A happy, healthy relationship makes us feel great about ourselves and fills us with hope for the future. Sadly, not all relationships can stay this way forever, so it’s important to understand how to know when a relationship is over.
If you’ve been starting to question yours lately, it’s a topic that may have started to cross your mind. Even once you’ve reached that point, knowing exactly when to end it can be difficult.
How to know when a relationship is over
There’s always an optimistic part of us that clings to the happy times. While that’s a good trait for anyone to have, it can also lead us to drag out a relationship that’s seen its day.
Because this breakdown happens steadily over time, you might not even realize it’s happening. It’s rarely as simple as having a single argument and bam, everything is over. That’s exactly why I’m writing this article — you owe it to yourself and your partner to know when and how to end a failing relationship.
That doesn’t mean you should bail out at the first sign of a struggle. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of clear signs that it’s over. I’ll also provide tips on what to do about it, though exactly how you handle things from there is up to you. What matters most is recognizing these signals in the first place.
Arguments have become the norm
If arguing has become an almost daily occurrence in your relationship, this is the biggest red flag by far.
They can happen for a variety of reasons, most of which I’ll be covering in this article. As for why they’re so important in determining how to know when a relationship is over, it’s about how you both handle conflict.
Conflict is a part of life, and it’s definitely part of any relationship. When you’re a strong couple in a healthy relationship, you handle conflict with open communication. You discuss what upsets you and work as a team to resolve it in a way that works for both of you.
You do this because you care about each other and want the other person to feel happy and cared for.
As a relationship starts to break down, you begin to lose the love and respect that drives proper conflict resolution. A “you vs. me” dynamic starts to develop where arguments become more about assigning blame than anything else.
That love and respect that drove you both to handle disagreements so well in the past are sadly gone. If your relationship has reached this point, it may be time to end things before they get even worse.
Let’s take a look at some elements that lead to this breakdown since each of them are signals themselves.
You communicate less
Healthy relationships are built on communication. So much strength comes from sharing a safe space together. Being able to share thoughts and feelings with each other and work through them as a team is so powerful.
If you both communicated well in the past, but this has started to slide, it can be an effective early warning. The more your relationship breaks down, the less the two of you will communicate, which only makes things worse.
Rather than raising concerns with your partner, you find you keep them to yourself. This lets niggling things to turn into major irritations and, eventually, arguments.
The breakdown often means you’ll start sharing important news with others first too. She’s no longer the first person you think to text with news and updates about your life. You’re slowly drifting apart — and that’s another big sign that the relationship is over.
Less communication breeds mistrust
As that communication continues to break down, you no longer feel like you’re a part of each other’s lives. You’re hearing about your partner through mutual friends or seeing things unexpectedly on social media.
Even if trust was never an issue before, this can start raising questions that will never be answered — because you don’t communicate!
Maybe the last time she mentioned her weekend plans, she was heading to her best friend’s house for drinks. The next thing you see is a photo of her at a bar with another guy. It could be totally innocuous — maybe a gay coworker or a new friend you haven’t met.
The fact is, you thought she was at her friend’s house and now you see this. Through that lack of communication alone, now you’re forced to question why she “lied” to you.
When you’re only given small snippets of information and vague responses, mistrust is a normal reaction. That doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s doing anything wrong, but without communication, there’s no way to know.
You do less together as a couple
Another big sign that your relationship is coming to an end is when you start to prefer time apart.
If you’ve stopped enjoying her company and wanting to be together, something major has changed. You’re no longer sharing the same feelings for each other that you once did.
There are countless reasons why this may come about, but what’s important here is the result. You don’t feel as strongly for each other, and you’d rather be around friends or family instead.
Co-dependence isn’t healthy, but preferring to do things without her is even worse.
You start thinking about other women
Even if you’re completely unsure how to tell if a relationship is over, this one is a very black and white signal.
Once you reach the point where you start thinking about being with other women, your relationship is in trouble.
It’s something we tend to ignore for a while, telling ourselves things will get better or it was a moment of weakness. The truth is, reaching that point tells us something we already know. We just don’t feel the way we used to and it’s time to go our separate ways.
When your relationship is healthy, you don’t want to be with other women. You’ll still notice attractive people, but that isn’t enough for you to start thinking about dating them.
You’re in a good place, you’re happy together and these thoughts don’t even occur to you.
You no longer feel safe or supported
Those feelings of safety and support are a major part of what makes a great relationship. If you’ve been together for a while, you should feel as though you can tell your partner anything and vice versa. Like no matter what, she’s going to support you and your decisions.
As things start to fall apart, that safe environment begins to fade. The feelings you once shared aren’t there anymore and that unwavering support gives way to judgment and frustration.
If you feel as though your partner doesn’t support you like she used to, I’ve got some bad news. It’s a major way to know when a relationship is over and you’re seeing it first hand.
