10 Tragic Signs Your Relationship Is Way Past Saving

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holding hands couple

By Jed Diamond

I’ve been helping men and women improve their love lives for more than 40 years. Most everyone I know wants a long-term committed relationship. But most everyone finds it difficult to achieve.

We know that around 50% of first marriages end in divorce and 75-80% of men and women who have a failed first marriage will remarry, usually within five years. But 66% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Too many relationships fail when they could be saved. Most couples have a faulty love map and so get lost on their way to finding real, lasting love.

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In my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, I describe five stages for having the joyful, intimate, juicy, sexy, comfortable, adventurous, relationship most people long to have:

  1. Falling in Love
  2. Deepening Love and Making a Life Together
  3. Disillusionment and Incompatibility
  4. Real, Lasting Love
  5. Finding Your Calling as a Couple

Stage 3 is the most misunderstood stage and without guidance, too many relationships falter and go under at this time. I’ve developed an online program to help people get through to real, lasting love. I’ve learned that most marriages can be saved, but some are beyond repair.

Here are 10 tragic signs your relationship is way past saving:

1. Love has turned to hate

Many couples will tell me there are times they feel like killing their spouse, but they still love them. Others say love has been lost, but they still care and want love to return. But if love has turned to hate, the relationship may need to end.

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2. Blame and shame rule the relationship

Care and respect are key components of a good marriage. Troubled relationships often fall into blaming the other partner and putting them down or calling them names.

3. Physical and emotional violence are present

Some unhappy marriages become violent. Physical and emotional abuse are present and there are real fears for the safety of family members.

4. You are blamed for everything

When problems arise, both parties usually have some role to play in creating the problem and solving the problem. But if one person always blames the other and believes that they are the cause of all problems, it’s an indicator that the relationship is stuck in reverse.

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5. Betrayals are common

We often think of betrayals as simply the sexual infidelities that are present in some couples. But betrayals can be emotional as well as sexual. When we don’t feel secure and can’t count on our partner for physical and emotional support, it may be time to exit.

6. The relationship is making you sick

All relationships can be stressful, but chronic stress can cause serious problems including everything from breast cancer to heart problems. If the relationship is making you sick, you may need to leave it.

7. You or your partner look for ways to stay away from the relationship

When relationships have become chronically unhappy, we often find ways to stay away. We work long hours and find reasons not to come home.

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8. You or your partner give your best to someone else

When we withdraw our energies from a relationship we gradually start sharing more with others. We may have close friends with whom we share our true feelings. We turn our attention elsewhere and give to others what we no longer give to our partner.

9. You or your partner live separate lives

The relationship may be intact on the surface, but we are really living separate lives. Our interests are elsewhere and our life with our partner is a hollow shell.

10.  Both partners have given up hope

There are no efforts to improve things. The relationship has turned cold and brittle. One or both partners are waiting for the right time to leave, but they both have given up on love.

No one can really tell someone else when it’s time to leave. When a person comes to me, I do an assessment with them to look deeply at the relationship. We explore how long the relationship has been going on, whether there are children involved, what the couple has done to get help, and what each of them wants to have in the future.

Over the years I’ve worked with more than 25,000 couples. Often one person comes to me because they recognize the relationship is in trouble. Usually, one person is leaning towards leaving and the other person wants to keep the relationship alive. I’ve been successful in helping most relationships get back on track, even the ones that look pretty grim and hopeless.

Not all relationships can be saved and some should end so that each partner can breathe again and move on with their lives.

I’ve tried to offer some simple guidelines to begin a discussion on your relationship's future. However, most people need more than a simple “10-point guide.” Staying too long in a dead-end relationship can be unbelievably painful. Leaving a relationship has its own kind of pain. If you are trying to decide whether to stay or whether to leave, I suggest you talk it over with a good therapist. 

I look forward to hearing from you. What’s been your experience deciding whether to stay or leave?

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Jed Diamond, Ph.D., is a writer, author, Founder, and Director of Men Alive, a health program that helps men live long and well.