21 Signs Your Relationship Is Doomed

Should Love Really by Guian Bolisay

We all know relationships are hard work, but they’re not supposed to be hell. These 21 tell-tale signs spell perdition for even the most committed couples.


Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does.
Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.

– James Baldwin

The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away

– B.B. King


Knowing when it’s right to quit, when it’s best to move on, is the key to your emotional survival.

Unless we truly know it’s over, we never want to believe it. The “I’m done” moment is usually recognized in hindsight. Sure, we’ve been hurt, even grievously wounded, but there’s always hope, there’s always faith. When turned towards the positive, hope and faith are powerful forces and miraculous sources of healing, but when employed as mechanisms of denial, they form the pillars of a delusional world, along with their companion—fantasy. Quitting is a dirty word, and it’s drilled into us that we should never give up. Knowing when it’s right to quit, when it’s best to move on, is the key to your emotional survival, and these 21 signs can help you come to terms with the heartbreaking realization that what once was is no more and is never going to be. As a rule, if you can say yes to four or more of these in your relationship, it’s time to close the book and begin a new chapter.


1. Resentment. Are you suffering silently, taking your lumps, gritting your teeth, and never directly confronting your partner over behaviors that make you angry? You may think you’re saving the relationship by not speaking up, but you’re actually flooding yourself with resentment that will inevitably overflow. Don’t fool yourself into believing your reservoir is unlimited. The tipping point will come, and your resentment will influence your own behavior, in ways you may not even be aware of, leading you to get back at your partner and drive the death stake into the relationship. When resentment moves in, communication has moved out, and there’s little hope for reconciliation.

2. Disrespect. If you or your partner have reached the point of showing disrespect or being dismissive of each other, forget it. There’s no quicker way to erode good will and make it easy for someone to stop loving you. People may keep their bodies in the room if they’re treated badly—particularly in the cycle of abuse—but their hearts and minds soon check out, and the relationship becomes a hollow shell.

A cold look of scorn from the one who’s supposed to warm your heart means you’ve fallen through the ice and you’re drowning in the frozen pond, and no, your partner is not going to save you.

3. Contempt. Marriage expert John Gottman cites contempt as the deadliest of his “four horsemen” (the others are criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling) and claims he can tell if a marriage will fail by watching a couple for just 15 minutes. I know whereof he speaks. Contempt is like liquid nitrogen. A cold look of scorn from the one who’s supposed to warm your heart means you’ve fallen through the ice and you’re drowning in the frozen pond, and no, your partner is not going to save you.

4. Lying. There’s lying to your partner and lying to yourself. Neither protects your partner or the relationship. Pretending you still love someone and speaking false words to mask your betrayal doesn’t insulate your partner from harm; it only delays and magnifies the damage. Similarly, pretending you’re happy and convincing yourself, against your heart and better judgment that everything is OK constitutes an abandonment of self and a withdrawal from reality. If you can’t stay grounded in the here and now, the relationship can’t thrive.

5. Mistrust. Do you really think it’s wise to be with someone you can’t trust? Do we have to say more about this one?

6. Badmouthing. Anything good you have to say about your partner should be said in public. Anything bad is best kept private, unless you’re on your way out and confiding in your family or close friends. Public badmouthing, even if it’s meant as a joke or petty complaining, is the tip of an iceberg of deep dissatisfaction that can sink your relationship to the bottom of the sea.

7. Distancing. When you find yourself tuning out, seeking distractions, and making a conscious effort to avoid connection and intimacy, it’s time to step away from the source of your pain. You might still wear each other’s rings or live under the same roof, but if you’ve severed the emotional bond or you’re slowly letting it unravel, you may as well make a clean break.

It’s not actually a proof of your love, but a way of soothing your partner’s anxiety and addressing the feeling that he or she is unlovable.

