How to Tell When Your Relationship Is Over, According to Experts

signs a relationship is over
Photo: YakobchukOlena/iStock

Anyone who has ever been through a breakup knows how painful it can be. In fact, it’s so hard to face emotionally that many of us postpone the inevitability of a relationship’s demise until we have no other choice but to end it. In the interim, we’re left treading water in a relationship that doesn’t serve us or make us happy.

“For many people facing the fact that a relationship is over, it can be very difficult because it truly can feel like a death, not only losing the person but the entire life that you have created with them,” explains Dawn Michael, PhD, a clinical sexologist, relationship expert, and author of My Husband Won’t Have Sex With Me. “It can also be a feeling of failure, fear of the unknown, and loss of a person that you love.”  These reasons, among others, are why so many of us choose to stay in an unhappy relationship far longer than we should.

Why not move on? Sometimes it’s because we’re not totally, 100 percent sure that there’s no hope left. Sometimes we need a bit of nudging and maybe a couple dozen nights crying our eyeballs out before concluding that we’re better off without this supposed “other half.” If you think your relationship might be ending, here are the signs you’ve been looking for—straight up—that signal it’s time to move on.

The sign: Your partner has said he or she no longer wants to be together

Ouch. Yes, this one hurts. But if your partner is telling you that it’s over, it’s either over or it should be. You know your relationship has ended when one partner makes a unilateral decision that it’s over, says Claudia Six, PhD, a sexologist, relationship coach, and author of Erotic Integrity: How to Be True to Yourself Sexually. “It takes two people to make a relationship work, but it only takes one to end it,” she says. “If your beloved calls it quits, don’t argue, don’t beg, don’t try to convince them to stay, don’t settle for crumbs—take them at their word and go.”

The sign: You feel like you have to change to make it work

You’ve heard it time and time again: You can’t change a person. You may be able to change some of their habits or tendencies, sure, but the chances of you changing a bigger aspect of their personality is unlikely. The same is true if your partner is trying to change you. Inevitably, you will grow tired of his or her expectations and demands. “If you feel that staying in the relationship causes you to be out of integrity with yourself and that, in order to stay you’d have to contort yourself or pretend to be different than who you are, it’s over,” says Dr. Six. “You’re not doing anyone any favors by staying and not being authentic.”

The sign: You’ve lost respect for your partner

Aretha said it best: R.E.S.P.E.C.T. “When you have lost all respect for your mate, with no hope of ever regaining it, it’s over, whether it’s because they behave badly, cheat on you, drink to excess too often, can’t keep a job and be financially responsible, or any another reason.” says Dr. Six. “It’s really hard to regain respect once it is lost, as contempt, distance, fights, and berating ensues.” Cut your losses and move on.

The sign: You no longer sleep in the same bed

This one mostly applies if you live together and presumably share a bed, but if you’re opting to take the couch instead of snoozing next to your S.O., you might want to consider whether or not your relationship is meant to be. “Of course, this might be because of a snoring issue or some other medical condition, and that would be a different story, but if this is something that continues for years, you may not feel that intimate connection anymore,” says Dr. Michael. Losing the desire to be close to your partner is a sign that should not be overlooked.

The sign: You don’t want to have sex

Sex is like the glue that holds a relationship together. All experts agree that it’s a fundamental aspect of any intimate, romantic relationship. “Refusing to have sex or making up excuses continually about not wanting to be intimate, hold hands, hug, or kiss, and not wanting to get help for it either, are all signs that the relationship won’t float above water,” says Dr. Michael. “This can be extremely painful for the other person to be refused sexually all the time, as well as the loss of physical closeness.”

The sign: You cringe when they touch you

“If your body knows before you do, it might mean it’s over,” says Tammy Nelson, PhD, a sex and relationship therapist and author of The New Monogamy. Still, Dr. Nelson advises giving this sign a few weeks, as you might be showing physical signs of withdrawal for other reasons such as stress. “Relationships tend to go in cycles and you might just be cranky.”

The sign: He or she refuses to get help

If your significant other is aware of problems in the relationship, but refuses to deal with them, this can be a sign that the relationship will not last, especially if it has been going on for years, explains Dr. Michael. “If one person is trying to resolve the issues and even suggested getting help and the other person flat out refuses to do anything to make it better, it may be time to leave.”

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