Sex & Relationships

20 Signs Your Relationship Isn’t Working Anymore

If it's meant to end, let it.

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Not all relationships have to spiral dramatically before ending in flames. If you start picking up on small problems, or notice you aren't quite as happy as you once were, it can still be a sign your relationship is beginning to end — and that it may be best to move on.

The thing is, when you aren't experiencing explosive arguments or a ton of toxicity, it can be tough to know if your relationship is ending, Clara Artschwager, a modern dating and relationships coach, tells Bustle. And it's even tougher to know when to leave.

When your connection is mostly OK, it's tempting to stick around, even though you aren't fully happy. "It's [also often] hard to shake the societal programming that all relationships are meant to amount to marriage or long-term partnership," Artshchwager says. "But the reality is, each relationship serves a different purpose in our lives."

If yours has run its course, it's run its course. If it's meant to end, let it. You don't have wait for things to go downhill before going your separate ways. Instead, if you pick up on these subtle signs your relationship is ending, experts say it may be better to leave sooner, rather than later.


You Can't Get Out Of A Rut

To get out of a rut, have more sex, talk more often, give each other space, go on vacation, attend couples therapy — the list of ways to "reignite a spark" is pretty much endless, and it often works for couples who are just going through a phase.

That said, "if those have failed after an honest investment of time and effort," Joanne Ketch, LPC, LMFT, a psychotherapist in private practice, tells Bustle, "it might be time to leave."


You Aren't As Intimate

While not every couple is super touchy feely, take note if your partner pulls away when you go in for a hug, or if you tend to turn over in bed so they can't cuddle you. The lack of desire for intimate moments like these may be a subconscious sign you're no longer connected, dating coach Jade Bianca, tells Bustle. And it may mean one (or both) of you wants to move on.


You're Never In The Mood

There are so many factors that impact sex drive, so don't immediately assume your relationship is ending just because you aren't in the mood for sex. But if you've looked into other reasons — stress, depression, fatigue, underlying anger — and still can't find the cause, Bianca says it may mean the relationship is drawing to a close.


You're Spending More Time Apart

"When relationships start to near their end, couples tend to begin spending more time apart," Bianca says, which might explain why you always watch TV separately or keep cancelling date night. While it's good to have space in a relationship so that you can maintain your individual lives, the desire to hang out shouldn't fade.


You Daydream About Being Single

Lots of people in happy relationships daydream about "what could have been," or think what about being single. It's only when you can't stop daydreaming that it might not bode well for the future of your relationship, Ketch says.

If you can't shake the feeling, look into why you have an ongoing desire to be "free." It might mean your relationship has run its course, or that it no longer makes you happy.


You Really Want To Date Again

Similarly, if you constantly wonder what it would be like to date another person, take time to think about what you're looking for in a partner at this stage of your life — and if your current relationship still feels like a good fit.


Your Partner Regularly Gets On Your Nerves

A partner's annoying habits — like knuckle cracking, or their habit of leaving dishes "to soak" in the sink — aren't problems on their own. It's only when you constantly fight about them, get disproportionately angry, or refuse to roll your eyes in a good-natured way that your irritation becomes a red flag.

"In a healthy relationship, investments into affection and playfulness 'cover' the withdrawals of the habits that might annoy [you]" Ketch says. "In a relationship that's ending, those moments of playfulness and affection have decreased and the annoyance becomes more apparent."


You Bicker All The Time

In the same vein, don't overlook constant, angry bickering. While it might be a sign of a different underlying problem in your relationship — and one that could be fixed, if you discovered what it is — it might also be a sign you're ready to move on.


You're Super Snarky

Take note of how you talk to each other, too. You know, that "condescending, passive-aggressive tone that makes everyone at brunch uncomfortable," Dr. Mike Anderson, a sex and relationship expert for, tells Bustle. If you feel like you can't even look at each other without being sassy, it's a sign.


You've Stopped Arguing

All relationships go through tough spots, and that often means arguing until you figure it out. But if there's an ongoing problem and you eventually reach the stage where you sigh and don't even bother talking about it, the end is likely nigh.

"This means you have given up that your partner will change and you start asking yourself how important the issue is," Dr. Caroline Madden, MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "This leads to thinking about breaking up."


You Can't Seem To Resolve An Ongoing Issue

While no relationship is without its downsides, arguments, and disagreements, yours might be falling apart if you keep having the same fight over and over again, and can never seem to reach a draw. Over time, you'll only get angrier, and that isn't worth sticking around for.


You Look For Reasons To Break Up

If you find yourself holding up a proverbial magnifying glass as you look for ways your partner is wrong or bad or letting you down, take it as a sign. It could be you want to call things off, but feel like you need to find a valid reason first.

"Nobody wants to be blamed and become the bad cop," Celia Schweyer, a dating and relationship expert, tells Bustle, which is why you dig for negative traits, and then try to make a big deal out of them, in order to justify leaving.

If your relationship has run its course, you'll probably start doing this subconsciously.


You Share Good News With Other People First

If you still valued your partner, you'd call them immediately with both good news and bad. But "if you are solely turning to others for this, it could be a sign that your partner is no longer your safe space for support," Laura Goldstein, LCMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.


You Don't Share Details About Your Relationship

It's fine to keep your private life private. You don't have to tell friends and family about every fight, or disagreement, or moment of confusion. And yet, you should pause and consider why you tell white lies and act like everything's golden whenever they ask how your relationship is going.

"This may be a subtle sign of denial," Goldstein says. "If you are withholding the full story from your most trusted confidants, it may be a sign that you are afraid that they may tell you the inevitable truth, too."


You're Constantly Zoning Out

Ever notice that, whenever your partner starts telling a story or talking about something that interests them, you completely glaze over? That's because "you have stopped caring," Madden says. "You don’t want a conversation. You want to get out of there so badly, your mind is leaving."


You Pretend To Be Asleep

Whether it's to avoid sex, or to avoid conversation, you close your eyes and act like you're sleeping as your partner comes to bed. "[This] is a disconnecting behavior that might indicate a relationship is coming to an end," Michael Hilgers, M.MFT, a licensed professional counselor, tells Bustle. "Doing this suggests intentionally avoiding opportunity for connection and intimacy."


You Can't Act Like Yourself

Take note if it feels like you have to be or act a certain way, in order for your relationship to work.

"A good partner allows you to be yourself," life coach Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, tells Bustle. "No longer feeling like yourself around your partner is a telltale sign that your relationship is no longer working."


Your Partner Picks On You

"Giving or receiving more negative than positive comments is a sign your relationship may be on the brink of a meltdown," Elliott says. "You and your partner should be praising each other far more often than you are tearing each other down."

So if it feels like you can never say or do the right thing, because your partner is always right there with a mean critique, you may be better off calling things quits.


You Find Excuses To Stay Out Of The House

"We all need time apart sometimes, but when you notice yourself regularly delaying coming home from work, extending grocery shopping trips to have a break outside, or encouraging your partner to do their own thing all the time (not because you're happy for them but because you appreciate having the house to yourself), it could be a sign of trouble," Dr. Adi Jaffe, a mental health expert, tells Bustle.


You Feel Contempt

Do you feel like your partner is beneath you? Do you catch yourself saying mean things?

"This is a dangerous one and is a common theme in the work of [relationship expert Dr. John Gottman]" Jaffe says. "Contempt is a clear sign that you're heading into dangerous water unless you change course quickly."

If you spot these signs and think your relationship that is falling apart, talk to your partner. It may be something you can come back from, if you so choose. But it may also mean it's time to move on.


Clara Artschwager, modern dating and relationships coach

Joanne Ketch, LPC, LMFT, psychotherapist

Jade Bianca, dating coach

Dr. Mike Anderson, sex and relationship expert

Laura Goldstein, LCMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist

Dr. Caroline Madden, MFT, licensed marriage and family therapist

Michael Hilgers, M.MFT, licensed professional counselor

Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, life coach

Celia Schweyer, dating and relationship expert

Dr. Adi Jaffe, mental health expert

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