8. Demanding proofs of love. “If you loved me, you would . . .” Allowing this absurd request to rule your life is so tempting. After all, it’s often so easy just to get it over with and do the thing your partner asks. But what your partner is really saying is, “I don’t believe, trust, or accept your love unless you go through this hoop for me.” It’s not actually a proof of your love, but a way of soothing your partner’s anxiety and addressing the feeling that he or she is unlovable, and soon enough the hoop becomes a ring of fire. The only person who can change those feelings of unlovability is their owner, and asking you to do it is a sign your partner is mentally unwell.

9. Public humiliation. Has your partner ever shamed you in public, with outrageous behavior, by airing dirty laundry, or by accusing or severely mistreating you? An apology will always follow, but it wasn’t an accident or the result of too much drinking, and despite the promises, it will be repeated. It’s evidence of a fragile ego and deep-seated self-hatred. No amount of love you give can make someone love themselves, and without help, your partner will only make you more and more miserable.

10. Obsession with another person. If one partner is obsessed with someone outside the relationship—either a potential love interest or even a best friend—there’s a good chance that availability and connection have broken down within the relationship. It’s healthy not to have all the energy directed inward, but your partner must remain your primary focus. Obsession also indicates an unmet need, but it’s likely one you can’t meet for your partner.

11. Obsession with pornography. The jury is out, but some find a little bit of smut, enjoyed together, to be a turn-on. Watching others can also be a way for couples to express their fantasies and get in touch with what they want in bed. But obsessive consumption of porn by one or both partners is a sign that satisfaction will always elude that person, and the quest for the holy grail—or multi-orgasmic image—will lead down a road of extreme perversion.

It’s transference of the emotional attachment we fear the most, because emotional intimacy is the core of a relationship and makes everything else possible.

12. Emotional infidelity. A one-night stand with a colleague on a business trip, a brief fling with the hot personal trainer, distasteful and devastating as these are, they need not be relationship killers. Sexual monogamy is hard and not necessarily hard-wired. The first question a partner inevitably asks when the indiscretion is discovered or disclosed is “Do you love him/her?” It’s transference of the emotional attachment we fear the most, because emotional intimacy is the core of a relationship and makes everything else possible.

13. Inability to resolve conflict. This manifests first as endless fighting without reaching agreement and after a while morphs into the “whatever” stage, in which partners stop caring about the outcome because they’ve stopped investing in the relationship. There’s something to be said for the maxim of never going to bed angry. If neither partner can be the bigger person, give up the need to be right, and approach conflict in a conciliatory fashion, there’s no point in continuing.

14. Sabotage. When we do things unconsciously that damage our relationship, it’s our psyche telling us we want and need out. You can say you want to stay until you’re blue in the face, but your actions will always speak louder than your words.

15. Addictive behaviors. If your partner is a substance abuser, a compulsive spender or gambler, a sex addict, or even a true workaholic, your relationship will never take first priority. And unless it does, you won’t be happy. Not to mention that addictive behaviors, especially when enabled, can ruin lives.

Always put your partner first. If you feel like you’re second fiddle—or fifth violin—it’s time to face the music.

16. Unhealthy attachments. Is your partner still attached to an ex-spouse or former lover or enmeshed with his or her family? These attachments can disrupt and ultimately destroy the fabric of a healthy relationship, eating holes in it until it disintegrates. Honor thy mother and father. Respect thine exes, especially if you’ve had children with them. But always put your partner first. If you feel like you’re second fiddle—or fifth violin—it’s time to face the music.

17. Threats and emotional blackmail. These should never, ever occur in a healthy relationship. They are often presented as being about love but they are always about control. Period. And control is a form of abuse. Period. Run from these as fast as you can.

18. Comparisons and ratings. Is your partner comparing you to others—people who earn more, look more attractive, or have a better personality? Or rating your attributes on a scale? This is a form of denigration. If someone thinks the grass is greener, or that they won’t have to fertilize and pull weeds in another field, let them go for it, and let them go. We’re each unique individuals, and how we measure up against another or some arbitrary standard isn’t relevant. In a nod to number 8: if your partner loved you, he or she wouldn’t do that.

