs you recognize, the more likely it is that you haven’t yet found the right person for you. In addition, the longer you've been seeing these symptoms of a dead-end relationship, the less plausible it is that dramatic change will occur.
A massive warning sign that your relationship is over is that your partner just doesn’t excite you anymore. In other words, you don't look forward to talking to them, you relish the idea of time spent away from them, and you find them predictable.
This often extends to the physical realm too, where your partner's kisses might leave you cold and you may find yourself making excuses to avoid intimacy. Of course, relationships do become less explosive and more comfortable over time, but if you're with someone who makes you feel uninspired and glum, this person isn't the one for you.
One of the most glaring dead-end relationship signs is that you're with someone who is more of a project than a partner.
Do you view this person as someone who is so riddled with flaws that you have to change their fundamental nature?
No one is perfect, but if you're trying to remake your partner from the ground up then you aren't being fair to them or to yourself. You deserve to be with someone who you like and accept for who they really are, and your partner deserves someone who is able to offer that kind of acceptance to them.
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Trust is a tricky issue. Perhaps you were wounded in the past, or perhaps you're struggling to get over a previous breach of trust in your current relationship. It is possible to build and restore trust, so if you have difficulties in this area then it's not a death sentence to your relationship.
On the other hand, if you've tried and failed to trust your partner, or they're repeatedly proving that they don't deserve your trust, then you would likely be happier apart. While there may be small doubts in even the happiest relationship, a catastrophic lack of trust always erodes love in the end.
Anger and resentment in relationships often derive from a sense of being stifled or limited in some way.
Whether your partner has tried to get you to change or you're just not confident that they'd like the “real you”, being inauthentic is a recipe for disaster. In the right relationship, you'll be with someone who feels like a best friend; someone who delights in your quirks and understands your personality. They should encourage you to be fully yourself.
Without this feeling, your self-esteem will plummet and you'll be unlikely to reach your full potential (not only in romance but also in your career, and life more generally).
Compared to the other unhappy relationship signs, this one is subtler. After all, there's never going to be a total overlap between your goals and your partner's, and there will be inevitable negotiations about issues like work-life balance.
The real problem sign is if you and your other half disagree on substantive things like whether to have children, where to live, whether to be monogamous and so on. When there's such a fundamental mismatch in your ideas of a happy and fulfilled life, one or both of you is bound to end up bitter in the end.
If this is a major issue and you now want to move forward, it's best to make these goals clear at the beginning of a new relationship. A great tool for this is a relationship self-evaluation.
When asking yourself “Is my relationship dead?”, make sure you consider the balance of power between you and your partner. In particular, if you're always the one suggesting dates, trying to look nice, instigating sex or planning ways to improve the relationship, this suggests that your partner isn't willing to make the effort required to keep the dynamic fresh and satisfying.
In some cases, this can be resolved with a simple conversation and an agreement to work to rebalance things, but in other cases, you'll discover that your partner just doesn't have the energy or commitment to do what's needed.
Finally, one of the most obvious signs of a dead-end relationship is that the cons dramatically outweigh the pros. If it's easy for you to come up with twenty reasons why your partner makes you angry, miserable or bored and yet you can't come up with even five reasons why you love this person, it's obvious why you should conclude. The relationship is no longer meeting your needs.
In less obvious cases, try writing down a real pros and cons list to help yourself gain some perspective on what you're really getting out of this relationship and what is fundamentally lacking.