“There are only two kinds of people who can drain your energy: those you love, and those you fear. In both instances it is you who let them in. They did not force their way into your aura, or pry their way into your reality experience.”―Anthon St. Maarten
We all know at least one couple like this: they clearly do not belong together and their relationship seems to have a lot more to do with misery and guilt than with love and happiness. While every relationship is bound to go through some rough patches here and there, there are some people whose problems seem to go much deeper, and who ultimately just aren’t meant to be together.
Is there a particular determining factor or point at which a couple crosses the line from healthy and normal adversity to something harmful and irreparable? Many people have weighed in on what that point might be, and here is just a small sample of what they have had to say.
39. Assisted Happiness
When their relationship doesn’t seem as fulfilling without drug use.
38. We Can All Read Your Poker Face
Vague, passive aggressive posts on social media that can only be directed at each other.
Venting without using their names.
It’s fine to be frustrated with each other but if y’all can’t be direct with each other, it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship.
37. Video Games Should Always Trump Reality
My ex did similar things. He’d talk to me, I’d listen, and when I wanted to talk he’d ignore me and play his video games.
He would also ignore my texts for a long time if he was playing video games. And he would ignore me while I was naked in bed to play video games.
It’s not the “I’m naked in bed and you’re playing video games” it’s the “I asked for cuddles and some time to talk to you and you’d rather be on the Xbox” that annoyed me. I get it, video games are nice. I play video games when I’m stressed, but when you put video games before a long-term relationship, you might want to think about it.
He got more than one day off of work and worked later in the day. He saw me once or twice a week, twice at most. But seriously. I have no issues with video games, they can be great for couples to play together, and I loved to. But he never let me play a game with him, either, lol.
36. I’m Starting to See a Pattern Here…
When everytime you meet him or her, he/she’s complaining about their SO.
Seriously, I’ve seen people have kids together but never have anything good to say about each other when the other person is not around.
35. Things Can Be a Little More Complicated Than They Seem
I’ve found it to be weird to not complain. It feels like I’m bragging if I tell someone the good things that happen. But then I realize that it’s hard to see what a healthy relationship looks like if we don’t let others see the inner workings and what we appreciate in each other.
If we’re constantly talking about things that are going wrong, I think two things are happening. First, they don’t know what to talk about: celebrating seems wrong because it means they might be doing better than someone else. Good things aren’t actionable, but errors we can discuss and act upon. The second is more sinister. They could be complaining but not acting about it: there’s something wrong, they tell other people and get the rush of endorphins when those people feed their confirmation bias, and they don’t act upon the complaint because they already feel better. And subconsciously, they don’t want to act on it unless they want to risk losing that bonding moment of complaints.
34. The Real Motivation
They only stick together out of fear of being alone.
I’d sooner be alone and happy than with someone and miserable.
33. A Team Is Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link
I vaguely remember reading about some study they did with couples. They had them in a room and just observed them interacting. What they found out was the couples who showed small signs of undermining each other were mostly broken up within the next year, whereas the couples who didn’t do that mostly stayed together.
I think it was about the subtle but consistent signs of disrespecting the other person, like one person would roll their eyes when the other spoke, or one would make some little seemingly harmless joke at the others expense.
32. How Much Is Too Much?
CONSTANT fighting. A little arguing back and forth is normal, but when you can hear these idiots screaming their heads off at each other every single darn day of their lives, they need to just quit it.
31. Keeping It Simple
The only one for me is: when they don’t like each other.
Literally everything else I’ve seen couples successfully bypass—extreme differences in personalities, in interests, in politics, in sex drives, in religions, all fine—as long as they like each other and want to be around each other.
If you’re dreading going home at the end of the day because your spouse is there, that’s the only time I think “Why are you even together, then?”
30. A Rude Awakening
I ended up living with a girl who I was engaged to, many years ago. We’d been together for four years, living together for two, and we seemed to be settling in ok, no major fights, no big living problems.
After work, I would swing by my mate’s house and have a cup of tea or two with him and his girlfriend, pretty much 3-4 times a week.
After about a month of this, he took me to one side and said, “mate, I like you, I have no problem with you coming here after work or anytime at all, but why are you coming to my house when you should be wanting to go home to see Sandra? I can’t wait to get home to Val, I love being with her, I would rather be with her than anyone else and I look forward to seeing her every day. If you love Sandra and want to be with her, what the heck are you doing here every day?”
Drove home, sat and thought about it, and realized he was dead right. I didn’t want to come home to her. Sure he was blessed with a really close, tight relationship, but why was I living with a woman who I was ‘ok’ with? Why wasn’t I looking for someone I wanted to rush home to?
So we split up, and we’re both happier for it I think, long-term. She agreed, pretty much, when I explained how I felt to her, and funnily enough that was the closest we’d been for a long time, talking about why we should split up. Met her several times over the course of my life and we still make each other laugh and get on fine, as long as we’re not knocking boots.
