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Warning signs of a relationship breakdown

Currently in the United Kingdom 42% of all marriages end in divorce. Autumn is a turbulent time for many couples and one of the most common times for a relationship breakdown.

The combination of couples being in close proximity over the summer, children being off from school during the holidays and the cost of living crisis; for some couples this may be the final straw in an already in a fragile relationship.

Financial issues have always played a significant role in relationship breakdown. This however has become significantly worse in the current economic climate in the UK. With increasing mortgage rates and the steady rise in the cost of living, many couples are feeling the strain in their relationship. A recent survey from the credit card brand Aqua found that about 35% of UK couples admitted that the current financial pressures had put a strain on their relationship, with 28% of respondents saying that the cost-of-living crisis had led to them arguing about money more frequently.

Whilst financial issues play a significant role in relationship breakdown, there are other warning signs that play their part in causing a relationship to breakdown. In this article we will explore these signs, and what you can do to avoid a relationship breakdown.

The warning signs of a relationship breakdown


If you are in physical or emotional danger and do not feel safe, it is a sign that the relationship should end.

When one or both of you resort to abusive behaviour through physical abuse, words, intimidations, or ridiculing without regard for each other’s feelings, it is a sign that something is wrong. When you are feeling in physical or emotional danger, trapped and helpless, it is a clear sign that your relationship is not healthy.

Unhealthy communication

Healthy relationships are built on communication and compromise. If you and your partner are arguing or complaining more often about the same issue constantly without resolving it, this may be a sign of a relationship breakdown. The same applies if you are picking fights. This may be a sign that the relationship is no longer healthy.

Lack of emotional connection

If you no longer feel excited to be with your partner, and no longer wish to share your emotions, feelings, and fears, this is a warning sign. Feeling alone and disconnected despite being physically together, or not feeling understood by your partner, is a sign that of a relationship breakdown.

Inability or desire to resolve issues.

Every couple has fights and disagreements, but if you are unable or unwilling to resolve conflicts, and find compromise, you may want to think twice about the relationship. Knowing how to work through disagreements is one of the most significant parts of a healthy relationship.

Lack of physical intimacy

It is normal for passion to die down a bit over the course of a relationship, but if you are no longer attracted to your partner and have little or no physical interest in your partner, there may be deeper issues to address. Physical intimacy (not just sex) is important in a relationship. Hugs, kisses, and gentle touches show that you care about each other.

You do not trust your partner.

One of the biggest signs of a relationship breakdown is if trust is gone and you are not able to regain it. This breakdown in trust may be as a result of infidelity, lying or lack of loyalty and dependability.

If your partner has hurt you and you find yourself constantly worried, they will do the same thing again, the initial trust issue is still unresolved. All committed relationships need trust, as it is the foundation of intimacy and a life together.

You no longer see a future together.

Has your relationship become more about convenience than anything else?

If you cannot foresee a future with your partner in three years, or even a few months and stopped talking about yourselves as a “we” and started using “I” more frequently it could be a sign that you may not with the right person.

You cannot be bothered to argue or communicate.

One of the key signs of a relationship breakdown is apathy. Whilst conflict is not healthy, not being bothered to argue and feeling apathy toward your partner is not a good sign either.

If silence has become the norm in your relationship or the only time you talk to each other is chit chat, things are not looking good.

Are you thinking about someone else?

If you have a connection with someone else and are imaging or wishing you could be with that person instead of your partner, this may indicate that you need to take a closer look at your relationship.

In this situation you need to ask yourself:

  • How would I feel if I never got to explore this connection?
  • How would I feel if I explored this connection, but it didn’t work out?
  • What does this connection offer that my current relationship does not?
  • What would I miss about my current relationship?

You will not consider professional help.

If you are not prepared to consider or attend therapy either individually or as a couple. If you are not willing to invest the time and effort to try to save your relationship in therapy, this is usually a good indication that your relationship may have irretrievably broken down.

You look forward to being apart.

Spending time alone is healthy in a relationship, but if you are looking for excuses to avoid spending time together or you are actively arranging nights out without your partner, this is usually a sign of the breakdown of a relationship.

