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The Brutal Signs You Know A Relationship Isn't Working

by Ellen "Jelly" McRae 9 days ago in dating
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It's you, them and everything you've ruined together.

The guessing game | Image created on Canva

Some people will tell you it's easy to spot when your relationship is dying. If that were the case, though, blindsided break-ups wouldn't exist.

This idea of heartbreak wouldn't exist, either. If we know it's coming, it's not exactly "heartbreak". More like life-breaking or that your dating life needs repair.

But as we know, the shock break-up hits us in the face without any warning. For those relationships, the ones where the exiting partner exercises a happy poker face right until the end, there isn't much anyone can do to help. 

Without the crystal ball, it was impossible to see that coming.

These blindsiding bust-ups aren't the only way relationships end, thankfully. Relationships end long before the two people part ways and divide their lives. They can see it coming a long way off.

For the most part, we don't need a crystal ball to know our relationship is heading for disaster. But we do need to read the signs.

And when I say the signs, I mean every sign put together. Let me explain.

The signs your partner is showing you

1. They start pulling away

It's hard to gauge when someone is emotionally pulling away from you. You don't know this is happening, unless, like the crystal ball, you're a mind reader. But they express this feeling by pulling away with their actions and behaviours. They tend to change and pull back on:

  • Romantic gestures - Compared to what you're used to in your relationship, they've quit the dates, love language and thoughtful gestures.
  • Affections - They stop kissing you, holding your hand, hugging you and touching you in moments of affection.
  • Sex - It's not uncommon for peaks and troughs in your relationship sex life. But when it's like a motor that won't start, no matter how you try to turn it on, nothing happens.

2. They don't want to work on an issue

Here is a simple equation that we forget in the throes of an unhappy relationship.

When someone cares about the relationship, they will work on it.

It's the same philosophy as losing weight. If someone wants to lose kilos, they will make healthy habit changes, seek professional advice or both to achieve their goal.

The concept isn't hard to understand. As humans, when we want something, we show this through our actions. We might not always get it right, but when we care, we tend to take some action.

3. They stop including you

Noticing your partner changing how they involve you in their life is crucial. When they begin to exclude you from events and activities they once did with you, this is an unignorable red flag.

Your invitations dry up. You don't automatically assume they want to go to dinner with you. Or that you're going to a party with them. They start living a solo life.

By the way, we build some relationships like this from the beginning. Separate friends, separate events, separation of your family from the relationship.

It's in these instances where this rule doesn't apply. It's more about what you know about your relationship changing. For example, you don't see movies together. They go without you and don't invite you. 

Them not inviting you to a movie isn't a red flag because that's how you've always approached going to the cinema.

We have to make sure we aren't getting alone time confused. When a couple splits, it doesn't mean it's because one or both sides want to be alone.

In the grand scheme of things, when someone doesn't want to be in the relationship, it means they don't want to be with you. I know that hurts to hear.

If the change in your partner comes in the form of seeking alone time, you can't always assume it's about you.

I wouldn't go assuming anything, by the way. More on that to come.

The signs you're showing your partner

It's easy to blame the break-up on your other half, and assume it's their decision to end the relationship. Or it's their behaviour that indicates the relationship is ending.

It takes two people to make this relationship. Well, you know the rest.

If you're only analysing your partner's behaviour, you're scratching the surface of what's truly happening.

1. You don't care about their opinion

You know all those times you asked your partner's thoughts on your clothes? Or whether you should quit your job? Or what to make for dinner? Those are normal dilemmas in life you find resolutions to with your partner.

But when you're exiting the relationship, you don't care what your partner thinks anymore. You:

  • Don't ask for their opinion - Even when you need a second opinion, you don't ask your partner.
  • Don't even think to ask for their opinion - They might have the answer or know exactly what would work for you. But they aren't your partner anymore. In your mind, that is. You don't even think about asking what they think.
  • Don't listen when they give you their thoughts - If you're still together, you can't avoid their opinions from coming up in conversation. But when it happens, you check out. You don't hear them. You might listen, but you disregard their opinion.
  • Find yourself avoiding conversations where their opinion could come into play - As a result, you end up skipping important conversations that could repair or strengthen your relationship. The reason is you would have to engage and care about their opinion.

2. You don't care if they cancel on you

When someone you want to be with cancels on you, it hurts. You feel let down by them. The sting of rejection pains you.

It's a situation that not even an apology seems to soothe. When that happens to you with your partner, when they cancel on you, the pain intensifies.

But the moment you stop caring, when you feel over pain, it's an indication you're pulling away from the relationship. It's showing you're comfortable being apart from them. It's demonstrating your lack of connection to them.

A once-off feeling like this doesn't imply the end. 

There is way too much circumstance surrounding your moment of elation. But if this feeling never departs you, it's a concern worth noting.

3. You don't want to resolve an argument

And when your partner stops trying to find a solution to your relationship woes, and you're happy to leave an argument unresolved, there is a concern you've let the relationship go.

Some fights aren't worth having. We know the ones I mean. 

Trivial, meaningless fights that aren't important in the grand scheme of things. Fights about leaving the toilet seat up. It's the classic example of an issue you can debate all day about, but it's not an argument that means a lot.

You're content to live in this unresolved, tense situation with your partner. Why? Because the worst possible outcome doesn't scare you. Breaking up isn't something you hate the idea of. 

In fact, you probably want it to happen.

Obvious problems

We will always have the classic red flags everyone knows about. The deal breakers you have from the start of your relationship, or the issues implied with a monogamous relationship.

You know that if either of you does any of the following things, your relationship is more than likely headed towards the end:

  • A partner cheats
  • A partner lies about something substantial in the relationship
  • A partner deceives the other person, putting them in fiscal, emotional or physical harm's way
  • A partner abuses, hurts or injures the other partner
  • A partner falls out with mutual family or friends, making it impossible to sustain a normal social life
  • Either partner breaks a unique vowel or promise in the relationship, something specific to you

When these things happen, we should know the relationship is ending. Or it's done. The problem occurs when both sides carry on as if it were nothing.

Both sides pretend is a common argument, the toilet seat all over again.

Or they try to dismiss it as once-off occurrences. Blips in human error.

Sometimes, even when the problem is right in front of you, it's not so easy to realise your relationship is dying.

Doing the math: the problems add up

Relationships don't fall apart because one thing happens, or one little feeling creeps in. Even if there has been a deal-breaker thrown into the union, our emotional selves know it's never one thing.

In my experience, everything adds up. It's your role to be the mathematician and do the sums. 

  • Don't isolate problems. 
  • Don't assume one problem isn't related to another. 
  • And, especially, don't think one problem going away means all the other issues in your relationship will vanish with it.

Relationships are a shifting dynamic of many parts. As complicated as they may seem, they are quite simple. When one part moves, the others do too. Nothing ever stays the same.

And with that I warn; don't go assuming

Remember when I mentioned assumptions earlier on? Well, we need to apply that same mantra to a dying relationship.

Don't assume your relationship is over simply because your relationship has changed. Don't assume the worst if is heading in a direction that feels like it's ending, or because that's what you sense is going on.

Nothing beats communication.

All the red flags in the world don't compete with honesty, healthy conversation and a decision between two people.

It takes two people to birth a relationship. And, most of the time, it takes two to end it.


About the author

Ellen "Jelly" McRae

Writes about romanceships (romance + relationships) | Loves to talk about behind the scenes of being a solopreneur on The Frolics | Writes 1 Lovelock Drive | Discover everything I do and share here:

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insight

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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