29. A Word to The Wise
The problem in answering this question is that having such a singular criteria kind of ignores the bigger picture.
Of course, ultimately what matters is whether you like (and respect) your partner.
But all those other hang-ups are there because you are going to be significantly more likely to like your partner if they have similar or complementing views, politics, personalities, attractiveness, etc. With all due respect I think it’s oversimplified to just say “as long as you like them,” liking someone is a complex thing, there are times where my parents definitely did not like each other, but they saw themselves through it and are better now than ever in part because they have similar values, beliefs and ideals, and because they loved each other all the same.
28. There’s Got to Be More to Life Than That, Right?
Have a coworker with a BF like this. We live in DFW and he is about two hours away. They only see each other a couple of times a month due to work and school and what not. She comes in to work every other day pissed off because they’re fighting about something stupid, but whenever they’re together it’s all lovey dovey and humping like rabbits. Like ???
27. Relationships Are Supposed to Be a Two-Way Street
I saw one just the other day at a restaurant. He would be talking, and she would be listening and responding. When she was talking, he would pick up his phone and stare at it the whole time.
That relationship isn’t going to last.
26. Comfort Is Key
If you’re not comfortable with your SO. I think being comfortable around them is very important. This comes from someone with a lot of anxiety.
25. Never Fear, Friends
For anyone browsing this thread and thinking about your relationship, just know that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. We as human beings are all different and all experience love in different ways. Just because you might experience some of the lighter things in this thread doesn’t mean that your relationship is destined to fail.
24. Never a Good Sign
She goes out of her way to publicly humiliate him.
23. Telling It Like It Is
I have twice been the only one to say something to a friend who was marrying a terrible person. I now have two less friends. One of them is doing very well and I’m happy for him but the first few years were brutal and I still don’t get to talk to him basically anymore.
The other was miserable from day one and only stayed married for a year, he says when he sees me he thinks of her because I was the only one who brought it up with him.
22. That Can’t Be a Good Start to a Marriage
Hey, my best friend married into a situation like that this past September. I’m not going to say she’s a horrible person. I will say that I have observed passive-aggressive, manipulative, self-absorbed and/or just plain whiny behavior from her on numerous occasions.
I spent the year leading up to the wedding trying to express to my friend that I don’t like her, that I support him living his life the way he wants to live it, and that I would love to still be able to have our time together without her. I was the best man at the wedding and at the end of the night, I stopped her from going into a hotel room with a team of collegiate hockey players. I was drunk and probably did it kind of aggressively. In the morning she was so embarrassed about it that she told my friend he couldn’t talk to me anymore, told him she tried to kill herself over it.
My friend hasn’t spoken to me since. When he eventually does I plan to welcome him back with open arms because I love that guy.
21. Umm, Yeah…
Marks of violence for starters.
20. Thinking Long Term
When they don’t share core values. It’s fine to like different food, entertainment and activities, but if you don’t share the big stuff like beliefs, morals, life/family goals, those are big things that can turn into points of contention.
An argument or discussion doesn’t always change those things either.
19. Everyone Can Use a Good Hobby
I was talking with a new couple, and the girl was telling me how they like none of the same things. Every date they go on, one was sacrificing for the other to do something they liked. At some point in the conversation, I made a joke about sex, and she said, “Oh yeah, there is one thing we both enjoy!”
Sex is nice, but don’t let it be your only hobby in common.
18. Very Specific, But I Guess It Makes Sense
Pretty much anytime I see a couple have a shared FB account. Usually it seems like either someone cheated, and so they don’t fully have the trust of their partner, or someone absolutely wears the pants and the other is a pushover. Not saying that couples can’t make those sort of situations work, but…
17. At An Impasse
One wants kids, and the other doesn’t.
16. You Say Potato, I Say Po-tah-to
Refusal to tolerate different interests. Everyone disagrees and has little differences, but in a relationship you have to learn to appreciate them. I have a friend whose SO refuses to participate in ANY of said differences/interests.
For example: She likes rock music and he likes pop. He will literally leave the room and lock the door behind him if she plays one rock song. If she tries something he doesn’t like he cuts her off. Their relationship is falling apart.
15. What a Difference a Few Minutes Makes
When my best friend invited me out for a drink to get to know his new girlfriend. All was going well for the first five minutes, and as my friend went to the bar his new girlfriend says, “Don’t take this personally but three’s a crowd!” Seconds later the friend appears back at the table with drinks wanting us all to have some bonding stuff.
He even asked me to be his best man a year later. His wife is a complete ‘A class’ b****! None of his friends like her and his mother said she wasn’t happy at his choices. It’s his life not ours.
14. It Takes Two to Tango
When they don’t want to put an equal amount of effort into the relationship. I have a couple of ex friends who are a terrible husband and a terrible wife, but they’re both gonna be together forever because they both put in so little effort to be together. They’re like roommates who have sex every 60 days.
