Do you have a nagging feeling that you and your partner may be on the verge of a breakup? That your relationship seems to be moving like a rudderless ship, while both of you are just going with the flow, knowing you’re headed nowhere? But do you also often wonder what to do when your relationship is at breaking point?
If so, it’s possible that there is love, but it has been eclipsed by issues such as incompatibility, and lack of respect. After all, love isn’t all we need. In a relationship, aspects such as compatibility, mutual respect, space, and support define how long we will be with our partners. So, do you often think to yourself, “My relationship is falling apart. What can I do to save it?” or wonder how to solve relationship problems without breaking up?
With the help of relationship counselor Dhriti Bhavsar M.Sc, Clinical Psychology), who specializes in relationship, breakup, and LGBTQ counseling, we will explore some obvious breaking points in a relationship. We’ll also tell you how to save a relationship on the verge of breaking up. So, let’s begin…
What Is The Breaking Point In A Relationship?
So, what is the breaking point in a relationship? Does it have a set definition? Dhriti says, “A breaking point in a relationship looks different for different relationships.” Cathy, a friend of mine, was on the verge of a divorce after her husband had an emotional affair with a colleague. But after proper couples counseling and some deep conversations with him, she decided to forgive him and get back together. While some couples can mend their romantic relationships even after huge setbacks, such as affairs or emotional abuse, others would prefer to break up even after relatively minor misunderstandings.
A study proved that there are quite a few factors that can make couples decide to break up, some of the prominent being conflict and breach of trust. At the same time, the same study proved couples also mostly decide to stay in the relationship for reasons such as emotional intimacy and investment. However, the results also proved that the breaking point is an ambivalent concept and does not have a concrete definition.
Let’s look at a few instances of what the breaking point in a relationship could be:
- No conflict resolution: You or your partner don’t wish to put in the effort required to reach a resolution to a conflict. You’re just tired of arguing and wish to let go for peace. But that creates a permanent dent in the relationship that causes future arguments
- Stress: The arguments in your relationship have started affecting the other aspects of your life adversely and your relationship has become a source of stress instead of a source of comfort and peace
- A nagging issue: Despite trying and communicating and doing everything in your power, there is a problem in your relationship that both of you can’t move past. None of your efforts to resolve the issue have worked
- No spontaneity: Your relationship feels forced, like dead weight, and even normal ‘couple activities’ aren’t spontaneous anymore
- Bitter arguments persist: There’s a lot of tension between you and your partner, and it almost always leads to ugly arguments
Why Is My Relationship Falling Apart? 5 Possible Reasons
Have you ever wondered, “My relationship is falling apart. What can I do to save it?” Well, you see, romantic relationships are meant to bring out the best in you. They are meant to turn you into a better version of yourself, energizing you physically and emotionally. They are also supposed to motivate you to do better in life, be it work on your flaws and evolve into a better human being or work toward a professional or life goal.
But what happens when a relationship doesn’t do any of this? Is it time to break up? Perhaps, yes. A situation where the relationship has reached a dead end hints that the bond between you and your partner is falling apart.
However, before it all ends, it is possible to spot a few red flags. If spotted early on, they can be checked and addressed, preventing a happy and healthy relationship from dying a slow and toxic death. Well, we have listed 5 possible reasons why a relationship can end. Let’s look at them:
1. Lack of compatibility
Dhriti says, “It’s possible that you and your partner aren’t compatible. Sometimes, two good people come together but don’t fit too well with each other. It’s nobody’s fault but it’s just unfortunate.” We agree. Such incompatibilities between partners can arise from:
- Different life goals and expectations: For instance, your partner may wish to climb up the corporate ladder, hustle, earn a 6-figure salary, and own a house and a luxury car, while you may be happy with a simple life
- A mismatch in sex drives: Sex, or physical intimacy, is a huge part of our relationships. So, any mismatch in sex drives or sexual desires and expectations may lead to a huge gap between partners
- Different interests: Though this can be managed fairly if there’s a slight difference, a huge mismatch in interests may lead to a serious conflict. For instance, your partner may love clubbing on weekends, while you prefer snuggling in with a book
- Different political views: Now, this one’s a little serious, as political arguments can take a major toll on your relationship
Related Reading: 4 Break Up Signs That You May Be Ignoring In Your Relationship
2. Lack of willingness to change
Dhriti feels, “When you/your partner are/is unwilling to make the changes necessary to heal your relationship, it can ruin your bond.” To make a relationship work, both partners need to sit down and discuss the possibilities of fixing the bond. But that can only happen if the partners are willing to change or adjust to save the relationship. If the partners are rigid, even a happy and healthy relationship is bound to fall apart.
3. Lack of open communication
Dhriti says, “Relationships fall apart when you and your partner lack communication skills to voice your concerns and struggle to understand each other.” Such instances are common when:
- One partner feels like walking on eggshells whenever voicing their opinions and is thus silenced
- When there’s a constant threat of abandonment from one partner, with them saying things such as, “You mention this once more and I’ll leave…”
- When there is narcissistic stonewalling, or the silent treatment, by one party, whenever the other tries to express their needs
- When a partner dismisses the other’s concerns or ridicules them by saying things such as, “You’re delusional” or “You’re overreacting.”
