Breakups are often portrayed as the result of one earth-shattering event—a person walks in on their partner cheating or someone storms off after their significant other admits to lying about something big. Sometimes, it does go down that way, but many relationships simply fizzle out slowly because two people have come to realize they're not right for each other. While it can be hard to let something go without a major inciting incident, experts advise that you not stick something out just for the sake of it. With that in mind, we consulted therapists to find out five signs your relationship just isn't working. Read on to find out what you should be on the lookout for.
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You're always fighting, and it's getting more intense.
Every couple fights and conflict isn't always a bad thing, according to Marley Howard, a licensed family and marriage therapist with over 12 years of experience. But she says it's a red flag if "you're always fighting" with your partner.
"There is usually an underlying fear, avoidance, and inauthenticity behind a lack of conflict in a relationship," Howard explains. "However, arguments with your spouse are a warning sign if they occur constantly."
Omar Ruiz, LMFT, a licensed therapist and founder of Online Private Practice, LLC, warns people to watch out for increased intensity surrounding arguments with their partner. According to Ruiz, this is often a major indicator that your relationship is turning toxic. "The more frequent and intense arguments become, the less the couple is able to take back control of their relationship," he explains.
But you're no longer resolving conflicts.
When it comes to constant fighting, Laura Silverstein, LCSW, a certified couples therapist and co-owner of Main Line Counseling Partners, tells Best Life that the real problem boils down to conflict that never gets resolved. "All couples fight, but if neither party is working on trying to de-escalate the tension or makeup after a fight, the relationship is not in good shape," she says.
If you get to a point in which you notice visceral signs like your heart racing or difficulty breathing, you should step away from the argument, according to Silverstein. "When you're in a state like this you and your partner might do and say things you regret," she explains. "If you don't re-group to apologize afterwards it will likely lead to building resentment."
At the same time, when conflict is not properly resolved, it snowballs into you and your partner fighting about the same things over and over again, adds GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor working with Psych Point.
"If you find yourself in a cycle of arguing with your partner or feel like no matter what you do you are not heard, understood or validated, then your relationship may not be working," Guarino says. "These warning signs indicate a deep issue in communicating, along with a sense of burnout from both partners and a lack of camaraderie between partners that affects their ability to solve relationship issues."
You've started hiding things from your partner.
On the other hand, a lack of conflict in your relationship could be because you're holding back from your partner out of fear, according to Nancy Landrum, a relationship coach and creator of The Millionaire Marriage Club. And that in itself may be an indicator that your relationship isn't working out. "It's a problem if you're afraid to bring up a topic that you feel needs attention," Landrum says. "In a healthy relationship, anything can be discussed with the expectation of a respectful, candid response."
This lack of openness and honesty in your relationship could also result in you engaging in further negative behavior with your partner. According to Howard, you should be concerned if you feel like you've started keeping certain things from your partner. "The right to privacy is different, but hiding information from your spouse that they should know is a red flag. It indicates that you do not trust your partner," she explains.
And you're confiding in other people more.
Kevin Darné, a relationship expert and author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), warns people to pay attention to their communication with others compared to their partner. "When you find yourself confiding in friends, coworkers, or strangers about your dissatisfaction in your relationship instead of talking to your partner it is a bad sign," he says. "In your effort to gain a sympathetic ear it also creates the possibility of establishing an emotional affair."
Many people start confiding in other people more after they have communicated their problems to their partner but did not feel heard. This is also a bad sign. Boone Christianson, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Provo, Utah, and author of 101 Therapy Talks, says relationships that are not working out usually include a dynamic where one person is dissatisfied while the other doesn't see an issue.
"As couple therapists, we always say, 'If one of you has a problem, the relationship has a problem.' If one person says the couple needs therapy, it needs therapy," Christianson explains. "Sometimes the partner in denial will come around once the issue affects them enough, but that point is usually a threat of separation."
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You no longer look forward to spending time with them.
Relationships take work, and it isn't always easy. But at the end of the day, you should still enjoy being with your significant other. "Life is a personal journey. A relationship should complement one's life not be the essence of it," Darné shares.
One of the clearest signs that you're not happy anymore with the relationship you're in is that "you no longer look forward to the time you spend with them," according to Beth Ribarsky, PhD, a relationship expert and professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Illinois Springfield. This might result in you feeling "stressed when you see them calling or texting," she explains. "Or you might find excuses to avoid your partner."
At the same time, you are also responsible for helping bring enjoyment to your relationship. So it possible to reverse this problem if you don't want to end things with your partner. "It is easy for couples to fall into simply handling the business of the relationship together (bills, kids, household responsibilities, etc.)," explains Erica Taylor, LCSW-S, a licensed clinical social worker who owns a private practice in Texas that provides couples counseling. "But if you are not intentional about cultivating the fun, your relationship won't work."