How To Know When Your Relationship Is Over

Photographed by Refinery29.
Sometimes, it's really easy to know that you and your partner should break up. Someone cheated and you can't get past it. You fight all the time. One partner never supports the other. Or one is physically and/or emotionally abusive. But sometimes, a relationship comes to an end quietly. And it can be difficult to notice that it's time to call it quits. Maybe one or more of the people in the relationship has fallen out of love. Maybe they've grow into people who still care about each other, but can't work as a couple anymore.
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If that's the kind of relationship you've found yourself in, knowing whether or not it's time to break up with your partner can be confusing. It might feel like you just need to work harder to rebuild your bond. And working to save your relationship is a totally valid first step. But, if you've already put in the work and you just can't try any harder, then it's okay to call the relationship off. You don't need to hate your current partner to want to break up with them. Not feeling happy or fulfilled in the relationship is a good enough reason to end it, says Angela Skurtu, M.Ed., LMFT, a couples' therapist in Missouri.
"For the relationship to really be a good one, you you need three things," Dr. Skurtu says. "You need that sense of family and commitment like 'I would give my arm for this person,' you need the friendship piece where you get along and you actually want to spend time together, and you need chemistry." Maybe your relationship started out with all three, but somewhere along the way, you lost one or more of the pieces and you can't get them back.
Below, Skurtu explains 5 signs a relationship is past saving.
1 of 5
illustrated by Tristan Offit.
You don't care anymore.

Relationships require work, so if you're not willing to work at it anymore, that's a huge sign that it's time to break up. "Both partners have to have a little bit of a passion to fight for things," Dr. Skurtu says. "So when you see people getting to a point where it's like, 'I really don't care anymore' that's a red flag."

But it's not just saying you don't care that sets off warning signals, she says. You really have to feel it. Sometimes, people will say they don't care anymore out of anger, even when they do want to make the relationship work. There's a big difference between saying you don't care because you're lashing out and truly feeling dead inside when you think about your relationship, Dr. Skurtu says. And when you feel that happening, you know the relationship is close to an end.
2 of 5
illustrated by Tristan Offit.
You can't stand each other.

Contempt is one of the biggest predictors of divorce, Dr. Skurtu says. And for good reason. "If you were to describe contempt, it's a resentment that's gone so deep that you don't even respect the person anymore. There's no love left and there's really just a sustained and deep bitterness," she says.

The sense that you really can't stand being around your partner anymore, or that they can't stand being around you is definitely a good reason to end a relationship. "You'll hear it in the way they talk to each other," Dr. Skurtu says. "There's just a hatred in their voice and hatred in the way they look at each other." If that's what's happening to you, get out fast.
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3 of 5
illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Your relationship is new, but you're already having big fights.

Sometimes, people start dating someone and they really care about them and might even start to love them, but there are signs that the relationship won't be healthy in the future. Name calling, for example. "Name calling in the beginning of a relationship is a start to a potentially violent or emotionally abusive situation later," Dr. Skurtu says.

The beginning of a relationship is often the easiest time. People tend to be more supportive, patient, and tolerant of each other, even when they find some behavior of their partner's annoying, Dr. Skurtu says. So calling each other names or having dramatic fights in the first six months to a year of a relationship could be a bad sign. "To be fair, it doesn't mean that you can't fight or have conflict," she says. "It just means that if you're already having these knock down, drag out fights that are going nowhere, then that could be the start to a massively horrible relationship."
4 of 5
illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Your values don't match up.

If Dr. Skurtu had it her way, no one would fall in love until they were dating for at least six months, because she often sees love cloud a couple's ability to see whether or not their life plans fit together. "Once people start to fall in love, they stopped being tactical about that relationship," she says. "There's this belief that love conquers all."

But if you have always known that you want to be a parent and your partner has always known that they don't want kids, that's a mismatch in values that can't be fixed without someone compromising their vision for their life in a big way. "You have to look at your partner practically and think, 'Do we have similar values? Do we want the same thing for our future?'" Dr. Skurtu says. It's important to know what your dealbreakers are and be upfront about them early on, so you're not getting too serious or invested in a relationship that can't go where you want it to go.
5 of 5
illustrated by Tristan Offit.
You don't have all the pieces.

As Skurtu said, a great relationship (at least, between people who aren't asexual) needs for the partners to feel loyal and connected to each other, like family, to like spending time together, like friends, and to have chemistry, like lovers. If you have only two out of the three pieces, then your relationship likely won't work.

Maybe you're the best of friends and you would die for each other, but you don't feel the sexual chemistry you once had. There's a time to try to rebuild that chemistry (many long-term couples go through sexual dry spells, after all), but if it's just not coming back, then it might be time to call it quits.

But it's more than just sex and lust that you might have lost. "Love and lust isn't enough. Sex isn't enough either," Dr. Skurtu says. "Because if you have this lust and excitement for each other, but you really can't talk about your finances, then even in that situation, the relationship will likely die." If you have sexual chemistry, but aren't interested in hanging out as friends, that's a bad sign. And so is being the best of friends, but not feeling committed to each other like you're family. "You can care very much for each other, but not have enough of the pieces to make the whole puzzle work," Dr. Skurtu says.
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