When you’ve been with someone for several years, it can be heartbreaking to start noticing that something feels off. Maybe you start arguing more, your eyes start wandering toward other people like never before, and you’re not spending as much time together. Unfortunately, these may be signs your long-term relationship isn’t working, despite how badly you want it to. If you’ve been together for a long time, the idea of not having your partner by your side might feel uber painful, but sometimes, no matter how badly you want it to, not all relationships are meant to last forever.
“Feelings of discontent in a long-term relationship can cause such inner turmoil,” LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist and relationship expert, tells Elite Daily. “After all, you feel you’ve already invested not only time, but also an emotional comfort zone about your life and future together.” So, letting go of someone who has nestled their way so deep into your heart can be incredibly difficult. There will be bumps in the road, conflict, and misunderstandings in any relationship, but if the issues feel unfixable, your partner might just not be as good a fit for you as you initially thought. “If one or both partners decide that they aren’t going to focus on the end goal of the relationship, a relationship isn’t going to work, no matter how hard one partner tries,” Dr. Benjamin Ritter, founder of Live for Yourself Consulting and The Breakup Supplement, told Elite Daily. Here are five signs that your relationship may be at that point.
1One or both of you have considered hooking up with other people, or already have.
Affairs don’t always have to be sexual. They can be emotional, too. If you or your partner have noticed your eyes wander a little too much, it could be a sign that your relationship may not be working. “Going outside the relationship might feel good at first,” Dr. Wish says. “You feel high, alive, and special. Usually, these affairs don’t last. Yet, they serve a purpose: They redirect your focus on your unhappiness. You feel you can manage going home to your partner because you have the other person to think about.” And that may not be the healthiest set up.
2You’re no longer kind to each other.
Have you noticed that there’s a tension between you and your partner that wasn’t there before? The two of you used to be so kind to each other, because you were so in love, but lately “your interactions are tense and often negative,” Dr. Wish says. “Not even being in public can contain your unhappiness. It reveals itself when you or your partner criticize each other in front of friends, family or co-workers.”
3You’re rarely (if at all) affectionate and intimate with each other anymore.
“Those little hugs and kisses are gone. And sex? That can either disappear or feel mechanical and ‘ho-hum,'” Dr. Wish explains. Maybe you’ve tried to bring up the topic with your partner, but they don’t see a change, or they don’t mind the change. Granted, a lack of intimacy could occur because of an outside stressor in bae’s life, but “a sustained lack of intimacy in a relationship without any acknowledgment or desire to improve it can mean the relationship isn’t working anymore,” Dr. Ritter said.
4You don’t spend as much time together as you used to.
Spending quality time with your partner is an important part of a relationship. If you find yourself wanting to spend less time with bae, or they seem busier than they used to be, it could mean there’s something more going on. “You or your partner work later at night at the office, or one of you brings more work home. Your togetherness is shrinking,” Dr. Wish says. You used to make it a point to plan a date night weekly or at least monthly, and now you can’t remember the last time you went out together. “You don’t plan activities together,” she says. “Or, you plan activities with others that exclude your partner.”
5You put each other down.
Putting someone down can be incredibly hurtful, and if you find that you and bae have been doing that to each other, that’s not a good sign — especially if you put each other down more than you lift each other up. “Research has found that there needs to be a ratio of 5:1, with having at least five positive interactions for every negative one,” Samantha Burns, couples’ counselor and author of Breaking Up & Bouncing Back, tells Elite Daily. “If compliments and support come few and far between, then it’s a strong indicator your relationship isn’t working.”
Why does this happen?
When you’ve been with someone for more than five years, it can be easy to get complacent in your relationship and stop growing and evolving together, Burns says. “They lack a sense of purpose or shared goals, and as humans we often need to experience a sense of progress in order to be happy.” So when you stop growing together, your relationship may begin to suffer.
If you and your partner have different core values, that could affect your relationship as well. Maybe one of you wants to get married and have children, but the other one doesn’t. Or one partner is very religious and the other is not. Eventually, you may begin to resent each other because you can’t find a friendly middle arrangement, or you can’t accept the other for who they are and what they want. “We all have values, but our core values define us, influence how we want to live our lives, and the vision we have for our futures,” Burns explains.
What can you do to keep your relationship from falling apart?
A relationship requires ongoing effort, Burns says. “Don’t sit back and wait for a crisis before working on your relationship. Small daily actions can contribute significantly to your relationship satisfaction,” she explains. It can be something as low-key as watching a movie they’ve been wanting to see or sitting there with them while they watch a 25-minute video series on YouTube. “Asking your partner about their day and listening to their response, a twenty-second hug (which releases oxytocin)” and “speaking your partner’s love language” are all small ways to work on your relationship, Burns says.
If you feel like your relationship may be past the point when doing small things for your partner could help, it may be best to consider couples’ therapy. Talking to a therapist can help you and your partner learn how to properly be there for each other. “How to be a good partner isn’t taught in school, and many people didn’t have positive role models growing up to learn how to be in a healthy, loving relationship,” Burns points out. “So, don’t let shame or ignorance prevent you from getting the support you need.”
If neither of those things work for you and bae, as hard as it may be to accept, it’s possible your relationship has run its course. It may be hard to move forward without the person you’ve had by your side for as long as you can remember, but it’s important to remember to try to see the glass half full. This relationship may not have worked out, but that means you’re one step closer to the relationship that will. “One day, you will look back and be grateful that the breakup happened (as hard as that may be to believe now),” Trina Leckie, breakup coach and host of the breakup BOOST podcast, told Elite Daily. “You can’t meet someone better suited for you if you keep hanging onto the wrong one out of fear of the unknown.”