Parenting

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?

How do you know when your relationship is really over? Our sex and relationship columnist, Liza Finlay, shares the five major warning signs.

By Liza Finlay

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?

How do you know when it's over?

You don’t. Not really. Sure, there are relationship danger signs. But for every red flag there’s also a silver lining. I’ve seen couples pick their way through a minefield to make it to therapy, and they come out the other side smiling.

So, take these five danger signs for what they are: warnings, not predictions.

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?Photo: -oxford-/iStockphoto

You have nothing nice to say about your spouse

Your interactions are slathered in sarcasm. Hurt and disappointment are thinly veiled with disgust — and it shows in every word you utter.

Contempt is one of what relationship researcher John Gottman calls the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." It's a sure sign of relationship disaster.
 

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?Photo: Jean Gill/iStockphoto

Silences are not golden

Since you have nothing nice to say, you say nothing at all. And those silences stop being comfortable. Instead, they blanket you like a wet, wool shroud. One or both of you retreat behind a stony wall of silence. Author (and marriage guru) Sue Johnson describes this as a dance in which both partners are sitting out.
 

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?Photo: Troels Graugaard/iStock

You avoid each other

Avoid, avoid, avoid.... You begin leading separate lives. You fill your calendar with activities that don’t involve your spouse. Very little is shared. Worse, you like it this way. Facing each other would mean facing a mountain of unspoken fears. This is the adult version of distraction.
 

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?Photo: Troels Graugaard/iStockphoto

You pull the emotional plug

It isn’t so much the lack of sex (although the fact that you can’t remember the last time is concerning), but rather the lack of intimacy. You begin turning to others for connection and validation. The emotional distance between you could span the Grand Canyon. Your marriage is about as warm as the Arctic.
 

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?Photo: artpipi/iStockphoto

You start crafting an exit plan

A separate bank account. Your own car. Your own friends. You may be doing this in the dim recesses of your subconscious. But when brought into the full light of the conscious mind, what becomes clear is that “us” has become “you” and a completely distinct “me."
 

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?Photo: Vladimir Gerasimov/iStockphoto

But remember...

Now, it’s important to remember that none of these diagnostic symptoms signal a death sentence. They are surmountable. But both of you will have to be ready to roll up your sleeves and get messy. Righting what’s wrong will require you both to dig down deep into your inner hurts, past wounds, raw spots. But I think we both know it’s well worth it. Ready? It’s about to get loud in here…

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?Photo: Marcus Clackson/iStockphoto

More relationship tips!

Relationships: How do you know when it's over?

This article was originally published on Feb 25, 2013
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