Who you choose to spend your life with is an incredibly important decision ― and sometimes, you realize the person you thought was “the one” isn’t the right choice anymore.
But that doesn’t stop people from staying put in dead-end relationships, said Sheryl Ziegler, a counselor and author of the forthcoming book Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process.
“Sometimes, fear is the only reason a person stays in a relationship even when they know it’s over: They fear being alone or not finding someone else,” she told HuffPost. “If that’s the case for you, and your partner is more of a source of stress rather than comfort, it may be time to end the relationship.”
What are some of the signs that a relationship has run its course? Below, Ziegler and other marriage experts share eight red flags.
1. You try to work out problems with your partner, but they never make an effort.
“I see couples in my office all the time complaining that they have problems communicating. One partner will say something like ‘I’ve told him hundreds of times not to come home late and he doesn’t listen. I just need help communicating it to him so he’ll understand.’ My response usually goes something like this: ‘Well, you’ve said it loud and clear just now. What do you think isn’t being understood?’ If you’ve said it over and over and if you’ve yelled and cried trying to get them to understand, then it’s time to move on. If they don’t understand it after all of that, they probably never will.” ― Aaron Anderson, a couples therapist in Denver, Colorado
2. One of you had an affair ― or multiple affairs ― and isn’t remorseful about it.
“Many couples enter relationships feeling confident that there are a few things they would absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, end a relationship over: affairs, addiction and physical or sexual abuse (the three A’s). I can tell you that infidelity is not and should not be a deal-breaker in relationships. Many couples can absolutely overcome sexual and emotional infidelity and rebuild a relationship that was better than it started at the altar. What is a sign that a relationship is ready to dissolve is when there is no sign of remorse or willingness to change after several attempts.” ― Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah
3. You realize you don’t really like or respect your partner at their core.
“This is such a common reason to end a relationship. How could you possibly spend the next five years, much less the rest of your life, with someone you don’t admire? This may be a hard reality you need to confront. There could be a number of reasons why you’ve lost respect: Maybe you’ve been with this person for quite some time, but no one in your family or friend group really likes them ― and you’re starting to feel the same way. If you’re with a person who you don’t respect, it’s just not possible for your relationship to last long, much less grow and expand.” ― Gary Brown, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles
4. You rarely have sex.
“This shift is often gradual: less hand-holding, less kisses goodbye, fewer nights cuddling on the couch or in bed, and before you know it, there is no more foreplay. Sex then becomes something you do in the dark, with little to no romance and you’re counting the minutes until it is over. You initially make excuses for the changes: You’re still on your period or have a migraine. You slowly start breaking your evening rituals like watching your shows together or talking about your day. You go to bed either early or late. Before you know it, you not only don’t have sex, you no longer engage in all the pre-sex buildup: being affectionate, communicating and sharing a sense of playfulness. All of it is gone.” ― Sheryl Ziegler
5. You’ve asked your partner to go to couples therapy but they refuse to go.
“If you’ve been feeling stuck in a rut for a long time and have been crystal clear about needing a change ― perhaps you’ve suggested counseling ― and your partner does nothing, then your relationship is probably over. You may hope that things might change on their own, but your partner’s lack of interest is a clear sign that they don’t care. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result; if your partner clearly doesn’t want anything different, expecting something to change is often fruitless.” ― Aaron Anderson
6. You’re fantasizing about another person.
“At some point, you may have become numb to the relationship. You no longer care to talk, you don’t even bother to fight and usually, sarcasm replaces the nasty words that used to come out of your mouth. Now, you’re condescending and find opportunities to point out when your partner is wrong or clueless. Then, you replace the anger with fantasies about another person in your life. One that is likely more attractive, smarter, more successful and probably better in bed. You find comfort in creating situations where you imagine this real or imagined other person in your life. It allows you to hold on to hope that you won’t be lonely if this relationship ends.” ― Sheryl Ziegler
7. You’re in a high-conflict relationship.
“If you can’t stop arguing and you have exhausted all other options to learn conflict management skills, it’s likely that your health, happiness and overall life satisfaction has taken a nose dive. It may be time to dissolve your relationship, especially if you have children. The good news? Research indicates that those in high-conflict marriages tend to increase their well-being post-divorce, especially women.” ― Laura Heck
8. Your big life goals no longer align.
“If you find yourself in a relationship where your basic wants, wishes, needs and life desires don’t really align, it’s time to move on. Let’s say you’ve always wanted children but now your partner is not so sure. If starting a family is a ‘must’ for you, this is not really something to compromise on ― it’s an obvious deal-breaker. Or it may be that he just wants to live together and you really want to get married. You could wait for years on end, and maybe it will work out, but if your partner is crystal clear that they are absolutely not into marriage, then you have your answer. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that they are going to change.” ― Gary Brown