When Do You Pull The Plug On Your Dead End Relationship?

In the beginning

When we get into relationships we do it because it feels good to be with another person. There is an attraction that is physical; gorgeous eyes, nice body, nice teeth, cute butt, etc., and we feel compelled to get to know that person. The attraction grows because of traits; sense of humor, intelligence, integrity, good listening skills, etc. Next thing you know you are in love and your brain is fogged with a rush of super chemicals that blind you to any faults this person may have. That and the fact that we all are on our best behavior in the beginning. With such an awesome start, why do relationships go south so fast for some but end in a happily-ever-after for others? How do you define a dead-end relationship? What are the signs of your relationship dying and when do you finally call the time of death?

Red Flags

The first sign of death of the relationship is when you start to notice red flags waving about, in your face, that you cannot ignore because frankly they piss you off. When the fog of love wears off and shit gets real you may notice your partner is controlling, jealous, insecure, or one of those types who acts helpless to get you to do EVERYTHING for him/her. Your partner may start feeling entitled to all of your belongings, and entitled to having a vote in how you raise your children, where you spend your holidays, how you dress, who you can be friends with, and how you spend your money. Suddenly you have lost your autonomy and you are feeling controlled (emotional abuse).  Next the crazy good sex you used to have three times a day only happens once a week, then once a month, then once a year and you are left with nothing but resentment for your partner. Wanna give it another go?

7 Sins of Unhealthy Relationships:

  • Rewarding to control (I'll have sex with you if you paint the house!")
  • Complaining Constantly (Your partner could suck the fun out of a trip to Las Vegas)
  • NOT listening to your partner's needs (You never feel heard/ find you have to repeat everything 1000 times)
  • Conditional Love ("I love you because you make the big bucks! Lose that job and we're done!" or "I LOVE your body, gain weight and we're through")
  • Talking to everybody else except your partner about your relationship (Partner seeking sympathy, not resolution)
  • Threatening to end the relationship every time you don't get your way
  • Cheating (Flirting with others, masturbating to porn instead of having sex with your partner, emotional affairs, etc)

The downfall

Issues acknowledged and you've talked it through with your partner and together you have decided to repair the relationship. Do you find that you are making all of the effort? Are your attempts at initiating sex met with subtle rejection that leaves you feeling awkward and unattractive? Are you both engaging in avoidance behaviors at this point (focusing on your cell phone instead of each other, watching TV instead of talking, sleeping on the couch, tuning out your partner when they speak)? How did we get here? You may ask yourself this and also wonder if it is possible to get that magic high of love back with your partner. You've invested this much time already and you're no quitter so you decide to try one last time to make this work.


It's time to 'call it' if you see these signs:

  • Passive Aggressive Behaviors
  • Stonewalling
  • Complete absence of sexual and emotional intimacy (Withholding affection is abusive)
  • Your partner disappears for hours and will not respond to your texts/calls (Mind games to invoke jealousy/suspicion- then blame you for being 'crazy' or paranoid)
  • You find condoms in his/her personal items such as a purse/wallet
  • You feel deep resentment for your partner (You've lost all respect)
  • You or your partner engages in masturbating to porn instead of engaging in sex with each other (porn and masturbation are perfectly normal to engage in but when it is habitual and used to avoid all intimacy it is unhealthy and destructive to relationships- Seek therapy to work through your reasons for doing this)
  • You no longer cry or become angry- you are numb and indifferent (You've given 150% and you are tapping out)
  • You and your partner never kiss each other (Mindful kissing reinforces the bond)
  • You fantasize about your freedom (You begin to imagine the future and he/she is nowhere to be found there)

If there is still a pulse

You will know it is worth working on if you still feel something, even if it is anger. When there is still hope and you are not ready to end it, therapy can help. It is only helpful if both partners are dedicated to putting in the effort. A therapist can teach communication tools, skills for managing uncomfortable emotions, healthy boundaries, and personal accountability. Repairing broken relationships is never easy but well worth it in the long run, even if you end up splitting up because you both leave with tools that will enable you to improve your yourself for your next relationship.If you are in an abusive relationship you will need therapy to gain skills to rebuild you, to break the patterns of choosing the same type of partner every time, and to learn what healthy love is. Love never hurts, love never betrays, love never abuses, it is people who do these things to people. Learn how to choose the right people and find real love by learning to love and respect you first.

Remember, we all hit our limits eventually. Avoid listening to others who may tell you to walk away or stay and work it out, listen to YOUR heart and YOUR intuition. If and when you are ready you will take that first step toward healing whether it is alone or with your partner. Getting therapy is essential to breaking the patterns of failed relationships, which are usually the result of our attachment styles that began with our caregivers when we were children. Discovery leads to understanding, understanding leads to acceptance, and acceptance can lead to change and healing. Happiness IS all in your head!!!

I wish you healing, love, and happiness!

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Elizabeth Choate, MS, LMFT


Elizabeth Choate


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