Prelude to a Breakup: Watch for These Warning Signs

Do you find yourself wondering why your relationship ended?

Knowing the breakup warning signs can help you be more aware when your relationship gets to a place that needs immediate attention.  Read below to see if your relationship is on the verge of ending.

Breakup Warning Sign #1:  The Feelings Have Gone Numb

One sign that a relationship is going downhill? When couples say they feel “numb” towards each other. Typically, couples come to therapy when they feel burned out in their relationship. There is a history of hurt feelings. They tried to work things out, but now, their relationship is on life-support.

The result? Couples are emotionally spent, and have forgotten what it feels like to romantically desire their partner.

Breakup Warning Sign #2:  Lack of Trust

The loss of trust between both partners is another red flag. How is trust lost? All of the negative experiences between partners builds up over time. This includes:

  • Guilt-tripping
  • Arguing
  • Criticizing
  • Blaming
  • Avoiding conversation or intimate physical contact
  • Harboring resentment
  • Not honoring other person’s point of view
  • Exhibiting un-empathetic behavior

All of this negative behavior becomes a pattern (cycle) that perpetuates a story of, “No matter what I do, I can’t make her happy,” “He doesn’t care about me,” or “I can’t depend on you.” As the cycle continues, the more these negatives stories take center stage.

This negativity causes couples to emotionally distance themselves from one another, making it difficult to trust that things will be different or get any better.

Breakup Warning Sign #3:  Ambivalence About the Relationship

As feelings numb and a lack of trust grows, couples begin to question whether they want to continue the relationship. They may not be sure if they love their partner anymore. They may be hesitant to believe their partner or the relationship can change.

Ambivalence doesn’t mean all is lost.  There is still the possibility of re-engaging emotionally with your partner and creating change. Therapy can help explore how couples reached this ambivalence, identify what events triggered it, learn how to emotionally reconnect, and create a new way of interacting and communicating.

Breakup Warning Sign #4:  Loss of Will

A relationship can’t thrive unless each partner has the willpower to become an active participant. It takes a lot of courage and energy for couples to constantly risk being emotionally available, engaging, and responsive to one another; especially when they’re uncertain their partner will do the same for them.

When there’s too much water under the bridge or too many times when partner’s felt criticized or shut out, the will to fight for the relationship may be lost. When there is just no desire to put forth any effort of any kind, there is little chance the relationship will survive.

How Can Therapy Help?

Therapy often helps couples work through some of these issues and get back on track. This help can include:

  • Processing events that are painful and difficult to leave behind.
  • Identifying parts of the relationship that create the most mistrust.
  • Exploring how you and your partner got to where you are today and what is required to move forward.
  • Reviewing the pattern (cycle) you and your partner engage that perpetuates a lack of emotional disconnection.
  • Learning new communication tools to avoid problems in the future.

The key to success in couple’s therapy is a willingness to work through the tough stuff and  commit to the process. Therapy helps reignite a spark and hope in a relationship, if both partners are willing to work. A couple aware of the breakup warning signs can take the proactive steps necessary to give the relationship what it needs.

About Kelly Hendricks

I'm a Couple and Family Therapist in San Diego helping relationships thrive and women fortify their confidence. In this blog, I share insights to help you move from feeling hopeless to healing and happiness. Please feel free to stay a while.