Is Your Relationship Ending or Are You Just Going Through a (Normal) Rough Patch?
In long-term committed relationships, it’s pretty normal to come across times when you and your partner don’t feel aligned. Often these moments actually have nothing to do with the relationship, but they can have the power to impact the relationship in ways that feel big.
Living in a society that places a lot of importance and weight on putting ourselves first, we can be quick to react when our relationship doesn’t feel as though it’s giving us what we need.
Historically, these reactionary moments are what often cause people to cheat, or — in a more ethical world — have conversations about changing their relationship structure, taking a break or breaking up.
But with so many emotions at the forefront of every thought and conversation, it can be difficult to identify what the best course of action is for you and your partner. Are you just going through a rough patch? Or do you need to break up?
“It’s important if you are not feeling fulfilled in your relationship to step back and reflect on how you are really feeling,” says relationship expert and matchmaker Anna Swoboda, “especially in the pre-commitment phase, where no formal long-term commitment has been made (house, babies, marriage).”
“Ask yourself, what do I need here that I am not getting? Have I been clear and asked for it? Is it realistic that I can get my needs met in this relationship?”
Those questions are tough to answer on your own, because emotions and sex and the fear of being alone complicates everything. They are, however, important questions to find the answers to.
According to Swoboda, there are six signs in a relationship that either indicate a rough patch or the need to break up. Below, she delves into each, explaining how to address them in order to figure out if they mean it’s time to break up, or not.
A One-Sided Relationship
You are initiating most activities, or your partner is unreliable and makes excuses for not turning up for you. Sometimes people get busy or stressed at work, and other things become more of a priority. If you talk about it and both want to get things back on track, that’s a rough patch. If you think back and it’s always been one-sided, and your partner doesn’t see it and is happy how things are — that’s a breakup sign.
Lack of Compatibility
The early excitement has worn off, and you realise that actually, you don’t enjoy doing the same things, or that you have different values, or there’s nothing much to talk about. If you talk about it with your partner and both realise you’ve been moving apart unconsciously and find some things you both want to do, that’s a rough patch. If you can’t re-discover those things in common, that’s usually a sign of a breakup.
We all have non-negotiables. Some of the common ones I see are alcohol or drugs, lying, infidelity, and gambling. If any of these have occurred in your relationship, you need to step back and consider your boundaries and ask if this will change; if not, is it something you can live with. If it’s unlikely to change and you can’t live with it, it’s very likely leading to break-up time.
Gaslighting is when a partner lies about events or the nature of a situation, telling you you’re wrong for believing something did or didn’t happen. It can include constant put-downs, often subtle, destroying your self-esteem and making you question your own judgements. You are the one who is always wrong, stupid or/and apologising. They take no responsibility for their part in the relationship. It’s a form of control, and it’s unhealthy. If you are feeling this way, you should seek an outside perspective. If this happens occasionally, it may be a rough patch; if it always happens, sorry to tell you — it’s time to break up.
An unmatched sex drive can be tricky. If one party wants it a lot more than the other, or is feeling unfulfilled sexually even if you are going at it regularly, that can be draining. If sex is important to you and not right or it’s stopped for a long time, it’s time to have an honest conversation. If both sides want to find a way to change things up or reinvigorate it, it’s a rough patch. If one side doesn’t, it’s a sign of a breakup.
Fighting and Communication
Are you fighting a lot? Fighting is about unmet needs. You have to ask; yourself what do you want? Can your partner really give it to you? Are you getting stuck fighting, going round and round? If so, get outside help. If both sides are willing to invest in improving things, it may be a rough patch. If both sides aren’t, or despite help, it’s still not improving; then it’s a sign of a break-up.