This way you know you broke up in the middle

If things are not going well in your relationship anymore, you may have already said goodbye to your partner (symbolic image).Image: Getty Images

Agata Kremplewski

In any long-term relationship, there are phases in which the partners are not on the same wavelength. Maybe you want to do a lot now, meet friends, pursue your hobbies – and your partner now needs a lot of time for himself.

Or you’re just so stressed out at work that you don’t have time for evening talks. Maybe there will be children who will take up more of your time.

It’s perfectly normal not to be glued to your partner all the time in a relationship and not super in love. However, if you constantly keep your distance, do not share good times or conflicts, and even find that your partner is no longer playing an important role for you, you may have already ended the relationship. At least internally.

The relationship can function without conflicts – but rarely

According to couples therapist Diana Boettcher, this is how relationships can look like: high emotional distance, no conflicts. It might work. However, this is often not the case.

How can you tell that you may have already broken up with your partner and what you can do to change the situation – Watson spoke to Boettcher about it.

watson: Breakup in the middle but officially remaining in a relationship – does it even exist?

Diana Boettcher: Yes. However, my colleagues and I call this “emotional separation.” The partners stay together at head level, but they distance themselves emotionally.

How do I know if I have disconnected emotionally from my partner?

For example, because I am resigned to him. However, if my partner is still emotionally attached to me, his emotional distance hurts him. I don’t react emotionally to him anymore, neither positively nor negatively. It may also mean that there will be no more conflicts in the relationship.

Fewer arguments – doesn’t that sound so bad, right?

There are relationships that work this way. After all, everyone has to decide for himself whether such a partnership works. If partners are more comfortable avoiding conflict, I would not judge it from the outside: “But you are doing it wrong.”

“If partners are more comfortable avoiding conflict, I wouldn’t judge it from the outside:” But you’re doing it wrong. “


However, many people do not feel well if there are no conflicts with their partners at all. A lot of research shows that relationships often suffer when there is a lot of argument – or not at all.

Many people complain that their relationship has fallen asleep. Is it the same as emotional separation?

Generally, I can’t say that. In practice, however, I meet couples who report feeling empty and lonely in a relationship, but would like to work on the situation and revitalize the partnership. This is an indicator that the partners are not yet emotionally separated from each other, but rather that the relationship is temporarily asleep.

Do you often experience people in couples’ relationships breaking up internally even though they officially stay together?

It’s very common. This has to do with the fact that many couples only come to therapy when it is almost too late. It’s a bit like going to the dentist in the past: now I’m going for a checkup before something serious happens. Only when the tooth really hurt. The doctor often managed to save the tooth, maybe he needed root canal treatment, sometimes he had to pull it out. It is the same with relationships in therapy.

What can couples do to prevent too much build-up?

I always recommend consulting an expert in a timely manner, also to nurture relationships. At worst, a partnership can accumulate so many injuries that cannot be put into perspective anymore.

“I always recommend consulting an expert in a timely manner, also to nurture relationships.”

What are the possible signs of internal decay?

One possible sign is that I no longer want to spend time with my partner, consciously or unconsciously. Another is that I can’t get annoyed with my boyfriend or girlfriend anymore. Because even in a healthy relationship, my partner can tease me from time to time. However, we can then communicate it and resolve the conflict so that a healthy partnership can survive. Another sign of emotional disconnection may be when I feel empty and even lonely – even though my partner is with me.

Why am I not really going to put an end, but will I stay like that?

The reasons for this are very individual. It can be a habit. Maybe I will also deal with other areas that create tension and concern me, such as my job or my children. For some, a safe relationship is also more important. These people then accept that the partnership is not particularly emotional. For others, however, it is not enough.

How is that?

Many people miss a connection they can experience in which they feel important to each other and can interact with their partner. It is also very different how long people endure this condition. Some people split up after a few weeks, during which they feel emotionally separated. Others, however, remain in the relationship for years.

“Many people miss a connection that they can experience, where they feel important to each other and can interact with their partner.”

Can I still save my relationship if I broke up inside? Can I just officially separate myself?

If I realize that my relationship is really very important to me and I want to revive it, I can try to start a conversation with my partner. It may also be an initial head decision. If nothing serious has happened in the partnership, mutual feelings may wake up again. Especially in joint therapy, one often feels how much love there is still for the other person.

The radiators in some German showrooms may soon show a maximum of 17 degrees. Maybe still nice in summer, but quite uncomfortable in winter: The largest German housing group, Vonovia, has informed its tenants in Dortmund that they will abandon heating in the future.

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