4. A triggering episode
Dhriti says, “Specific influences or instances may have harmed your relationship. Those instances could have hurt your or your partner’s trust or faith.” Such instances may include:
- Extramarital affairs
- A partner not supporting your goals
- A third party (such as a family member or a friend) who may have poisoned their mind against you
5. A clash of ideals
Dhriti believes, “A relationship is likely to fall apart when you and your partner are no longer on the same page about your future, or the amount of effort required in the relationship.” One of my colleagues, Ryan, wished to move abroad and had started actively applying for overseas work projects about a year back. His live-in partner, Jane, however, didn’t wish to go beyond their hometown and wanted a simple life. This created a rift between them, and they parted ways soon.
A similar situation can arise if one of the partners wants kids and the other does not. Likewise, you or your partner may decide that both are spending too much time and energy in arguments and efforts to fix your issues and wish to end it once and for all.
Related Reading: Why Do People Fall Out Of Love And What To Do If It Happens?
What To Do When Your Relationship Is At Breaking Point — 21 Steps To Repair Your Bond
Wondering what to do when your relationship is at breaking point? Or how to fix a relationship that is falling apart? Well, just like a plant needs to be watered regularly for it to grow, relationships too don’t grow by themselves. They need a healthy dose of love and a lot of work. Of course, there are certain toxic levels that a relationship can never heal from. For instance, a Reddit user explains how their ex “started poking fun at my eating habits and becoming rude.”
So, when you reach a breaking point, make sure you analyze the ‘whys’ and locate the exact reason that needs to be fixed. You also need to make sure your relationship is still fixable. Additionally, how to solve relationship problems without breaking up varies from couple to couple. But in case you’re wondering if there’s a step-by-step guide to fix a relationship after it’s reached a ‘lull’ phase, we’ve jotted down some tips on how to save a relationship on the verge of breaking up:
1. Figure out your emotions
Dhriti says, “When dealing with a relationship that has reached a breaking point, it’s essential to take some time apart to figure out your own emotions and thoughts.” What she means is, you need to think over the situation calmly, sorting out your emotions and separating them from your practical needs in the relationship. Only then will you be able to decide whether to and how to repair your bond.
2. Jot down your needs
One way to zero in on your needs in the relationship is to actually jot them down. So, you need a better lifestyle? Or better sex? Or more emotional availability? Write them down to get a clear idea. Dhriti adds, “Try to make a list of all the things you want/need from your partner, and do this a few times, to get a sense of what exactly is missing.”
3. Decide if the effort is worth it
If you’re wondering how to fix a relationship that is falling apart, decide whether you are willing to put in the effort required in the first place. Dhriti adds, “Figure out how much effort you are willing to put in and if you are hopeful enough for things to work out.” You see, not every crack can be fixed. For instance, one shouldn’t put up with domestic violence or grave narcissistic abuse.
Related Reading: 10 Things To Do When You Are Drifting Apart In Your Relationship
A simple solution when you’re wondering what to do when your relationship is at breaking point is to communicate. Dhriti believes, “It’s important to communicate how you feel with your partner. Talk about where they stand and how they feel about the situation.” It’s important for the two of you to be on the same page about the conflict at hand and whether you both wish to overcome it.
5. Ask questions
A simple way to fix a relationship at breaking point is to ask questions. Some of these may be difficult questions that will need some composure. Dhriti suggests, “Ask your partner if there is anything you can do to meet their needs better.” Some such questions can be:
- “Are you happy in the relationship?”
- “What do you think is missing? Can we make it better?”
- “Where do you think I’m going wrong?”
- “Can I do something to fix our relationship?”
Related Reading: 15 Tips To Keep A Relationship Strong And Healthy
6. Locate the main issue
A relationship can have many gaps that need to be fixed, for instance: your finances or your behavior. But the main issue that’s disrupting the relationship needs to be addressed. So, narrow it down to that one cause that triggers you or your partner. It could be that your boyfriend talking to an ex is causing a rift or your spending habits. Dhriti agrees, “The most important part of this process is to locate the central issue in your relationship and figure out how you can work it out together.”
7. Consider your partner’s feelings
Dhriti feels, “You should be open to accepting your partner’s perspective and feelings as well.” While discussing issues, make sure you don’t end up hurting, abusing, belittling, blaming, or shaming your partner. Make it a civil discussion, not a fight.
8. Accept your part
Another way to fix a relationship at breaking point is to accept your part in it and focus on how to fix a relationship you ruined. Dhriti believes, “It’s important to accept responsibility in a relationship for the part you played in reaching the breaking point.” While you may also hold your partner accountable for their actions, this is the time to self-reflect and realize where you can fix yourself to fix the relationship. Don’t be in denial.
9. Address the differences
Differences are part of every relationship. Plus, some differences actually add a zing to the relationship. But what’s necessary is to balance those differences with the similarities, so that the relationship doesn’t fall apart. Dhriti agrees, “Try and address the differences between you and your partner. And understand that having different opinions may not necessarily always end in separation.”
