“Maybe it’s time for us to leave?”: what is burnout in a relationship

Loss of interest in a partner, frequent quarrels over everyday life, thoughts of parting – all this may indicate burnout in a relationship. You can deal with it by understanding the causes of negative feelings.

What is relationship burnout

burnout in a relationshipAccording to relationship coach Michelle Elman, burnout is the feeling of exhaustion from a romantic relationship. Partners feel lonely, tired and helpless next to each other, and they perceive relationships as work.

Why Relationship Burnout Happens

Psychologists Kaylyn Zabinsky and Roma Williams at Psych Central media identify several causes of burnout. 

Lack of attention

As a rule, at the beginning of a relationship, partners show their feelings in every possible way. But over time, attention may become less, romantic gestures fade into the background. It also happens that the efforts become one-sided: one does a lot for the beloved, and the second does not respond to it in any way. According to Kaylin Zabinsky, when one or both partners stop doing nice things for the other, problems can begin in the relationship. 

Not enough or too much time together

If partners spend little time together, one of them may be disappointed, feel as if they are not appreciated. The reverse situation is no better, when the partners are always together. Kaylin Zabinsky explains that if partners spend too much time with each other, they can end up getting bored.

Burnout at work

If a person burns out in another area of ​​their life, such as work, it can harm romantic relationships. There is less time and energy left to dedicate them to your beloved. On this basis, quarrels may arise.  

Trying to please your partner

Some people think that they will please a partner if they share all his interests. For the sake of this, they may even give up their own. According to psychotherapist Heather Garbutt, when one is constantly trying to please the other, over time it will lead to exhaustion.

Prolonged relationship stress 

According to Heather Garbutt, prolonged relationship stress and anxiety can also be a problem. Grievances accumulate and harm both if the anxieties of partners are not discussed, and conflicts are not resolved. A couple may lose interest in each other due to unwillingness to solve problems.

How to spot burnout in a relationship

Caylin Zabinsky and Roma Williams identify the following signs of burnout.

Loss of interest 

couple doing great sexFor frazzled couples, spending time together, like going out to dinner, seems like a chore rather than fun. So they don’t want to do it. At the same time, the couples themselves may consider the relationship not bad, but they do not care, as before. The couple has no desire to make an effort to get out of burnout. 

Feeling of hopelessness

Instead of looking optimistically towards a common future, the partners feel hopeless. Some worry that the feeling of despair will never go away and the relationship will never change.

Coldness and irritability

Coldness can be emotional – for example, when one is not interested in listening to another. Or physical – the couple stops having sex, although intimacy used to be an important part of the relationship. According to Roma Williams, partners can also get very annoyed with each other. Features and habits that no one noticed before suddenly start to piss me off. As a result, coldness and irritation provoke discontent and quarrels. 


Both or one of the partners may wonder how generally they fit together. There are thoughts of parting or betrayal

What to do if you’re experiencing relationship burnout

Share experiences with a partner

Caylin Zabinsky advises sharing your feelings with your partner and discussing what you plan to do next. According to the specialist, conversations can help couples identify what is wrong in a relationship and what you are missing. Together, it is much easier to take steps to renew past feelings. “It is very important to explain what you expect and communicate it to your partner with love,” explains the psychologist. If during a conversation you start to get annoyed and quarrel, it is better to take a break, calm down and consider what you want to say next. 

Psychotherapist Heather Garbutt advises partners to remember what they like about each other and in their life together, and what they don’t. Then you can try to discuss what exactly is going wrong and how you would like to really. You may also need to discuss new boundaries or figure out how to resolve conflicts in a healthier way if you fight often and intensely.

Plan your leisure time 

According to Kaylyn Zabinsky, a quick way to get back into a relationship is to discuss how to spend time together. Throw a dinner like in your favorite TV series, plan a board game night or a mini vacation without the kids.

If you spend too much time together, then try to go the other way and be apart. For example, spend more time with friends without a partner. So you will have more topics to discuss, and it will be more pleasant to return home, as you will have time to get bored.

Contact a specialist

If you and your partner find it difficult to cope with burnout together, you can turn to family therapy. As Kaylin Zabinsky points out, a third party will help the couple discuss their problems in a safe space and suggest what can be done.

In what cases do the signals indicate that it is worth ending the relationship

According to Michelle Elman and Heather Garbutt, sometimes burnout is impossible to overcome.

  • Arguments lead nowhere. Instead of solving problems, you only get more tired and angry at each other. 
  • Nobody can take responsibility. Nothing will work if you or your partner do not want to work on the relationship or seek help from a specialist. 
  • You don’t respect each other’s feelings. If one of you ignores the feelings of the other, does not try to understand them, the relationship is unlikely to be long. 
  • You don’t want romance with this person. If you don’t have any romantic feelings left for your partner, it might be worth ending the relationship.