Relationship burnout refers to someone detaching or disconnecting from a partner for a variety of reasons. Over time, someone may subconsciously or deliberately distancing themselves due to feelings of negativity and apathy regarding the relationship. While this can greatly impact a partnership, there are resources available to help a person feel stable in their relationship again or sever ties altogether.
What Is Relationship Burnout?
Similar to typical burnout, relationship burnout can occur when stress becomes chronic, resulting in exhaustion. While burnout is often associated with one’s profession, it can also infiltrate relationships. Often, when a person feels undervalued by or lacks support from their partner, the risk of experiencing burnout greatly increases.1
Someone experiencing relationship burnout may start to feel:
- Detached from their partner
- Cynical about their partner or relationship
- Overall negative feelings about the relationship
- Emotional exhaustion
- Drained of energy
11 Signs of Burnout in a Relationship
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight; rather, it occurs as a result of periods of emotional stress and tension within a relationship. A person may notice that they begin to dread spending time or interacting with their partner. Eventually, this culmination of unhappiness can cause a person to collapse and lose the energy to further maintain their relationship completely.
Here are 11 common signs of burnout in a relationship:
1. Feeling Disengaged From Your Partner
A person experiencing relationship burnout may begin to feel disengaged or disconnected from their partner. Mutual activities they used to enjoy together will become boring, aggravating, or stressful. One may also start thinking about their partner less often to further distance themselves.
2. Frequent Fighting
Constant fighting creates a toxic environment for couples. People can only cope with so much stress before it begins to take a toll on them both physically and emotionally. In time, one or both partners will start to shut down, which is a clear sign of impending burnout. 2
3. Uninterested in Having Sex With Your Partner
For many couples, sex is an important part of their relationship. When a person loses interest in intimacy with their partner, their behavior could be indicative of a bigger problem. Of course, the frequency of sex in a relationship is dependant on a number of factors, including differing libidos and schedules. However, when a person notices themselves avoiding sex or feeling repulsed by their partner, they may on the verge of burnout.
4. Feeling More Negative or Cynical About Your Partner
In healthy relationships, partners will usually give each other the benefit of doubt when it comes to conflict or friction. Generally, both individuals will assume that the other has good intentions in mind. However, when relationship burnout sets in, one may find themselves anticipating the worst from their partner and see them from a negative perspective, also known as negative sentiment override.3
5. Dreading Spending Time With Your Partner
No relationship is perfect and there will always be causes for dispute between partners. Regardless, if a person becomes agitated at the thought of spending time with their partner, this is a recognizable sign of relationship burnout.
6. Getting Easily Distracted
One of the hallmark signs of burnout is one being easily distracted. Someone may notice that they are no longer interested in what their partner is saying or they zone out entirely during conversations. This can be harmful for the relationship for a number of reasons including the fact that healthy communication is no longer being utilized to resolve problems or express feelings.
7. The Relationship Creates More Stress Than Support
When the relationship starts to feel more stressful than supportive, this can be a sign that the relationship is in trouble. Healthy relationships ultimately have a foundation of fondness and mutual support.
8. Daydreaming About Leaving
When a partner starts daydreaming about ending their relationship or searching for an easy “out,” there is obviously cause for concern. A person may find that they no longer have the energy to work on their relationship and fix things with their partner. They may find relief in the thought of leaving.
9. Humor Has Left the Relationship
Laughter, humor, and fun are essential in relationships; they contribute to the individuals’ mental wellness and promote a closer relationship. Partners who no longer enjoy each others’ humor may be at risk of experiencing burnout, as they may clash more often than bond.
10. Emotional Exhaustion
By the time a person reaches burnout, they are beyond exhausted. They would have already spent time arguing over, worrying about, and investing energy into mending the partnership. Expending this much effort into any type of relationship can be difficult, especially in one that is so reliant upon the emotional attachment between two individuals. Being emotionally exhausted can essentially drain any hope of repair from a relationship.
11. Attraction to Other People
A wandering eye can be the final straw for a relationship. When someone begins to feel attraction for others and allows this to interfere with their partnership, this may be a symptom of burnout.
Reasons for Burnout in Your Relationship
Relationship burnout may occur for any number of factors and reasons. It can be due to differing personalities, incessant arguing, or mutual frustration. Additionally, one partner may feel that they are putting forth more effort than the other, resulting in a sense of imbalance. Regardless, these problems can lead to an utter disconnect within a couple.
