How To Know If It's A Rough Patch Or Time To Break Up, According To Experts

Share
Ad failed to load

When it feels like your relationship isn't working, it can be incredibly stressful. And when you don't know whether it's just a rough patch or if the relationship is really over, the longer it goes on, the more difficult it can be to reconnect with your partner. It's important to take a deep breath and tackle the problem head-on.

The first thing to remember is that going through changes in a relationship is often totally normal — and not something to worry about overall. "Over the course of a relationship, couples go through many different stages; from lust to trust," Shamyra Howard-Blackburn, LCSW, Sex & Relationship Therapist, and owner of Conquest Counseling, tells Bustle. "As humans, we evolve. Our perspectives, values, and behaviors change over time which can affect our partners. People in relationships will experience many adjustments. The true test of dealing with change is how couples choose to address these changes and work through them. There are some changes that commonly occur, however, there are some not so common changes that can make or break a relationship."

But if you feel things have changed too much or that you and your partner have grown too far apart, it may be time to put some serious effort into getting your relationship back on track. Here's how to tackle it, according to experts.

Ad failed to load

1Identify The Problem And Talk About It

Ashley Batz/Bustle

First, you need to figure out what the problem is — or at least, you need to try. Remember that asking yourself some deep questions about the relationship doesn't mean you love your partner any less, you're doing it for your own good and the good of the relationship. "Even if you’re deeply in love with your partner, it’s perfectly normal to occasionally question your relationship," Jonathan Bennett, Dating/Relationship Coach and Owner of The Popular Man, tells Bustle. "Everyone has doubts from time to time, whether it’s about the future of the relationship or if your partner truly is 'the one.' As long as the doubts aren’t lingering and constant, they're normal and even healthy."

So take a hard look at the relationship and try to figure out what isn't working. And, as soon as you're ready, make sure you talk to your partner. "[A couple with good communication] discusses situations when they arise," speaker and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "They may also wait until they calm down to communicate with their partner if they are angry rather than say or do something they may regret."

Whether you know exactly what the issue is — you can't get over a fight, one of you has trust issues, or you don't seem to connect anymore — or if you just know that you're unhappy, you need to talk to your partner and come up with a game plan.

2Be More Present And Give Your Relationship Some Attention

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Once you've identified the problem, it's time to start tackling it and try to heal the relationship. Take every opportunity you can to connect with your partner. "Couples try to get each other’s attention throughout the day, whether it’s for support, conversation, interest, play, affirmation, feeling connected or for affection,” relationship coach and therapist Anita Chlipala tells Bustle. “Each of these moments is an opportunity to connect with your partner. A person should look for someone who responds to them, or at least acknowledges them when they try to get their attention, because it shows that they are meeting your emotional needs — or at least trying to.”

You need to give your relationship the chance to work and feel confident that you've given it your best shot, too. Listen to each other, do new things together, and check in regularly to see how you both feel about the relationship and whether it's improving.

3But Know When Enough Is Enough

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Ideally, through communicating and putting in time with your partner to make it work, your relationship will get back on track. But if you can't seem to compromise, you keep having the same fight over and over, or you're just still unhappy, it may be time to rethink the relationship. "Relationships do take work, and there is occasionally conflict," couples therapist Jim Seibold, PhD LMFT, tells Bustle. "However, if you have to try too hard to make the relationship work, it may not be right for you. Ultimately, if you are not compatible, the relationship will crumble. Instead of trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole, look for a better fit. It may be painful to end a relationship and you may feel overwhelmed at the possibility of having to start over. However, the longer a bad relationship goes on the more pain you will experience."

So how do you know if it's a rough patch or really time to say goodbye? Think of how this person and this relationship have impacted your life overall. "A way to zoom out and get the big picture of your relationship — beyond present difficulties — is to think about whether your partner has been a positive presence in your life," practicing psychologist and Harvard lecturer Holly Parker, PhD, author of If We're Together, Why Do I Feel So Alone?, tells Bustle. "If this relationship is probably a beneficial one, chances are you’re having struggles in the here and now with someone who, on the whole, has been good for you."

If your relationship is strong, it could be solved with some communication and time. And if you're still struggling after you try that? Look at the relationship as a whole because relationships might take work, but they shouldn't feel like work.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Bustle's Editors On Rachel McAdams + Parkland Survivors

Happy Thursday, everyone! I don't know about you, but I feel like February has gone by so so fast (wasn't January, like, yesterday?). This year is hurrying along, and with so much happening every day it's hard to keep up all the time. But, I've got a…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale