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How do you know when your relationship is over?

23 Jan 2019

Splitting up for good is a big step, so it’s important to be sure it’s the right thing to do. While relationships are very personal and only you and your partner can know what’s right for you, there are some key factors that may indicate you have reached the end. Here are some things to consider if you’re wondering whether your relationship is really over.

Relationship problems

In a long-term relationship there are likely to be some arguments, issues and grievances to deal with along the way. At the same time, it isn’t easy or realistic to sustain the same level of passion you felt when you first got together. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether these are just bumps in the road, or a signal that your time together has run its course.

Your relationship problems are unique to you, but many couples experience issues that are broadly similar. You might find you get annoyed at your partner’s little habits, harbour resentment for something that happened in your past, or simply feel that you both want different things from life.

How to know when it’s over?

The trick is to get to the bottom of your problems to ascertain whether there’s a future for your relationship, or whether you’d both be better off going your separate ways. Here are some techniques that you can use to get a better idea of whether your relationship can (or should) be saved:

  • Consider your reasons for staying together until now. Are they motivated by fear of change or a desire to keep up appearances, or is there still something there that you want to salvage? Staying together out of fear can, ironically, make your relationship worse, according to psychotherapist Mel Schwartz, L.C.S.W. “The fear of divorce paradoxically eliminates any chance of improvement in the relationship. It produces a state of inertia, and the ensuing stagnation and frustration make mediocre marriages even worse,” he writes.
  • Think about the source of your problems. Has your situation changed – have you recently moved to a new area, experienced bereavement or redundancy, or had a baby? If your relationship issues have arisen out of a temporary change in circumstances, it might be possible to work through your problems with a counsellor, to map out a new way forward.
  • Can you communicate? Although arguments aren’t always pleasant, they are a healthy part of a normal relationship, and with good communication, they can be an effective way of resolving issues. But if you feel that all you ever do is argue, and the same issues come up again and again without resolution, it may be a sign that it’s time to call it a day.
  • Do you feel contempt for your partner? Relationships can recover from a lot of things, but contempt – an attitude somewhere been disgust and scorn – is always a red flag. “When contempt begins to overwhelm your relationship you tend to forget entirely your partner’s positive qualities … This immediate decay of admiration is an important reason why contempt ought to be banned from marital interactions,” writes Professor John Gottman in his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. Contempt betrays a lack of respect that’s hard to recover from, so if there is contempt in your relationship, it may be impossible to save.

Seeking support

Ending your relationship isn’t easy; the risk of stepping into the unknown can be emotionally stressful. It may be a particularly lonely time of your life, so seeking help from family and friends, or your GP or therapist, may help. Relate offer relationship counselling to support you through your decision, either alone or with your partner.

Taking the next step

At family law firm Hepburn Delaney, we understand how hard separating or divorce can be. Whilst we can’t tell you whether or not it’s time to end your relationship, we can offer sound legal advice on the process of ending a relationship, and what your options are.

For legal advice on your separation or divorce, contact us on 01442 218090.