Relationship Burnout: How to Recognize and Overcome it

Relationship Burnout: How to Recognize and Overcome it

When you burn out, you are completely drained. You no longer have the energy, strength, or motivation to move on. Caring has been pummeled out of you. Now, you just want to rest. Nothing can be more fulfilling than a happy relationship. But when one is going off the rails, nothing can be more painful, or exhausting.

We usually recognize the signs of burnout at work. Some savvy coworkers at a bad job can even tell who will have an awkward episode, who will make a scene, and who will leave quietly after they become incompatible with their job. Sometimes it comes out of the blue for everyone. A coworker just up and moves to Colorado and begins making handmade furniture. But the signs of relationship burnout, though similar can be harder to spot. In the work sphere long hours, hard work, and little return for a sustained period often result in burnout. In your love life, if you feel you have worked so hard and gotten nowhere, and your toil and energy have been met with little progress, the same result occurs. When you have tried and tried, and meet nothing but a wall each time, it is time to move on. But we are too close to that wall we fail to see the writing on it. We get stuck in how we remember our relationship back in the happy days that we forget to face facts, and see it for what it is today.

Though all relationships have their ups and downs, if you feel there is no way to get back on the upward track, you are experiencing relationship burnout. But for many, the alternatives scare them into not leaving. Some are fearful of the dating scene. They think they have been out of it for too long, or they just have no enthusiasm for it. This relationship has left a bad taste. People with relationship burnout have no optimism toward their love life. They have no gitty anticipation at finding a new, better suited mate. Those who are experiencing this particular kind of burnout often feel drained emotionally. They don’t laugh as hard at jokes, and are not as moved by inspirational speeches. They have spent all their emotional capital fighting the battle of their relationship, and in other realms in life have none to spend. Flashbacks of negative scenes with you and your partner play in your head as if a film on a loop, until you cannot stand it anymore. It is the stressors of the day and fights with your partner you remember most. That’s when the world between your ears becomes a loathsome place to reside, an emotional prison.

If you are a complete pessimist about love, you are probably experiencing burnout. It may be time to talk about splitting up from your partner, or at least spending time apart. Once it is over, give yourself time to relax, recharge, and reflect. What did you learn from this relationship? Are you ready to move on? Keep asking those questions until you have positive answers for them. Now is the time to reinvest in yourself. Get the negative emotions out of your system. Start to date again only when you feel comfortable. Don’t feel guilty about where you are with someone who is interested in you and you aren’t interested. If you are with someone worth your time, tell them up front, you just got out of a bad relationship and what that means. Whether you aren’t ready to date yet, or aren’t ready to get serious. Do not feel pressured to have someone in your life. But do not be scared of it either. Trust your senses and yourself. You will know when you are ready. Get in touch with your inner light and search for your authentic self. Pursue your interests and passions. When your life and your heart are ready, you will be able to have the kind of relationship you can feel good about.

When you have been by yourself for long enough and are ready to try again read, Stop Being Lonely: Three Simple Steps to Developing Close Friendships and Deep Relationships by Kira Asatryan.

Avoiding Relationship Burnout means Caring for yourself

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Some people have partners who are seriously ill, either mentally or physically. Others have certain issues that they are dealing with themselves that can weigh on them and their partner. For these, timeouts and self-care are really crucial. But even avoiding burnout in a normal relationship is still so important.  Each partner should find some time and space to relax, reconnect with one’s self and rejuvenate. But in today’s busy world few people seem to do that and they and their relationships suffer. It shouldn’t take up a lot of time. But a little time to one’s self in order to recalibrate, decompress and feel oneness again can mean the difference between feeling good and bringing a great attitude to your work, family life and relationship or bringing a bad attitude, bad energy and bringing everything down. So what are some things you can do that don’t take a lot of time but will make a significant impact in relieving stress, feeling good and reconnecting with one’s self? There are lots of things you can do. It all depends on your situation, the type of person you are and what will have the most impact for you. Maybe your life is so hectic that you just need some alone time. Schedule a half hour or an hour a day just to have some alone time. Call it that, your own “time out” or “mommy time” or “daddy time.”

When you do take that time, make sure you are covered so you can relax. Ask your neighbor, friend, sibling or somebody else to chip in if your schedule is always packed. You need to be able to have peace of mind but make sure the kids are being watched. Do things you find calming. A hobby, listening to relaxing music, reading, exercise, yoga, transcendental meditation and more can all work to soothe you and wipe the stress away. If you can afford it, or trick a friend or a lover into it, why not get regular massages? It’s good for your health. Studies have shown receiving regular massage boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Get a pedicure or a manicure. They are fine for men, too. Spend some time with a favorite pet. Why not pursue a hobby or interest that is outside your relationship, just for you? Martial arts, sewing, crocheting, model ship building, writing, painting, drawing, writing songs and more can all calm the mind and body, putting you in a much better mood.  Socializing can also mean the difference of stressing out and feeling stress free. Seeing a friend, or small groups just for fun maybe once a week can really brighten you and keep you calm. If you are taking care of a sick spouse or partner, or helping them through a difficult time, it’s so important to get out and socialize. You can feel totally isolated and alone. We are social beings and reconnecting can add so much to your life. For more advice on how to care for yourself, read Self-Nurture: Learning to Care for Yourself As Effectively As You Care for Everyone Else by Alice D. Domar, Ph.D. and Henry Dreher.

Coping with Relationship Burnout

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Some relationships aren’t strained due to fighting or anger but just plain burnout. Lots of people are shocked when a longtime married couple gets divorced without the seething anger or problems that so often occur. But sometimes boredom, emptiness, an inability to relate or reconnect can kill a relationship, too. When connection or affection is missing we can start to wonder why we are in this relationship to begin with. The majority of divorces occur near the beginning, within the first decade. Usually couples with a high degree of conflict in their marriage or long term relationship don’t make it past that point. Generally, men and women but especially men tend to calm down in midlife and the later years. What’s more, a fondness if cultivated can grow over time making the relationship stronger. But life too gets in the way of having a strong and vibrant relationship. The duties of running a household, holding and advancing in a career and raising children often go to the forefront with the relationship going on the backburner. Once the kids leave for college and things start winding down it can often be hard to figure out what exactly is keeping you together and how to reconnect. So how can you cope with relationship burnout and act on reconnecting with one another? Here are some ways to manage and even reverse relationship burnout.

First, have fun together. Find ways to include you and your spouse’s or partner’s sense of adventure to reconnect and reengage the world. Use your history together and reminisce about old times. Find ways to be silly or make each other laugh. Go on a trip together. Reinvest in your bedroom time and find ways to bring novelty and adventure into that sphere. Do you have common goals, norms, values, morals and an outlook on life? Explore that together and make it a way to connect. Are you and your partner friends? If your friendship has taken a dip, why not reinvest in that friendship? Do activities you would do together when you first got together that you used to enjoy, or start doing things that you would like to explore that your partner would be interested in, too. Being friends as well as lovers really helps. So invest in the friendship aspect of your relationship. Make sure you interact with your spouse or partner lovingly, using the upmost respect, paying them attention and validating their feelings before giving feedback. Is there a deep well of acceptance and trust in one another? Being able to open up and discuss things together without fear of judgment or reprisal is an important part of a long term relationship. Don’t hold back. If you trust them tell them what is on your mind. Invite them in to help you with problems. Make plans together and find ways to address these issues and help one another. For more on this, read Psychological Self-Help by Clay Tucker-Ladd, Ph.D. The chapter on solving marital problems should be most helpful.