The term “burnout" means experiencing exhaustion, dwindling motivation, and a loss of interest in something that formerly engaged you. We usually apply this term to working environments, but burnout can easily happen to people in their love lives—and often for the same reasons it happens in their work lives.
At work, burnout usually occurs when you start to feel you’re working too hard for the results that are being produced. It’s not just the long hours or the slow progress—it’s the combination of both that produces the loss of enjoyment. When you feel like you’re working as hard as you can and getting nowhere, feelings of frustration, pessimism, and exhaustion are only natural.
This can happen to us in our personal lives as well. Romantic relationships, especially one on the decline, can become as demanding and taxing as a full-time job. If we worked exceedingly hard to make the relationship work and it still fails, the period of singledom that follows is often riddled with signs of burnout.
Here are 5 ways to spot relationship burnout:
1. You think dating sounds awful.
After a breakup, some people cannot wait to get back onto the dating scene, while others feel ambivalent or indifferent to dating for a long time. These are all relatively positive reactions to being single again. But if you have a strong negative reaction to the idea of going on a date for a significant period of time post-breakup, that’s an indication of relationship burnout.
2. You find little enjoyment in meeting potential mates.
Most people find actively seeking dates (such as online dating) stressful, but what about meeting a potential mate organically? What if you meet someone you’d normally be interested in through work or through a friend? If even this prospect brings you little joy, you may be feeling little-to-no joy in the relationship department in general.
3. Your emotional energy is depleted.
Many people feel exhausted after a breakup, especially if there was moving and dividing of possessions involved. There’s a particular type of exhaustion that indicates relationship burnout, however—lack of emotional energy. If you find it hard to have an emotional reaction to anything—even small positive things like jokes and laughter—your emotional reserves may be literally burned out.
4. You remember the bad moments vividly.
When somebody leaves a job because they found another opportunity or are excited to pursue a passion project, they tend to remember the previous job holistically—the good parts as well as the bad. If someone quits a job due to burnout, however, they tend to remember the overwhelming and stressful days most vividly. If you can only remember the fights you had with your former partner and not much else, the negative energy of the breakup is still very much with you.
5. You feel cynical or pessimistic about love in general.
Do you imagine that if you got into another relationship, it would be doomed to fail? Do you find yourself speaking ill of the concept of love, calling it a lie or a prelude to pain? Do you secretly believe that people in love are fools? This type of disillusionment about love in general is an unfortunate consequence of relationship burnout.
If you notice any of these signs in yourself, it may be time to recognize the role of relationship burnout in your life. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make this period of your life easier and move past it:
1. Give the previous relationship time to make sense.
When you eventually become able to look back on a relationship and see the lessons it taught you, the relationship—no matter how bad—will start to hold a meaningful place in your life. Did the breakup make you stronger? Did it teach you more about what you need in a partner? Understanding these lessons will help you heal and prepare for your next relationship.
2. Be upfront with any potential partners.
If you’re not ready to jump in to another relationship, you’re not ready. Even if someone great comes along, there’s a good chance it won’t turn into lasting love if you’re still in the throes of relationship burnout. Have fun and meet people, but be upfront about not looking for anything serious.
3. Give yourself permission not to be interested.
Many newly single people feel great internal and (often) external pressure to “get back out there.” But if you’re genuinely not interested in being in a relationship, give yourself permission to be alone. This may very well be your intuition telling you it’s time to reconnect with yourself.
4. Spark interest somewhere else in your life.
If you’re going to disengage from the dating and relationship world for a while, be sure to cultivate passion and interest somewhere else in your life. What have you been longing to try? What gives you that spark of energy you've been missing? These are the pursuits that will, with time, draw you fully out of relationship burnout.