Updated: 10 Aug 2017

How to spot the warning signs of an impending relationship breakup

Do you suspect you're seeing and feeling the warning signs of a breakup? Are you worried that your partner is about to end your relationship or marriage? Or perhaps you're thinking about breaking up?

Either way, there are definite signs to look out for that could potentially signal the end of your relationship.

If a breakup is imminent, it'll generally be the result of repeated periods of unhappiness and/or doubts - either for you, your partner, or both of you. Often these periods of dissatisfaction, irritation, anger, frustration, hurt and disappointment increase in length and happen more frequently.

In a long-term committed partnership, the signs that your relationship is in trouble are very likely to appear in stages and cycles. It's not unusual for these cycles of ups and downs to continue over several years.

But that's not always the case, of course. Sometimes a breakup can happen totally out of the blue, without any warning signs whatsoever. 

Nevertheless, a breakup (or divorce) is always a process with a beginning, a middle and an end. Some may happen more rapidly than others, but when you look back, you'll probably be able to identify the stages. Statements like "I'm leaving you" or "I don't love you any more" are unlikely to have risen out of a 'sudden' realisation - even if it seems like that to you.

If you think your partner is about the break up with you ...

... hop over to my article: How to Make Your Partner Love You Again.

Image quote: The two of you will have changed. but to what extent? And what have you done about it?

Are they really normal 'ups and downs'?

Would you be surprised if your partner suddenly told you he or she doesn't love you anymore?

Would you be shocked, like so many of my clients were? Or would you have seen it coming, because of those little niggles in the back of your mind that you could never quite get rid of?

Or, maybe you haven't been straight with your partner about how unhappy you've felt lately. How unsure of your future together you've been feeling. Maybe you're the one who's falling out of love?

Perhaps you've accepted the ups and downs of your relationship as part of the ‘norm’. While they are normal to some extent, a big increase in the number and duration of the downs could well be a warning sign of a breakup.

Often, towards the end of a relationship, one or both partners has no idea how the other person really feels. Assumptions are made, or warning signs are ignored.

I so know it can be really scary to contemplate a future without the person you loved (or still love). The word 'single' can strike fear into the hearts of many! But, the alternative is to stay in a broken relationship - and while that may not feel as scary, it's way worse for you - and your partner - in the long run.

So, take a deep breath, and let's take a look together at the most common warning signs of a breakup.

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What lies behind the signs of a breakup?

The breakdown of a relationship often happens in stages. Each stage has its own warning signs. The nature and the length of these stages also differ enormously from one couple to another.

Here are the factors that influence what each stage looks like:

7 Factors that impact the ending of a relationship

  1. How committed you really were at the start of your relationship
  2. The level of your commitment, care and consideration as your relationship grew
  3. The length and 'intensity' of the partnership
  4. Your personal relationship histories - your attachments and previous endings
  5. Your life stages and ages - first long-term love, small kids, teenagers, elderly parents, mid-life, etc
  6. Any traumas that happened during the course of your relationship
  7. Your personalities

What stage of a relationship breakdown are you at?

Below I've listed the stages I've seen my clients go through when their relationship were in danger of ending.

Each stage has its own signs that your relationship is not what it should or could be.

13 common stages of a failing relationship - the slippery slope

Either one of you could be at a stage whereby you...

  1. Accept that every partnership has its ups and downs
  2. Become aware that what seemed like yet another ‘dip’ is lasting much longer than normal
  3. Attempt another conversation with your partner about how you feel (women tend to do this more often than men).
  4. Contemplate, and perhaps even suggest, couple counselling
  5. Make renewed efforts to improve things because you can clearly see the relationship is on the rocks
  6. Become exhausted and increasingly unhappy because of all the ups and downs
  7. Imagine what it would be like to end the relationship or marriage and be on your own
  8. Explore solutions to the adverse practical and financial consequences of a breakup
  9. Make concrete plans in anticipation of a separation
  10. Put off a conversation about ending the relationship or marriage, wondering how to do it
  11. Pluck up the courage and disclose your intention to seek a separation/divorce
  12. Attend counselling sessions ‘as a last resort’ (see my page about Relationship or Marriage Counselling)
  13. Decide ultimately: the relationship needs to end if repair attempts haven't worked
Partners sitting together without any signs of intimacy.Together, but not truly connecting and sharing?

Other signs your relationship may be over

Whether you're worried that your partner's about to end your relationship, or you're the one on the verge of calling it quits, take a look at the list below.

