Is your relationship past its use-by date?

Relationships that start out feeling like the best thing in the world can often sour as time goes on, and when those butterflies turn into rocks weighing you down it’s time to think about your options. Though the end of a relationship can be tough, it’s important to remember that break-ups are not a sign of a failure, but rather an important learning experience. 

couple against concrete wall

Looking for some of these red flags below, can help you decide whether your relationship is worth pursuing, or whether it would be better to let go.

Red flag 1: Your partner uses the silent treatment and withholds kindness or contact as punishment

The key to any successful relationship is ongoing mutual communication, which is exactly what doesn't happen when you are given the silent treatment. It’s entirely valid to need space to process your thoughts after a disagreement. But a lengthy period of deliberate silence, designed as a “punishment” for bad behaviour is the best way to destroy your chances of moving forward. 

If your partner is withholding any contact, be it verbal or physical, it’s impossible for you to work on your relationship.  Instead, this will only make you feel guilty, and hand them all the authority in negotiating the status of your relationship.

Red flag 2: Disagreements easily turn into arguments as your partner refuses to change their mind 

Every relationship will inevitably contain some conflict which can lead to positive changes. But, there comes a point where conflict doesn't help your relationship and personality grow. This happens when even small disagreements get out of control and escalate into verbal fights. (If these fights ever become physical, your relationship has become abusive and it's important to end it as safely and quickly as you can.)

If a small disagreement turns into an argument while you and/or your partner are stressed, and is easily resolved afterwards, there's probably no cause for alarm. But, if this is happening increasingly often, or you feel unable or scared to disagree with your partner, these are some serious warning signs and it’s best to evaluate your relationship.

Red flag 3: Your partner doesn’t like it when you hang out with your other friends

Partners often become really good friends. You talk about anything with them and they know how to make you laugh and smile, plus you’re given a large helping of romance to top it off. But, if they are trying to be (or have successfully become) your only friend, your relationship has drifted into a toxic area. If your partner makes you feel guilty when hanging out with your other friends, or insists that they accompany you to all your friendly outings, this is a problem.

Possessive behaviour can become incredibly isolating over time and cause you to lose important friendships. If you feel like this is happening to you, it might be best to talk with your partner about allowing each other space, and decide the direction you want your relationship to take from there.

Red flag 4: You feel worse about yourself since you have started the relationship

Casual comments from your partner can can affect you after a while because you value their opinions. It’s important to be aware of whether your partner is saying or doing things that have made you feel worse about yourself since starting the relationship. It's also important to keep in mind that negativity isn't always obvious- like directly telling you you're worthless. Sometimes it can be subtle, like making you feel like no one else would like you if you left the relationship. Whichever form negativity comes in, your worth as a human being is not defined by your partner, and a healthy relationship should not make you feel like it is. 

Red flag 5: You seem to be doing all the work to maintain the relationship

A healthy relationship requires a shared amount of effort and interest, as well as mutual support of each other. If you feel like you’re making all of the effort to plan dates and initiate conversation, your relationship is probably sliding into a worrying cycle. 

This can lead to feelings of resentment or create an unnecessary source of stress in your life. Even if your partner seems to reciprocate your affection when you initiate, it’s important for both you, and your relationship, to make sure that the work required in a relationship is shared equally between you and your partner.

Last reviewed: 11 November, 2015
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