19. Indifference. Honestly. Why stay if you no longer care?

20. Withdrawal of affection. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a roommate, but if you want more from your relationship, don’t stay with a partner who has become one.

21. Physical violence. Never acceptable under any circumstances. No excuses. No explanations. No justifications. No more.


Ultimately, in my opinion, all relationship conflict and the behavior that accompanies it springs from pain. If the conflict is an attempt to open and cleanse a wound, to promote healing, to mend holes, strengthen the bond and bring partners closer together,—then you have a “fighting” chance. But if it is an effort to rend and tear apart, to bash and smash and break, to assuage one’s own pain by causing pain for another, the writing is on the wall. We’d best read it, or we’ll end up weeping.

Photo—Guian Bolisay/Flickr

About Thomas G. Fiffer

Thomas G. Fiffer, Senior Editor, Ethics, at The Good Men Project, is a graduate of Yale University and holds an M.A. in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a professional writer, speaker, and storyteller with a focus on diagnosing and healing dysfunctional relationships. You can find out more about his publications and services at Thomas G. Fiffer, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter. His books, Why It Can't Work: Detaching From Dysfunctional Relationships to Make Room for True Love and What Is Love? A Guide for the Perplexed to Matters of the Heart are available on Amazon. He lives in Connecticut and is working on his first novel.


  1. thank you says:

    thank you soo much for all these points.
    Some of us are working hard to heal and free therapy is just so great.
    To thank you in my language. asante sana.

  2. Louise Damen says:

    How to restore a failing relationship Unlike the movies we see, every relationship will not always been happy forever. Something or factors are always there to drop the relationship you have given all. It may be due to dishonesty, failing to funding, lack of understanding, the requirement of unemployment and so on. It will take more than a lot to save a relationship failing to take i’ve been there. Now I know some ways that can help restore a failing relationship that will work, it forms the background to the latest high ultimate way I know. Understanding: Understanding is a way to restore a default relationship.But as easy as it sounds, it is the most difficult task accomplish.Why is it? let see. In a relationship is like to be that person who has never heard as he or she does not exist. Men feel like everything he says or does is just because they are men and they think they need to be still in charge because men are heard and women feel like they have need to be heard and their opinion counts a lot. If the two can not balance this, I see no hope for this relationship because after so many struggles resulting from misunderstandings they call the end. Stable finances: This is especially for men. It is important to have a stable finance, because a lot of bad things can happen due to financial difficulties. Even if your spouse choose to stay with you through troubled times, you can see that the default and before you know little things and talk about money leads to fight and as you know the relationship falls. But stable finances can restore a failing relationship in a measure before some other factors plans. Couple Counseling: This for a very long time is the last point of almost all couples before the final relationship fall.Here terminal are either restored or destroyed.Couple Council recorded a large amount of success over the years, but does not guarantee that the relationship will remain strong for long time.Studies show that most relationships recorded by the board experienced a positive change for up to 3-5 years before failing again and some even comes experienced no change. I’m not saying couples therapy does not work I simply say, it does not really guarantee a lasting relationship. D’Amour spell: For me, this is the only way that you and someone you love will always be, as they have promised you. My marriage had its largest penalty the board, understanding and all the things I wrote above, and the only thing that worked for me was the Ajayi Ololo fate did for me. It was the only help I seeked that actually worked for me which is why I say is the Ultimate.My friend who advised me to contact a spell caster remained married to her husband for ten years and some months now because of love Ajayi Ololo fate of her.I can not speak of my own because its just been two months .I you want to save your relationship Contact your roulette with this email ajayiololo @ (yahoo). com. Warning: use this email in the regular mail format

