“Here’s the thing about Relationship Burnout; it’s sneaky and creeps up on you without you noticing it.”
Parenting is one of the most challenging jobs with the least reward from society. It is constantly demanding our complete focus. When we are focussed on ‘just’ parenting, we can easily lose who we are as an individual and, more specifically, as a couple. When parenting burnout takes place, the romantic Relationship suffers as well. So, we have to be bold in our attempt to prioritise our “loveship” as parents, so we don’t end up in the Relationship Burnout graveyard. Here’s the thing about Relationship Burnout; it’s sneaky and creeps up on you without you noticing it. Unlike cheating and dishonesty, which lead to explosive breakups, relationship burnout occurs slowly. It starts with minor conflicts or disappointments that go unresolved or overlooked. As time goes by, these conflicts build up until they can no longer be assumed. At first, you rarely notice it, but as the wounds grow and increase, you can no longer ignore the pain and bleeding.
What exactly is Relationship Burnout
This definition is taken from an article written by DR. Nicole K. McNichols, “How Burnout can affect your relationship” (Psychology Today, December 2021). The term ” relationship burnout typically refers to two individuals in a romantic relationship gradually reaching the state of emotional and physical exhaustion and depletion because of failure in dealing with their collective and individual problems such as emotional fatigue, work and parental exhaustion.It commonly occurs when relationships have passed the honeymoon phase“. Relationship burnout can result in significant strain, resentment, and breakup if left unchecked. Every relationship is unique and varied; therefore, Burnout will look different for everyone.
Common signs of Relationship Burnout
According to Dr Emily Morse, a well-known sex and relationship therapist, although each Relationship Burnout is unique, most burnout couples tend to present these common features.
The blame game. An increase in bickering, arguing, and finger-pointing are other obvious red flags. Once the blame starts going back and forth and escalating out of control, it becomes almost impossible to resolve who did what or who’s at fault. When it gets to that point, the couple loses perspective on what’s important.
Decreased communication and quality time. One of the first warning signs of Burnout is a decrease in quality communication and time spent together. Conversations become a rare commodity between the partners; when they do communicate, its’ mostly to do with the children’s well being, and they actively avoid each other(often out of fear of fighting). Physical intimacy is none existence or is reduced drastically.
Avoidance of the future. When partners start avoiding discussing future plans, it is often a signal that they feel exhausted or unmotivated to make long-term commitments. Often, this happens because the couple already knows that their goals for the future don’t align. As a result, they avoid the conversation about the future altogether. Again, it feels like the best option to avoid conflict or a breakup.
Lack of motivation to improve. All relationships take work, and every couple goes through difficult times, putting their dynamic in perspective and revealing areas for improvement. However, a couple going through Burnout may feel pressure and anxiety in doing their best to improve their relationship. Taking up avenues like therapy or coaching is daunting. The lack of motivation to improve often worsen current problems.
“Burnout isn’t something you can overcome overnight”
How to overcome Relationship Burnout
Every Burnout is unique; hence there is no one best way to overcome Relationship Burnout. However, after consulting multiple pieces of literature on this topic, I’ve compiled a few strategies that will support couples experiencing Burnout and foster a healthy relationship.
Lay out your expectations. Burnout is often the result of mismatched energy and expectations. If you feel your needs are not being met(whether those needs are emotional or physical), it’s important to voice your concern healthily. This will create the opportunity for you and your partner to work on a plan moving forward to ensure both parties feel heard, seen and respected.
Understand and respect your partner’s way of handling stress. Stress responses are often expressed differently by gender. For example, when it comes to stresses with their kids, men focus on making the problem disappear, while women focus on tending to the child. When we lack the knowledge and understanding, it’s easy to think that our partner is not as invested in this relationship. Download the complimentary guide here to support you in understanding the stress management techniques for both gender and access practical strategies to prevent Relationship Burnout.
Talk it out. It’s common for us to turn to our besties(especially women) when problems arise in our Relationship. Unfortunately, this is counterproductive as your friend is more likely to take your side and sympathise with you. A friend can seldom do more than speculate why your partner behaved so ” unreasonable” and “inconsistently”. It doesn’t hurt to vent your anger and frustration with a friend if it makes you feel better. If you want to resolve your issue(s) and move forward in your relationship, having an open and honest conversation with your partner is the way to go.
Identify possible triggers. Work together, and brainstorm each other’s triggers. Identify each person’s unique stressors, insecurities, pain points and circumstances that lead to neglect, avoidance, or fighting. Working together to identify the stressors will undoubtedly decrease burnout feelings.
You need your ” roots” and your “wings”. This famous expression was first published in 1953 in the book “Where Mainstreet meets the River” by Hodding Carter, a prominent journalist. Roots symbolise security, commitment and trust, the feeling that your partner knows you with all your imperfections and virtues and accepts you for who you are. Wings symbolise the excitement of personal and spiritual growth, the feeling that each of you has the opportunity to get the most out of yourself and life.
Respect alone time. Relationship Burnout can arise from an excess of time together, leading to feeling trapped or stifled by the others’ habits or eccentricities. Be honest and talk openly about your needs and what you need to enable you to thrive as an individual, a parent and a partner. Honour your Relationship with yourself by scheduling healthy timeouts for personal care and relaxation.
Be patient. Burnout isn’t something you can overcome overnight. It’s easy to slip back into old habits such as assigning blame or avoiding communication. Instead, continue to be open and honest about your feelings. Progress will take time and effort, so don’t be discouraged when things don’t immediately improve. If you’re experiencing mental struggle, seek a healthcare professional, it can be your GP or a psychologist.
There is no getting around the fact that Relationship Burnout is disheartening; however, it can also be an awakening season for the couple, causing them to take stock of their relationship and provide the triggers for growth.