The 4 Signs That Tell You a Relationship is OverWhy do we stay too long in unhealthy relationships?

In one moment, I knew. After many years, moves, job changes, and a brief stint in couples therapy, we were in the middle of yet another argument.

I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember feeling like we were speaking different languages.

Confused, I finally I blurted, “Do you even care about how I feel?” Quite matter of factly she answered, “Why should I have to worry about how you feel?”

And I knew. It all made sense. In that moment she literally TOLD me she didn’t value me or my feelings anymore. There was nothing left to do but to begin the long process of untangling our complicated relationship.

Later, after I began to put humpty back together again, I wondered: why is it that when it comes to relationships, we often hang on tighter even when evidence shows that there’s just nothing left for us there? Since all relationships bring up issues, how do we know the difference between normal stuff and incompatibility stuff?

I realized that sometimes it was fear of failure that caused me to stay put. Or I got stuck in the details. We were living together.

Or had paid for a vacation. Mostly, though I stayed too long in relationships because I just didn’t know how to know it was over.

After 20 years of staying too long at the party, I identified 4 patterns that help me recognize when a relationship is over.

1. You’re hanging in for nostalgia

It is so confusing, when remembering the good times from early on, to accept that things have changed. I have had the tendency, when it comes to love, to resist change, to ignore it, and metaphorically stomp my feet in pouty protest. Over time, I discovered that once I am just holding on hoping it will be the way it once was, or that things will change in the ways I need in order for the relationship to work for me – it is over.

2. You have lost things

Love shouldn’t hurt. Or cause you to lose things like sleep, friends, or focus on goals. This has been such a hard thing for me to accept because all relationships take some work. What I understand now is that the line is loss. Once a pattern develops that involves me losing things – a sense of me, health, etc., the relationship has deteriorated into an unhealthy one and it’s time to cut my losses.

3. She is stuck and unwilling to grow

Taking responsibility for ourselves takes courage and the ability to tolerate our own limitations. Whether due to a personality disorder, untreated addiction or general immaturity, some people, at certain points in their lives(myself included), lack the capacity for taking responsibility. You can spot this in someone when you notice she will not say I’m sorry, or when she does something shitty and then blames it on you.  Or there is a chronic lack of awareness of how her behavior impacts you. No matter how much you may love a girl, you really can’t work with a blamer who is unwilling to take responsibility for herself.

4. She broke a deal breaker

Deal breakers are the boundaries you set before you’re in love that say what you will and won’t put up with in relationships.  Aside from the biggies, like cheating, there are many others like shutting down during conflict, punishing behaviors when a wrong is perceived, or financial instability.  Looking back, it’s clear to me that once a deal breaker was cracked for either of us in the relationship, it was a turning point– one that should have indicated it was time to end it.


Maybe we stay too long in relationships because we’re in love, or because of perceived failures. I realized all of the patterns come down to one thing. The solution for what to do lies in the answer to one question: Am I compromising who I am?