In just about every long-term relationship, there may come a time when things get tough and you ask yourself, "Is this really worth fighting for?" Hopefully, the answer to that question is yes and the two of you will work together to get the relationship back on track. But sometimes it's not so clear if the relationship is salvageable, and in that case, how do you know if it's worth fighting for or if it's finally time to throw in the towel? To answer that question, I asked couples' therapists for one sign that means your relationship is over and it's time to move on, and their answers were seriously helpful. For one thing, the takeaway is that most problems can be overcome if you both want to make it work, and if the relationship really is doomed, it's pretty obvious.
While all relationships will have their shares of highs and lows, most times you can hopefully bounce back. But occasionally you bottom out past the point of no return, and it's time to say good bye. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that! Here is how experts say you can tell the difference and what they think is the one sign that means their clients' relationships are done (whether they realize it yet, or not).
According to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples therapist in Los Angeles, the one problem that can’t be worked through is if “your partner constantly threatens you verbally [or] physically harms you. In this day and age, that should be a ‘no-brainer.’ There simply is no excuse for perpetrating emotional or physical violence on anyone unless it is a legitimate case of self-defense. Period.”
His advice is that you end the relationship at the first hint of emotional or physical violence, and adds that “Once you are in a safe environment, tell close loved ones that you trust about what is going on.” But for some folks, leaving an abusive relationship is easier said than done, which is why Dr. Brown stresses that you should lean on your support system. “Trying to navigate this alone will only hinder your ability to work this through. Given the stakes, it would make sense to consider seeing a couples' counselor or an individual therapist. The more support you have, the better your chances of understanding why this situation is happening and to explore options for your exit strategy if the situation simply cannot be resolved.”
Working through relationship problems is exactly that: Work. Which is why, for Hanalei Vierra, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of The True Heart of Man: How Healthy Masculinity Will Transform Your Life, Your Relationships, and the World, a true sign that a relationship is over is when one or both of the partners is unwilling to put forth the effort to work through their issues. As Vierra tells Elite Daily, “The one sign for couples that means the relationship is over also happens to be the one requirement necessary for the relationship to stay together in the first place: It is willingness. Willingness to change, willingness to have compassion, willingness to forgive... willingness to give the other person the benefit of the doubt at the toughest moments of struggle between them both. A lack of willingness on either person’s part, therefore, is the death-knell for a couple’s ability to maintain a connection.”
For Katie Leikam, a licensed clinical social worker and LGBTQ-affirming therapist in Decatur, Georgia, the one true sign that a relationship is past the point of no return is “when couples begin to have contempt for each other.” Leikam tells Elite Daily, “If every fight ends with them telling each other they hate each other, or they can't hold their words for wishing ill will on their partner, it's over.” While Leikam says it’s common to want to curse at them during a fight, or tell them to go away, it’s when you actually express those things that it becomes a problem. If when you fight your intention is to hurt your partner rather than try to work toward a solution, then Leikam says it's over.
Although it may be hard to hear, not all relationships are meant to last — especially any showing the signs the experts mentioned. You deserve to be in a relationship that is free from all of these toxic and extremely harmful dynamics. Don’t settle for anything less.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.