  3. Gelina Mattson says:

    We all have different reasons why those of us who contacted Akpe Osilama to help us make our faithful to us some of us did it for lover, because of their children or health condition or even because they wanted not to be alone. For me it was non of those though i love my husband and don’t want to raise our teens alone . The reason why i contacted Akpe Osilama to help me with a spell truly was because my husband was running for one of the seats in the Riksdag,the national legislative body of Sweden. Now i am not going to say if he won or under what party for security reasons i did not ask for a spell to make him win or something NO i just asked for a spell to make him stop being a chronic Womanizer it was going to affect his campaign. I have lived with him for 20 years and after countless occasions of catching him cheating on me i have come to live with him like that though it hurts to death. I wish i knew all along all those years about Akpe the Great spell caster maybe my life would not have been this way. Like i was saying, His womanizing behavior got him into a lot of trouble and if any of those stories where to hit the press it would have destroyed his life and this political career and probably landed him in jail. With all the advise from me and his advisories of his campaigning team it was still not enough to bring him to caution. I went to the extreme to make sure he stops willingly or unwillingly that is i meant with some of his lover and asked to pay them off but they were not ready to let go it. I think he offered them something more that money that even with the amount i offered them, they all refused and believe me it was very surprising and they will turn down a large amount of money. We my husband got to know about it he mad mad at me and gave all sort of threats. I was confused and his opposition were digging to find dirt on him and still was so convinced that they will not find anything but they did only with no evidence that was how lucky we were. Right then i took matters in my hand and contacted Akpe Osilama with the email address i saw on the internet i contacted him and told him what i want him to do for me to make my husband be faithful to me till our dying day and make all those people looking for how to bring down my husband stop. OK note my husband is a very honest man who would not hurt a fly he was just careless and always picked the wrong kinds of woman that get him in trouble. Akpe Osilama asked that i provide 4 kind of item me being so careful employed expert to help me get those materials mailed them over to him. I sent a total some of 3000 dollars when converting from Swedish Krona to American dollars. And it much much cheaper if i had asked him to get them for me. But whats done is done. Just after four day sent me a package, not telling its content but is totally harmless and told me how to make the spell effective. I did as he told me and in two my husband somehow magically broke tires with all the women he was involved with i don’t know how it happen and those people trying to kill his political ambition stopped immediately. I wish i knew this Great man all along my life would have been perfect. His campaign team did not understand how i did it and what i did they were just happy all the worse is past. What wow me the most about Akpe Osilama was that he told me the out come of the election before the election date last year because all this happened last year and just what he said will happen really came to pass. And again i can’t give full info because of security reasons. I little advise for those that are going to contact him via this email (chiefpriestakpeosilamaspellcast@ (yahoo). com) rewrite to usual email format if you are asked for material to do the spell don’t go about it yourself Because you will waste a lot time and money on it and get to see asking him to get them for you with the total cost you wire to him will save you a lot. You have nothing be be afraid you can trust him with anything Because all he does is help people no matter how hard it may be.

