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4 Signs You're in a Dead-End Relationship

Freeing yourself from unhealthy love starts with seeing the red flags.

As a relationship coach, I help people improve their relationships, as well as consider when it is best to move on. In the current post below, we'll discuss how to tell if you are in a dead-end relationship. For how to leave a dead-end relationship, see my follow-up post, "Four Steps to Leave a Dead-End Relationship."

Are you among the walking wounded who are struggling in dead-end relationships?

Do you wonder why you stay in your relationship even though it is no longer satisfying?

Do you want the stability of a secure relationship, yet fear that you won't find a better, healthier one?

Do you fear being alone?

Every relationship gains and loses gusto over time. But if the lows far exceed the highs, and you feel numbed out and emotionally flat, then that is a really rough, lonely place to be. If you suspect that you are in a dead-end relationship, it is time to look at some big-time red flags to validate your concerns.

Four Signs You Are in a Dead-End Relationship

There are some telltale signs that you’re in a dead-end relationship. If even one or two of these signs apply to you, it may be time to step back and evaluate your relationship.

We all can live in denial. It can understandably be challenging to look at an ailing relationship with fresh eyes. But a relationship that does not bring value to your life is usually not worth being a part of. Here are some red flags:

1. Your relationship has shifted in a negative direction.

Couples generally start out where both parties are really into each other. It's called infatuation! Common wisdom is that this initial, "wonderful phase" of relationships lasts three to six months. This is where you put each other on a pedestal in an idealized way. But we all know that relationship euphoria is clearly not sustainable — at least in a healthy way.

While a distinct leveling off from this "everything about him is wonderful" period is to be expected, if you are now having frequent, toxic fights or communication shutdowns, that is not healthy. Dead-end relationships also usually lack physical intimacy. Even if sex stays a strong force in a problematic relationship, it means little in the backdrop of head games, emotional distance, and disconnection.

2. You feel unfulfilled and unhappy.

This is a huge deal. You may notice less happiness within yourself, or well-meaning others may point this out. Do you fruitlessly try to fix your partner, or does your partner try to fix you? If you argue about the same issues over and over, things aren’t likely to change in the future. Are you willing to accept that? If not, it is time to move on. You may be wondering if you would be happier outside this relationship. Or even more than feeling unhappy, you may feel anxious, sad, and emotionally empty. Maybe even at some points, you feel like you are going to lose it.

3. Your tolerance fuse is shorter.

Do you find yourself getting angry at everything your partner does, yet in the past, you would have let things go easily? Do you spend more time embroiled in conflicts than actually enjoying your time together? Do you feel gloomy about the future? Do you discuss the future at all? If this is going on, it further suggests that you may be in a dead-end relationship.

4. You have a persistent, nagging feeling that something isn’t right.

Do you have a feeling that your relationship is not a solid, healthy fit? Perhaps deep down, or not even so deep down, you think it is time for the relationship to end, but you (or your partner) is resistant to accept the idea. If this has been a persistent feeling, it likely will not go away on its own and is not something to ignore.

If you recognize these red flags, it may be time to throw in the towel and accept that you’re in a dead-end relationship. These decisions are best not made lightly. Please seek professional counseling or relationship coach if you feel a need for further clarification. My next post will be on how to get out of a dead-end relationship.

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