Your sex life is suffering
Another classic telltale sign that a relationship is over is a drop in your sex life. Frustration and anger mean you’re less attracted to each other, and sex isn’t on your list of priorities anymore.
The amount of sex you have will vary by each couple and what’s going on in your lives at that particular moment. If you notice that it’s dropped significantly from what was your “‘normal”’ though, there may be a reason behind it.
If that drop stays consistent, it’s probably because the two of you just aren’t working right now.
The same is true if your bedroom antics have become more vanilla than they were. Unfortunately, you’re looking at another key factor in how to tell if a relationship is over.
Experimenting in the bedroom needs a great deal of trust and comfort with each other. As we’ve covered in previous points, these will begin to fade as your relationship wanes.
Without that trust, you’re left with almost arbitrary sex. Not very exciting, huh?
Small things start to annoy you far more than they should
If you’ve been through a breakup in the past, you’ve seen this one in action. As that distance between you grows, the smallest of things really start to get under your skin.
You may be a very calm and rational person, yet here you are, furious she left the cap off of the toothpaste. Maybe your last argument was about where she left her shoes or you forgetting to replace the roll of toilet paper.
The most minor of things that, on a typical day, would barely even register as annoying to either of you. Now though, it’s a source of a full-blown argument because you’ve absolutely had enough.
The truth is, while you’re venting over something minor, what each of you are really sick of is each other. You just haven’t realized it yet. Or you may not be willing to admit you know this is how to tell if a relationship is over.
You’ve stopped talking about your future together
In a long-term relationship, you’re actively building a life together. You make future plans and set goals that you work toward as a team.
If you’ve noticed this is fading too, it’s likely because you’ve started to question things overall. You’re unsure if you still want to be with her — if there’s even a future to work toward.
Unsure if this applies to you? Go ahead and think about it right now. Where would you like to go on vacation together in three years? Did you confidently start thinking of destinations or did you wince mentally and wonder if you’ll last that long?
Also consider this if you think you need to break up with someone you live with. Could it be possible that you're relationship has gone stagnant because you're so used to each other?
Your relationship starts to feel like a chore rather than a benefit to your life
The final red flag that your relationship may be over — and it can be hard to realize this one until it’s over.
Rather than waiting for hindsight, think about how your relationship makes you feel right now. Are you happy to be with your partner? If you could flip a switch and instantly be single without the mess of a breakup, would you do it?
Sometimes the habit of being in that relationship combined with the complexity of a breakup is enough to shield us. We don’t want to deal with any of that, and so on a deeper level, we avoid thinking about it altogether.
If the answer is yes, it really is time to think about your options. Remember, no matter how messy the breakup gets, 12 months from now it’ll just be a memory.
What to do when you’ve realized your relationship is over
If this article has been enough to confirm that your relationship is over, it’s time for the next step. Figuring out what you’re going to do about it.
Here are three easy steps you can put into action right now to make things easier. It might not be something you want to do but, as you’ve discovered, dragging things on now is pointless. It’ll only bring more pain, anger and frustration to you both.
Communicate openly about where you’re at
Nobody likes to be blindsided by a breakup. If you suddenly come home from work and end things, it gets very messy.
Instead, open the lines of communication and let her know what you’re thinking. Walk her through your thought process so far and why you think you’re better off apart. Whether that’s a friendship or going your separate ways entirely is up to each of you.
Taking this mature approach sets the right tone and brings respect and understanding to the situation. Breakups suck but small steps like this can make them far more bearable.
Watch your language — don’t assign blame
You might have the best of intentions but it can be easy to come across like you’re blaming her for things. Even if her actions are a large part of the cause, there’s no sense in pinning the breakup on her.
Choose your words carefully and try to phrase things in a more neutral manner. For example, rather than saying:
“You keep doing XYZ and I’m sick of dealing with it!”
Try something like
“I’m getting frustrated often and I don’t like how it makes either of us feel.”
This expresses the same core problem without assigning blame to either of you. The moment you start to assign blame, she’ll get defensive. This leads to a “you vs. her” mentality rather than a constructive discussion.
It’s not because she has a temper; it’s human nature. This rule applies to social interactions across the board.
Act fast — don’t let things drag on any further
If she’s taking it poorly, you might be tempted to slow things down. To offer some false hope in an attempt to be “kind,” easing your way out instead of breaking up immediately. The best way to break up with someone is by being candid and honest as soon as you can.
Positive as dragging it on may be, it only makes things harder on both of you. It leaves you both in an emotional limbo that doesn’t need to exist.
If you’re living together, make arrangements to stay with a friend for a few days to give you both some space. Use this time to get your head in the right place and begin making arrangements.
It’s a terrible outcome and the process won’t feel great. Unfortunately though, the relationship is already over. You owe it to both of you to go your separate ways so you each have a chance at genuine happiness.
I recently wrote about how to cope with a breakup. If you find yourself struggling with the process at any point, go ahead and check it out. I’ve covered a bunch of great tips that’ll make a difficult time that much easier to manage.