Silent Signs Your Relationship is Ending

Ever wonder if you and your partner are built to last? Wellness expert Deepak Kashyap reveals eight often-overlooked signs your relationship is on shaky ground, along with tips on how to turn things around—before it’s too late.

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Signs your relationship is ending - couple arguing
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You show contempt for each other

According to the Gottman Institute, where pioneering psychologists Dr. John and Julie Gottman spent nearly 40 years studying marriage, showing contempt is one of the strongest signs your relationship is ending. More than just your choice of insults, contempt can be conveyed by rolling your eyes at your partner, showing disdain in the tone of your voice and mocking their concerns—any of which are enough to shake your partner’s confidence and their very sense of self. Putting it simply, the loss of mutual respect is a nearly insurmountable obstacle in any relationship.

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You criticize each other incessantly
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You criticize each other incessantly

When you use criticism as the primary tool to “correct” your partner’s behaviour—and ultimately their personality—it should serve as a red flag that your relationship is in trouble. How can you tell you’re being too critical? Watch for the use of generalizations in your statements, including, “You always,” “You never,” and “This always happens…” These sweeping statements could lead your partner to feel that they’re “never” good enough for you—which could be the beginning of the end for your relationship.

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Real life versus storybook romance
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You make irrational comparisons

Hollywood movies have done to our romantic lives what porn has done to our sex lives—namely, giving us unrealistic expectations about love and what it takes to be involved in a loving relationship. The problem with these unattainable ideals, of course, is that they inevitably leave us unfulfilled. Taking this one step further, 21st-century philosopher Alain de Botton points out that it’s hard to accept the existing self when it’s constantly being compared to an unrealistic ideal. If you find yourself often wishing that you had the life, body or sexual prowess of another, it may be time to obtain the services of a good therapist. It could be worth the investment if you’re committed to saving your relationship.

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Do you often give each other the silent treatment?
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You don’t resolve conflict constructively

Do you tend to physically withdraw from your partner when you don’t get your way? Maybe you sulk about it for days on end, giving your partner the cold shoulder, leaving a deafening silence instead of dealing with the situation in a constructive way? Building these walls between you and your partner will inevitably break down your relationship. As the Gottmans discovered in their extensive research on married couples, it’s not just how we fight, but how we make up after the fight, that signals the health of the relationship.

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Are you always on the defensive?
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You’re always on the defensive

If you create a narrative in which you’re always the victim of perceived slights, snubs and attacks committed by your partner, you’ll start to feel an acute need to defend yourself. Over time, you’ll find yourself increasingly on edge and hypersensitive to criticism. Not sure if this is you? Gottman recommends checking your speech for the following defensive phrases:

“It’s not my fault!”
“That’s not true. You’re the one who…”
“Yes, but…”
“You did that too.”

In short, when it becomes easier to hurt your partner than to heal the hurt you’re feeling, it’s time to question the health of your relationship.

This marriage advice from the 1950s still applies today.

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Couple on phones ignoring each other
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Your priorities are misplaced

At its most basic, a relationship can be defined as two people who make each other a priority. When one person in that relationship starts to question the significance of the role they play in their partner’s life, there’s trouble on the horizon. Feeling as though you have to constantly compete with work, friends and family to capture your lover’s attention can be emotionally exhausting, and ultimately, defeats the purpose of a romantic relationship altogether. It’s vitally important for the health of your relationship to communicate openly—and about important matters, too—to ensure both partners feel valued.

Here’s expert advice on how to improve your communication skills.

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Signs your relationship is ending - two men holding hands
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You’re not physically intimate

No one’s expecting you to perform like an adult film star for your partner every night. In fact, what I’m referring to as “physical intimacy” isn’t sex at all, but rather, what couples’ therapist and best-selling author Esther Perel calls the “physical reassurances of love.” These physical reassurances include touching, kissing and cuddling—displays of affection that reassure us that we are safe and valued by our partners. Although we tend to place a lot of weight on sexual intimacy with our lovers, it turns out it’s the little things—think casual snuggles and random, stolen kisses—that serve as stronger signifiers of a stable, meaningful relationship.

Looking to spice things up in the bedroom? Don’t miss these pro tips on how to be a better lover.

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Pointing the finger of blame
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You lack self-awareness

If you just read through this list of signs your relationship is ending and matched each of the faults to your lover’s behaviour and not your own, it’s highly likely you’re lacking in self-awareness. If you’re to be at all objective about the challenges you face as a couple, this is a good time to pause and take stock of your own emotional baggage and the manner in which you respond to conflict with your significant other. Without self-awareness, you’re ultimately leaving your partner responsible for your own actions (and reactions!), which is a significant roadblock to a happy, fulfilling relationship.

Now that you know how to identify the signs your relationship is ending, discover seven secrets of a lasting relationship.

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