Equally, if you do not miss your partner when are apart, or don’t even want to check in on them, it could mean your relationship is fizzling.

You don’t support each other.

This may involve helping with household chores, or helping your partner prepare for an interview. If you notice that your partner is not making as much effort, or not doing what they used to, this can be a sign that their feelings have changed.

This could also equally apply to you in that you do not want to support your partner or do not feel like it.

You feel bored or drained after spending time together.

Healthy relationships should make you feel happy, contented and calm. If you are feeling bored, exhausted, and unhappy after spending time with your partner, this could be a sign that your relationship needs help.

You do not feel respected or valued.

Beyond an occasional joke, sarcastic reply, or snappy reaction, if you are consistently treating each other poorly or with contempt, or you are unable to appreciate each other – it can be a sign that there is a lack of respect and value in your relationship.

They annoy you all the time.

Love makes you see the good side of your partner rather than the bad. You know they have flaws, but you chose to not notice them, or let them bother you.

If you start to keep a list of your partner’s negative qualities or feel annoyed by nearly all of what your partner says and does, this is a warning sign.

What to do when your relationship is breaking down?

The most important thing is not to ignore the problem hoping or thinking it will simply go away. You usually have 2 options:

  • End the relationship and walk away before things get more unpleasant, or
  • Try to salvage the relationship.

If you chose the latter, there are many ways in which couples can help themselves deal with warning signs in their relationship. These include:

  • Being honest and communicating about the problems and being willing to understand each other’s emotions. Have a conversation with your partner and work out how you can improve things together.
  • If work or life means that you are genuinely having to spend more time apart, commit to spend time together.
  • Commit to communicate more effective and share details of your life with your partner. Be prepared to have an honest conversation with your partner to see how they feel.
  • Make your partner feel needed and appreciated.
  • If you don’t feel able to have conversations about what’s going on in your relationship with your partner without it resulting in a big argument, you could seek support from someone you trust, a relationship coach or therapist. Speaking to a therapist can give you the space to understand yourself better in relation to your partner and to explore what keeps you stuck – which often involves recurring patterns from the past. For more details here is a helpful video by the Tavistock Relationship Clinic.

How do you know when a relationship is over? 

No relationship is perfect. Every couple has fights and disagreements which are usually resolved in healthy relationships. It is unusual for relationships to come to a sudden end. There are usually warning signs, which some couples fail to pick up on because they are not paying enough attention, or simply do not care.

If your relationship is causing you a lot of pain and unhappiness all the time—or even a lot of the time, it could be a sign that the relationship has gone on for too long. If you no longer see a future together, don’t want any intimacy or have a connection with your partner, and you cannot work through issues together – it may be a sign that your relationship has irretrievably broken down.

When should you call it quits in a relationship?

If you are in physical or emotional danger and do not feel safe, it is a sign that the relationship should end.

Here are resources that can help with separation and divorce.

How to cope when a relationship is over? 

Relationship breakdown can leave you feeling battered and bruised, but it is not a feeling that will last forever. You should try to follow these steps to come out the other side:

Grieve your loss – One of the ways to accept that your relationship is over is by grieving your loss and allowing yourself to heal. Prepare yourself for some lonely moments but remember you will be happy again.

Avoid making hasty decisions – The most important thing to remember is to avoid making hasty decisions that you may regret later, such as quitting your job or making big life decisions. Spend more time with friends and family, accept invitations, cultivate new relationships, and plan your social life.

Set new goals – Set new goals to accept the end of a relationship and take what you learned from your previous relationship and apply it to a connection with someone better for you.

What are the 5 stages of relationship breakdown?

The five stages of a relationship breakdown with someone are similar to the five stages of grief. These include:

Stage 1: Deep denial

In this stage, you are in total disbelief. 

Stage 2: Full fury

Anger often comes after denial wanes.

Stage 3: Bad bargain

Bargaining is a coping mechanism whereby we attempt to undo the grief.

Stage 4: Depression and grief

When the bargaining fails, this is usually when depression and hopelessness set in.

Stage 5: Radical acceptance

The final stage in the process is acceptance. You are no longer obsessing over the loss or trying to unknot what went wrong or how you can regain your ex’s love.



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