13. The Step By Step Analysis
It starts with little things first. Broken promises are the easy ones to notice. Not simple promises like “I’ll be there in 30 min” and it turns out to be 45. But when promises start with “I promise I won’t” and they get broken over and over again. There are deeper reasons why people break promises, or make ones that they don’t intend to keep.
Secondly, one of the two in the relationship only has one conversation topic in mind at all times. It could be religion, politics, sex, abuse, knitting, video games, where they want to be in the future, and it doesn’t account for anyone else. This isn’t a passing interest either. If your significant other is taking an interest in a local news story and wants to discuss politics all week, you’re probably safe. But when its month in and month out that the same conversation ends up in the middle of every other conversation, you have to address the elephant in the room.
After that the next big sign is that they are trying to change you. There is a difference between a supportive partner who wants you to be the best version of you that you can be. Suggesting you eat more vegetables instead of pizza for every meal is someone who cares about you. Suggesting you change the parts of you that make up your self identity is another matter entirely. If they start to do that, then either there is some much larger issue at hand working against the relationship, or that person is losing respect for who you are as a person. Sometimes, in the worst situations, it’s both.
Lastly, if your significant other pulls away and puts up walls in your relationship that weren’t there before is a huge sign. Again, growing up and maturing to the point that your significant other no longer wants to tear your clothes off in public isn’t a warning sign. But your significant other suddenly not wanting to cuddle on the couch while watching movies or gets defensive when you fall into a familiar rhythm of philosophical debate (its a different thing with all couples). When the familiar and usual things become strained and forced, the relationship needs to be looked at closely.
To leave off I’m going to offer some good advice I read once (it might have been on reddit, I can’t recall). A relationship should be 60-40, and both people in it should be trying to be the 60.
Hopefully these things help someone.
12. So You’ve Got Something to Hide, Huh?
When one of them (or both of them) is constantly hiding things from the other one. That whole “if my girl/boyfriend calls, I’m not here!” or anything like that. I dated a guy for a while who was a huge drunk and tried to hide it from me as much as he could. Found out after we broke up from a couple friends that they would occasionally run into him at bars and he would always ask them to not tell me they saw him drinking.
11. I Guess Subtlety Is an Unknown Concept to Some of Us
When they host a dinner party with two, and then later on three, couples just to passive aggressively humiliate each other the whole time. And then later on when they’ve both reached their limit she throws his favorite trophy at the plasma tv, which he bought, subsequently breaking it.
It doesn’t help that prior to this she puts on the music of her young, hot ex-employee that she clearly got ravaged by multiple times.
[Yes, this is a plot from The Office, but it does illustrate the point.]
10. Our Brains Are Complicated
When your SO goes out of their way to find differences between the two of you.
This can be a subtle one, but I have noticed it in almost every breakup I’ve had. For example, you watch a movie and you think your SO might like it, so you say “Hey, check out X, it’s your sort of movie”. When things are going well they might say “Oh, ok” but just before the breakup they are looking to put psychological distance between you, so it ends up turning into “Oh, that’s really not the kind of movie I like.”
It’s subtle, but I think it happens when people are trying to justifying going out with someone else. They try to find as many differences between themselves and their current partner to make it seem like it’s not a good fit, and they find more and more similarities with the new partner.
Of course, this is just a general pattern. If it happens one time don’t think your SO is gonna break up with you tomorrow.
9. Wise Guy
They’re very similar for the signs that you’re heading for a layoff. Secret meetings that you’re not invited to. Excessive recriminations for minor infractions. Making sure that somebody else can take care of all of your official duties.
8. That’s Not Good At All
From personal experience I would have to say when I find that I am unable to relax around my current partner. If I feel on edge because I’m nervous that we are going to get into an argument or I have to be on my best behavior to make you want to hang out with me then we are headed for a break up. I broke up with my last ex when I realized that my hands were shaking once I got in my car after hanging out.
7. Sounds Like A Stand-Up Comedian
When you get home, you find yourself sitting in your car, just taking a few extra minutes and some deep breaths before you go inside.
Unless you have kids; if you have kids this is totally normal.
When the relationship feels like taking a dead dog for a walk
5. Contempt is Toxic
When either or both parties start exhibiting contempt for the other.
Contempt is corrosive and there’s no recovery from the damage it inflicts.
Any betrayal that the betrayed party can’t forgive.
It’s best to make a clean break and part company right away.
When the memories mean more to you than the person standing in front of you.
3. He’s Not Wrong…
When you ask Reddit if it’s time to breakup.
2. Sometimes You’re the Last One to Find Out
When every last one of their friends and family thinks so.
My best friend married a horrible person. His brother agrees. All his mutual friends agree. My biggest regret is saying nothing at his wedding. But I know him and he’d have just disregarded it and thrown me out.
1. Taking the Question to the Next Level
There is actually research by John Gottman in this area. He calls them the four horsemen.
The traits are contempt, criticism, stonewalling and defensiveness. His research has shown that within just a few minutes of watching a couple, he can determine if their relationship is likely to end in divorce based on if any of these are present.
The good news is, they all have antidotes!