Experts Reveal The 4 'Last Straw' Moments That Most Often End Relationships

When a pool full of scorpions has more appeal than your relationship, it might be time to go.

unhappy couple going through breakup - Yuri A / Shutterstock

The line is "for better or for worse." It doesn't say "worst." That's an important distinction.

Inserting the word "worse" in that timeless wedding vow implies that even though occasional turmoil might afflict a long-term relationship, there's always a bottom rung. The trick is not to slide down too far on the ladder of love.

But then, what if the "worst" happens? What if things reach that breaking point, and you'd rather dive into a kiddie pool full of angry scorpions than consider staying together even one more day?


It's safe to say that at that point — when the scorpions suddenly are a more-palatable option than your spouse — you're at the "last straw" stage of the relationship. 

Sometimes, the last straw is almost comically petty. Sometimes, it's a matter of emotional or physical well-being. More often than not, though, it comes in the form of a sad revelation that it's time to move on.

In an effort to shed some light on that kind of fateful epiphany, we reached out to a panel of YourTango Experts and asked them to share their insight into the last straws that most often mark the final, undeniable, ineffable end of a relationship. 


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Here are four 'last straw' moments that often end relationships, according to experts:

1. When hurtful, unforgivable words are exchanged

After tolerating behavior (actions, words, or nonverbal communication) over and over (sometimes for decades), at least one person says or acts out the message "I'm done." It's like a glass that is filled to the brim and then one more drop is added, and the water spills out because it can't hold anymore.


The last straw is often familiar habits of speaking and acting that they have repeated for years but this time the familiar feelings such as resentment, disrespect, frustration, anger, pain or hopelessness can't be held anymore. Mean things are said and done that often can't be taken back and that's when one or both people know it's the last straw.

When a client comes to me before the "last straw" happens and wants to change how they react, we create simple strategies that work best for them to stop reacting and speak from love and their commitment. Sometimes they change their reaction, which then changes the other person's reaction.

Sometimes they have an honest conversation and can build new communication skills together, or agree to stop the relationship amicably. Either way, even if the separation is painful, it is based on mutual caring. And with people who continue to work together (parents or business relationships), it creates a foundation for new ways of interacting that are healthy and positive.

- Marilyn Sutherland, communication and women's empowerment consultant


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2. When trust is finally broken

The last straw that ends relationships typically comes after a series of events where trust is broken. When a partner finally believes the actions not the words of their partner is usually when a relationship ends. When actions don't match their words, there is no trust. And when there is no trust, there is no relationship — time to end it.

- Laura Rubenstein, feminine power catalyst, certified leadership coach, hypnotherapist

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3. When a small mistake represents a huge emotional gap

I can think of many situations where someone felt consistently unseen by their partner in big ways — like a poor ability to empathize with a painful event or not respecting their significant other's need for space.


But the final intolerable event turns out to be something ostensibly smaller indicating a real gap in being seen and cared for: buying an item of clothing in a color or style they should know by now wouldn't be welcome ... having no clear recognition of a significant person in their partner's history.

One woman was too ill to attend a niece's Italian wedding where guests were encouraged to bring home platefuls of leftover desserts. The marriage was essentially over when the woman's husband came home not thinking to bring his temporarily bedridden wife a cannoli, her favorite.

Nancy Dreyfus, Psy.D., relationship therapist, author

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4. When selfishness becomes a defining trait

I'd like to point out that by definition of "last straw," we must assume that there is a pile of such "straws" already, and therefore just about anything could become the "last and final straw."

So what could be the "last straw" moment that could end a relationship? The answer is very simple and vague all at once, it could be something as big as a partner cheating or something as small as they don't know your favorite color.

It would be hard to pinpoint the exact moment or action that would inevitably become the "last straw" that ends the relationship. Every relationship is unique with its own challenges and at different points of its life cycle.


At the end of the day, it is some sort of act of selfishness that can bring the entire relationship to its ultimate demise. Be it an act that is done on purpose or subconsciously. I feel a strong need to address the importance of good communication with intention at all stages of the relationship to prevent the entire "straw pile" from ever developing or at the very least from getting out of hand.

- Ella Scaduto, owner, Smoky Matchmaker

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Carter Gaddis is the senior editor for Experts and Wellness with YourTango.