These can all be warning signs of a breakup. Do any of them speak to you?

As a couple...

  • You don't laugh and talk as much as you used to
  • One of you is pushing for more commitment than the other wants to give
  • One or both of you often feels hurt, let down, frustrated, angry, taken for granted - or simply bored
  • You live like 'brother and sister', or friends - without passion
  • Or, if you do have sex, it's more about 'going through the motions' than making love
  • Issues from the past keep coming up without ever getting resolved
  • Something just doesn't quite gel - emotionally, sexually, socially or spiritually
  • Disagreements escalate quickly into full-blown rows more and more often

If any of these sound familiar to you, your inkling that your relationship's in trouble could be right.

So what else should you be looking out for?

14 signs that your relationship is on a sliding scale

These can all apply to either you or your partner...

  1. Conversations don't include much personal ‘stuff’ - you have little idea what's going on in each other's lives
  2. Complaints about the same things keep coming up over and over again (see also: How to Stop Arguing)
  3. You can't come to an understanding or agreement when it comes to important issues
  4. Feelings of frustration, anger and hurt increase whenever you try to have meaningful conversations (if you still do!)
  5. You're feeling increasingly depressed - if you both feel like this on account of your relationship then your feelings are definite warning signs of a breakup
  6. You're slowly withdrawing from each other
  7. One of you might have suggested that separation could be on the cards
  8. Your lives are growing apart as you go out separately more often, or stay longer at work
  9. One of you is having an affair.
  10. One of you is acting ‘out of character’, or perhaps just hasn't been quite 'right' lately
  11. Arguments are more frequent and maybe you're even treating each other with contempt
  12. 'Stonewalling' is becoming common - ignoring each other when you're miffed, pretending the other one doesn't exist (wow, what a bad habit!)
  13. Promises are being broken - one of you commits to being somewhere, but doesn't turn up or cancels the arrangement
  14. Being 'nice' has become too much effort

I'm sure you'll agree, some of these are pretty obvious signs that your relationship is not as healthy it could be. If you recognise any them, now's the time to take action:

  • The best place to start? Talking to each other! If your relationship is on the rocks, a meaningful conversation will help you both figure out if it can still be saved. If communication doesn't flow freely in your relationship, my Advanced Communication Kit for Couples can help. 
  • If you think your partner's the one who's about to leave, there's still much that you can do - even if your partner doesn't appear to be interested. Have a look at Save The Marriage (Relationship) Today for a review of a formula developed by Lee Baucom, PhD.
  • Alternatively, if you're struggling to make sense of your own feelings, you can connect with a professional, licensed relationship therapist right away. An outside perspective and some professional guidance can make a huge difference when you're facing confusing and distressing times in your life.

When is it time to end your relationship or marriage?

If you're not sure you want to stay in this relationship, my Comprehensive Relationship Test can help you to make that difficult decision.

After that you're very likely to be clear about your next step. You can take control and end your relationship or marriage - if that's what you decide to do. Or, you might decide that it is worth fighting for. Then you'll know which way to direct your energies!

Signs of declining mental health instead?

Some of the warning signs of a breakup could actually also indicate deeper emotional and/or psychological problems - either for you or your partner.

Things that contribute to the end of a relationship can sometimes be, in their own right, the signs of depression, an impending nervous breakdown or simply stress. These can all rapidly lead to all manner of relationship problems, not to mention personal problems too.

So, if you think you're struggling with any kind of emotional issue (or your partner is), I'd really love you to get the help you need to overcome those difficulties right now. You can find tonnes of info right here on my site to get you on the right track. Or you can connect with an online therapist right away (see the blue box below).

Whatever happens...

If you're worrying about the warning signs of a breakup, this isn't the time to stick your head in the sand (trust me!). 

Whether you're the one thinking of leaving, or it's your partner, take some time to find out what's really going on - for both of you. If you decide to work together to fix whatever's broken, great! Or if you decide it's time to go your separate ways, that's just fine t0o.

Always remember - you (both) deserve to lead happy, fulfilling lives and to have meaningful relationships. And I'm wishing you well, every step of the way :-)

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Related articles

How to End Your Relationship
Breaking Up Tips
How to Get over Someone
Surviving Infidelity
Signs Your Partner is Having an Affair
How to 'Make' Your Partner Fall in Love with You Again

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Elly Prior

Hello you! :-)

It's me - Elly Prior, I'm the Founder and Author of this site. I'm a 'real' person! I'm hoping to make a positive difference, small or large, to every person who visits my site.

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