  4. O'Sullivan Eimear says:

    When your spouse is having an affair, your world becomes a confusing, scary place full of hurt, shame, and anger. You will wonder why this has happened and what action(s) to take. The question of what to do when you learn your spouse is having an affair will have a different answer at different times and under different circumstances. What you should do in your specific situation might be a lot different from what someone else should consider doing, but in most cases, it starts by deciding what you really want to take place, and why you want the answer. If you have decided to divorce quietly, move to another country (or planet) and just forget the whole ordeal, what you should probably do to make that happen smoothly will be a lot different than if you really want to know if you’re likely to still be married to the same partner 10, 20 or more years from now. As a guess, you aren’t online looking for advice that supports that choice, since that path seems pretty clear for most people, once chosen.Assuming that what you are really looking for is advice to help your marriage survive, let me make a few suggestions about what you can actually do.When i met my husband then it crystal clear to me that he was the man of my dream. When i looked at him, i saw perfection. He was tall, respectful, looked at me like i was the only one on earth i mean words cannot describe that moment that is the day we met. It lives on here in my head. I know i was not blind and i know there was nothing really to make me suspect he also like the company of men as well as women. Yes i mean we were sexually active just like every other normal couple who are in love. It never seem like he was avoiding me when i want to have *** like he always comes up with excuse no he was just like every other man. I only got to know when i was two years into our marriage. The first year was healthy for us i mean we were happy and had our first child. It was my sister who caught him passionately kissing another man in his car after spending all night together in the movie theater. He told me he was going out with friends for a drink or two. I was hurt because he was not honest with me and also was cheating on me. Even before i knew, this thing he had going on started before we got married at least he was honest about that. Hadn’t been my sister, i would have been locked in the dark. I have nothing against same sex relationship but when you claim to love a woman and also want to be with a man it becomes a problem i mean you are either with one or the other. You can’t be married to me and expect me to shear you with another be it a woman or a man. We promise we will stay together just us and not us with some one else. I gave him an ultimatum it was either me or his male love i was hoping his love for me will make him pick me but no he ended our marriage simply before he could not pick. H wanted it all i wished i never made him choose then. I was in a traumatized i could not understand how he could be so selfish i mean we have a son together you don’t just walk out like that. I remember i even asked him to go ahead with relationship with his lover as long as he was here with me but then i realized i would be at the losing end in all ways. I was so much in love with him letting him go was not an option for me i mean i knew that if it wasn’t him it was going to me no other. After months of trying and searching with no success to find a way to make him see i am more important than his lover i came across a lot of comments on the internet of how a spell caster Obudun Magonata and how he has help a lot of individual with relationship and life problems. I was skeptical about it but i thought giving it a try would not kill me. What can i say, my experience with Obudun Magonata was real, honest i mean everything that was said about him was nothing but all true. I shared my problem with him that is how my husband ended our marriage because i was not OK with him have a male lover even when we were married and what i needed him to do for me. All i had to get was the materials needed to caster the spell that was going to get me my husband. I could only find one of the spell materials but he help me get the rest with the total estimated cost i sent to him for help. I don’t know how to explain what happen just after the spell process was concluded and made effective with the parcel he sent to me. |I was like a fairy tale i mean i got my love back my family was whole again. My husband picked me he choose to be with me. It been more than six months now all i can see is a man loves and dedicate his self to me he goes every where with me aside work though yeah. Contact him here at spiritsofobudunmagonata”at””yahoo””dot””com” convert email address to the standard email format. Hope you all with similar problem get all help from Obudun Magonata also. I also hope this comment will help a lot of you trying keep your marriage bond strong.

  5. so agree with JM, the author Tom Fiffer and has a masters in creative writing! This kind of article that justifies people’s bad behavior and lack of responsibility is annoying, But, the numbered list is still a good checklist.

    • I think suggesting that I condone or justify bad behavior and lack of responsibility is a bit of a stretch. My point was that sexual infidelity doesn’t necessarily spell the end of a relationship and that emotional infidelity can be harder to get past. It all depends on how both partners decide to handle it.

  6. Great article! I wish I had read it before I separated from my husband..I wouldn’t have waited so long! But thank you this is going to serve as a checklist for the next relationship.

  7. “A one-night stand with a colleague on a business trip” is not a relationship killer?? Horrible advice, just nonsense. Relationships are hard, we might not be hard-wired to do a lot of things, but adults make choices.

    • I think he means that, while it is certainly a person’s choice to do this or not, that if the cheater is honest, recommits, and works on whatever the underlying issues are, that then such things can be overcome (if that is both parties want). Despite the adage “once a cheater, always a cheater”, this isn’t always the case. It depends on the motivation behind the cheating, and it’s easier to salvage and rekindle a healthy relationship with emotionless cheating than emotional infidelity.

  8. Addicts never recover?

  9. Love is a growing up, unless someone is disrespectful to you — then forget it. Huh?

  10. Richard says:

    I’d love to read your thoughts about extracting oneself with dignity, grace and a few material objects when the other is full of resentment, mistrust, threats and half the other relationships-killers listed here. Cutting your losses is a lot easier said than done when you’re dealing with a known “armed and dangerous” slasher.

    • Richard, You describe one of the most difficult journeys. Staying on the high road is key, as is maintaining your support system. There’s also a book called Splitting that offers excellent practical advice. But you’ve given me the idea for another article. Thank you.

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