Is My Relationship Over?
As a sex therapist, I am often told stories and then asked “is my relationship over?”
This is a tough one. Knowing if, and when, your relationship is over is never easy.
How could something that started so lovingly and bright decay into something where you are questioning is my relationship over?
Dealing with a struggling relationship is complex. Some moments you’re wishing you never met, and the next you remember good times in years past and wondering if it is salvageable.
Every relationship has some kind of volatility. Some ups and downs are great.
They test our resolve and commitment to each other.
Arguments and miscommunications are learning opportunities where you can examine your behavior and your partners, and work on self-improvement.
Ideally, you’re with someone who pushes you to become better than you were before you met and opens you up to new experiences.
What happens when things aren’t so great? When the lows become more frequent, it can be harder to remember the highs.
The Slow Descent into Disconnection
Even in the more dire relationships, there are early warning signs that things aren’t right. It’s easy to look at something like infidelity and assign blame because it’s a climactic event.
It’s disruptive and so in your face.
Many times, though, those issues are said to be an outward expression of inner sadness, anger, and disappointment that has festered for years.
This doesn’t excuse any lying, coercive, or destructive behavior like unfaithfulness; it illustrates how many people are often unconscious to the turmoil that is within their relationships.
What ends up happening, in my opinion, is that emotions seem to build even more, despite people saying or thinking they can handle the status quo of their romantic relationships.
When A Breakup is the Best Option
The bottom line is that some relationships won’t last. Just look at how many of us get divorced every year. No matter how much everyone says this is forever, some things fall apart.
As relationships crumble, there are clear warning signs that you can either accept or choose to ignore.
Typically, when resentment and criticism become a staple of your communication, that’s a major red flag.
You may also be giving each other the silent treatment more. If you spend hours in silence and are avoiding the conversations about the state of the marriage, your sexual relationship, your needs, and your feelings, you will lose out on years of intimate time together.
An obvious warning sign to answer “is my relationship over” is when both of you refuse to accept responsibility for something you may have done (or said) wrong because you’ve built up so much resentment that you refuse to accept blame.
Either that or, sometimes you are so angry at your partner that you don’t care if you were wrong.
When this happens, we are often at our most core inner triggers and family of origin attachment styles.
The Importance of Self-Love
When you’re in a rough patch with your partner, depending on your personality, you may be tempted to accept an outsized portion of the blame.
What happens, though, is that you endanger your sense of self-worth. Sacrifice in relationships is important, only to the degree that it does not interfere with your ability to meet your own needs.
Do not put yourself in a situation where you may be doing long-term damage to your confidence and self-esteem. You may end up with a warped view of what love is.
In the face of willfulness, domestic violence, and more contempt, resentment, or criticism than you feel comfortable with for your own sense of self-worth, the best choice can be to walk away.
However cliché this sounds, letting someone go can be a true expression of love.
After all, what’s worse, letting them and yourself free, or taking both of you down in flames, along with your family and friends, to the bitter end?
The thought of separation from a long-term partner or someone you loved so deeply once is often terrifying.
It’s hard to see now that ending a relationship can lead to happiness in the future.
When It’s Worth the Fight
I’ll say this, as a systemic therapist and working in the field of trauma, I do not believe any romantic relationship is irreparable if everyone is willing to work on it.
Everything can be fixed as long as you’re willing to put in the effort.
Know this, though, that fighting to save a relationship that many people from the outside looking in would say is over may be like clawing your way out of quicksand.
When things become so dire that you think breaking up is around the corner, walking yourself away from that edge can be very difficult.
It’s all about whether you’re willing to change, and that goes for your partner too.
How can you bring yourself to express love to your partner when it’s been months or years since they gave you any sort of affirmation?
How can you apologize for something that hurt your partner when you feel like you’ve done nothing wrong and are just trying to get your own needs met?
Resolving differences in a relationship that’s on life support is multiples harder than what any securely-attached and more integrated couple has to deal with.
There are layers of built-up resentment, insecurities, and hurt feelings to navigate. The key is whether each of you is willing and capable of taking small, meaningful steps toward reconciliation.
If there is a sincere effort, little by little, acts of goodwill, physical affection, acts of service, and other expressions of love will start creeping back in.
Repetitive positive changes of behavior build trust. However, if it took you years to get to this place, you have to know it will take time to get out!
The real concern is whether enough goodwill can be built up in time before the next storm hits and you face conflict, which inevitably will happen again.
If you and your partner have both experienced trauma and you are asking “is my relationship over,” the stakes appear much higher.
There is rarely a bank of understanding where each of you has been making deposits for years.
One mistake triggers whatever trauma the both of you have been through, and then resentment and criticism threaten to rise again like flames out of a volcano (it’s that Pele energy).
How Your Therapist Can Help
Working with a licensed therapist won’t solve all of your relationship problems overnight.
It’s no panacea that will transport you and your partner instantly back to the good old days when things were romantic, deep, and exciting.
A competent therapist can help you come to grips with what you’re feeling, which will guide you towards greater understanding.
When you understand who you are and what you’re feeling more, it helps generate the determination to make decisions that will benefit you.
If that means getting out of a relationship with no heartbeat, then so be it. Sometimes that has to happen for you to be who you need to be.
And, if greater understanding can help you hang on, and ultimately improve, a relationship you still want and cherish, then a therapist can help facilitate the healing that needs to take place.
You can get more free content on relationship and sex tips by checking out my Youtube Channel – The Sex Healer.
If you know someone that would benefit from this information, feel free to share it.
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