Is It a Rough Patch or Should You Break Up?

A clinical psychologist weighs in.

Getty Images
Getty Images

By Dr. Samantha Rodman

Relationships can be difficult, and the majority of couples go through ups and downs as they determine whether they are compatible for the long haul. However, some rough patches are more serious than others, and are indicators that the relationship may not, or should not, survive.

Fortunately, there are some ways to figure out whether you’re just in a low point or whether you need to consider ending your relationship.

Signs That Your Relationship May be in Jeopardy

Here are a few common issues when couples go through rough patches, and what they mean for the future of your relationship.


Boredom can be a signifier of a low point, or a harbinger of the end of the relationship, depending on the severity. Try to figure out whether you’re bored with the rut that your relationship has gotten into, or bored with your partner as a person.

Do you still remember why you were initially attracted to your partner? Is the boredom constant or does it only surface sometimes? If you take a trip or do something fun together, do you reconnect, or not? Overall, boredom is a natural part of long-term relationships.

However, if your boredom is unceasing and you fantasize continually about being with someone new, then you need to think deeply about whether this is right relationship for you.


Most couples fight occasionally, but the key variable is whether you and your partner make up after fights or not. If you are able to reconcile and move forward within a few days of a fight, then that is a good sign.

If, on the other hand, fights are constant and never fully resolved, this is not a healthy pattern. Couples counseling may help couples learn to fight more fairly, and to communicate better, but if fighting without reconciling is usual for you and your partner, it doesn’t look good for the relationship as a whole.


Whether emotional or physical, infidelity can cause major conflict in a relationship. Many couples get past an episode of infidelity, provided that the partner who was unfaithful recognizes what they did wrong and works to regain the other’s trust.

However, if the unfaithful partner is defensive about the infidelity or blames it on the partner, it is unlikely that the relationship rebounds from this betrayal. In the case that you discover your partner’s infidelity and they are defensive, blaming, or dismissive, it can be healthiest to move on from the relationship.

Different values

It is normal for partners to have different views on life in many areas. However, some viewpoints or preferences may be so integral to people’s worldviews that their partner needs to share their views in order for the relationship to work out.

If partners cannot agree on larger issues — which may include religion, political leanings, the importance of sex and monogamy to the relationship, whether or not to get married or have kids, how much emphasis to place on career, or where to live — then it may be very difficult for their relationship to progress.

If this is the case with you and your partner, then you need to take a step back and recognize how challenging it may be to overcome the obstacles that these disparate values will place in your path. This isn’t to say that you have to break up if you are not on the same page on major issues, but rather that you and your partner need to have frank, open discussions about how you will work around these areas of disagreement without having your relationship turn into a battleground.

It’s OK to Seek Help For Difficult Relationship Decisions

Deciding whether to remain in a relationship is very difficult. For many people, working with a therapist can help you figure out how to move forward if you’re feeling unsure and ambivalent.

Reaching out to a therapist can feel daunting, but it can often help you “unstick” yourself from a very stuck relationship.

Originally published at

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