Related Reading: The 7 Fundamentals Of Support In A Relationship
Dhriti adds one more point on what to do when your relationship is at breaking point: “Try to get to a compromise which best suits the needs of both you and your partner.” But in doing so, one must make sure that you don’t give in to unhealthy compromises and these terms aren’t one-sided, as that leads to exploitation.
11. Appreciate more
So, how to fix a relationship you ruined or your partner did? It’s crucial to concentrate on appreciation over criticism. Dhriti cites the theory proposed by Dr. John and Julie Gottman, which states that offsetting one negative interaction requires five instances of appreciation. This is also known as the ‘magic ratio’ of 5:1. And some of the ways that most couples tend to fix their negative interactions is by:
- Showing their interest
- Expressing affection
- Appreciating the positives
- Finding ways to agree
- Showing empathy and apologizing
12. Avoid the ‘4 horsemen’
Apart from following the Gottman method, you may also need to be aware of the ‘four horsemen’ that predict a divorce/breakup: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Avoid all four if you wish to maintain the relationship or improve your relationship quality.
13. Don’t make it ‘you vs your partner’
Still wondering how to fix a relationship you ruined or your partner did, by unnecessary arguments? Dhriti says, “Remember that it’s not you vs your partner, rather you and your partner vs your problems.” And we couldn’t agree more. Often when we voice our needs in a relationship, our partners may feel:
- We are attacking them
- We are being needy
- We are humiliating them or pointing at their inadequacies
But one must make it clear that the war is not with the partner but with the issue at hand.
Related Reading: 9 Signs You Are Comfortable In A Relationship But Not In Love
14. Ask for help
Dhriti feels, “It’s okay to depend on and take your partner’s help in areas where you fall short, and vice versa.” So, don’t hesitate to ask them:
- For financial advice
- To teach you a new skill
- To help you deal with your emotions, such as controlling anger
15. Remember the positives
So, no matter how toxic a relationship gets over time, you must’ve had those pure and beautiful moments that you cherish. Or some traits of your partner that you hold in high regard, such as their willingness to help others or their work ethic. Dhriti advises, “Take a moment to remember all the good parts of your relationship. You and your partner can practice this together.”
16. Make an effort
Dhriti believes, “There’s no alternative to making an effort for each other to improve your relationship quality.” You can do this by:
- Spending quality time together: Invest in a fancy date night or just cook a meal together at home
- Making each other feel valued: Appreciate the poem they wrote or even their commitment to sharing household responsibilities
- Rebuild trust: Share passwords if you must, if there’s any hint of a lack of trust
17. Reach out to your support system
Dhriti feels, “Your emotional well-being is your responsibility.” So, it’s essential for you to reach out to friends and family in this crisis, as you can’t face this alone. You can vent out or take their suggestions in dealing with the situation. But remember not to be forced into anything.
Dhriti believes, “The first step to fixing a relationship is to go back to what made you fall in love with them in the first place.” So, think about the first time you met or how they made you laugh on your first vacation together. Rewind and relive for a better relationship.
19. Set emotional boundaries
If you’re still confused about what to do when your relationship is at breaking point, Dhriti advises, “One should form healthy emotional boundaries with one’s partner to maintain one’s emotional well-being.” Such boundaries may mean:
- Make them accountable for their emotions: So, you’re not responsible for their anger that stems from work stress or some other reason
- Don’t mirror their negative emotions: This means, don’t take on sadness or anger just because they are going through it
- Tell them what triggers you emotionally: Is it when they flirt with someone or ridicule you in front of others?
Related Reading: 21 Ways To Be A Better Partner For A Better Relationship
20. Don’t forget yourself
Before saving a relationship, remember, even if a relationship means a lot to you, it is a part of your life, not your entire life. Dhriti says, “Avoid making your partner the center of your universe and expecting them to do the same.” To do this, you can:
- Spend some me-time every day, doing things you like, such as reading or gardening
- Go on solo trips and meet new people
- Splurge on a spa day and pamper yourself
21. Seek counseling
Wondering what to do when your relationship is at breaking point and you feel you need to make some difficult decisions or if it’s a dead-end relationship that you are better off without? Reach out to a mental health professional to help you deal with your emotions or go for couples therapy. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the skilled and licensed therapists on Bonobology’s panel who can guide on this.
- A breaking point in a relationship could look like excessive arguments, lack of effort, and lack of spontaneity
- There could be various reasons that could lead to the breaking point, such as lack of communication, lack of compatibility, or a triggering episode
- Instead of wondering what to do when your relationship is at breaking point, you can understand your emotions, address the differences between you and your partner, compromise, and appreciate more
Still wondering what to do when your relationship is at breaking point? Or wondering, “Why is my relationship falling apart?” We hope not. Also, a breaking point doesn’t necessarily mean saving a relationship isn’t possible. It also doesn’t mean that in case your relationship ends, you will not be able to forge better bonds in your next relationship.
However, in any relationship, there needs to be a mutual effort to resolve conflict and not shove them beneath the carpet. Nonetheless, a relationship shouldn’t devour your individuality, and you should live for yourself too. So, go ahead and strike that perfect balance!