Some reasons someone may be experiencing burnout in their relationship include:4
- They don’t feel valued by their partner
- They have a type A personality
- They are constantly chronically stressed
- They grow apart from their partner
- They feel a loss of independence
- Lack of communication in their relationship
- Other responsibilities are more important
- Incompatible personalities
- External stressors, such as finances
7 Tips to Overcome Relationship Burnout
Experiencing relationship burnout doesn’t necessarily mean that a relationship has to come to an end. When two people are committed to one another, there are a number of methods they can utilize to help bring life back to their partnership.
Here are 7 tips to help you overcome burnout within your relationship:
1. Be Honest About Your Needs
Expressing your emotional and physical needs in a relationship is critical. Being honest about how you’re feeling and what your expectations are will allow you to build trust with one another and encourage open communication. While it can be easier to gloss over unwanted emotions, sharing them with your partner might help ensure that there is no “bad blood” between you that can eventually impact your relationship. Hurtful words are impossible to take back, so being open with your partner is necessary.
2. Set Aside Time to Spend With Each Other
A person can become easily disconnected from their partner when they don’t make their relationship a priority. Before giving up on your relationship, try making a commitment to spending more time with your partner. Try taking turns planning date nights, grocery shopping together, or dedicating 10 minutes a day to simply reconnect.
3. Learn Each Other’s Love Language
Couples who have differing love languages may struggle when it comes to effective communication. For example, a person whose love language is “acts of service” may feel unappreciated by their partner, because their efforts are not reciprocated. Understanding each other’s love language can help restore the connection between partners.5
4. Take a Break
Sometimes, taking a break from each other can be beneficial. Spending too much time with a partner can make a person feel claustrophobic within a relationship. For some, independence is a crucial part of their self-identity and can easily be lost in a tight-knit romantic partnership. Allowing you or your partner to take some personal time for self-reflection and relaxation can allow you to rejuvenate lost emotional energy.
5. Show Gratitude
Concentrating on the negative aspects of a relationship is not healthy. When someone gets in the habit of doing so, they can become hyper-focused on nitpicking trivial issues and problems. It can be constructive to shift your perspective to one that celebrates the positives as they come. Expressing gratitude for the little things your partner does can help you see that your relationship is worthwhile after all.
6. Give Each Other the Benefit of the Doubt
Try giving your partner the benefit of the doubt. Always assuming that their actions and words are intended to harm you will only lead to further distress. Remind yourself of the good things they’ve done for you or the relationship. When was the last time they intentionally acted out of spite to cause you misfortune? If no occurrence comes to mind, then you shouldn’t automatically presume that they’re out to get you.
7. Practice Self-Care
Burnout impacts every aspect of your life, not just your relationships. Chronic stress can leave you feeling entirely worn out and defeated. For this reason, practicing self-care is extremely important. Prioritize maintaining a healthy sleep, exercise, and diet routine to limit excessive stressors. Self-care is not selfish. In reality, it allows you to be your best self and, in return, a better partner.
When to Seek Couples Counseling
Marriage & Couples Counseling can help you and your partner improve communication, reconnect with each other, and recognize your shared values. You shouldn’t wait until your relationship is in serious trouble before seeking help. Couples counseling can be beneficial, but it is far more effective when implemented in the early stages of conflict. You can find a therapist that matches your needs from an online directory.
When to Break Up
Sadly, some relationships are not meant to stand the test of time, but that’s okay! When couples find that they are stuck in an endless loop of arguments and burnout, it may be time to part ways amicably. Certain differences cannot always be overlooked, and if the relationship is causing you more pain than it’s worth, you should consider severing ties. Toxic relationships will often lead to further emotional turmoil, so sometimes moving on is the only healthy option.
Relationship burnout can seem debilitating at times, and can have a serious impact on the individuals in the relationship. It is important to recognize the signs of relationship burnout and address them sooner rather than later. When both partners are committed to making the effort to take care of both themselves and the relationship, true healing can transpire. However, it is also important to remind yourself that not every partnership is “the one”. Allow yourself the mobility to leave if you feel stuck in a cycle of burnout and exhaustion.