No relationship is perfect. But I believe a romantic partner should add to our lives—not be the be-all and end-all.
They also shouldn’t take away from our lives either.
Of course there will be disagreements, but being with a significant other shouldn’t make us feel like our emotional and physical energy is constantly being zapped.
Do you suspect that you could be in an emotionally-draining relationship?
Here are eight exhausting signs to watch out for.
1) You feel anxious, on-edge, and even depressed when you’re around them
Do you start to feel on edge when your partner’s name comes up on your smartphone’s incoming call? Does your heart start to beat faster (and not in a good way) when you hear their key turn in the lock? Perhaps your heart sinks when you hear their car pull into the driveway.
You could be with someone who is emotionally draining—even emotionally abusive—especially if you’re feeling like you have to be on eggshells when you’re with them.
But not only is this emotionally exhausting, it’s also a huge red flag, says AMFM —an integrative treatment provider specializing in acute primary psychiatric care.
Of course, there are times when challenging circumstances can arise: a loved one passing away, the loss of a job, or financial issues.
“[But] if your partner demands that they need to have things their way all of the time, is manipulative or is not willing to compromise, it creates a feeling of self-doubt within you. Not only is this behavior abusive, but it can worsen over time.”
If you’re feeling anxious or depressed around them specifically and this seems to be the norm, it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship and think about if this is how you want things to be.
“If you identify places of concern with your relationship with your partner, and they dismiss your feelings, you should consider leaving the bond—no matter how hard it may be.”
Your opinions are valid and you should protect your energy and mental health at all costs. You deserve to be seen, heard, and understood.
2) Your energy level goes down whenever you’re with them
This one is kind of similar to the above but it’s more of a brain-drain being with them as opposed to feeling anxious or depressed.
Perhaps you’re feeling emotionally drained around your partner because their idea of conversation is to vent for hours about what made them upset at work. Or maybe it’s about the latest family drama they have going on with their mother or father.
The point is that it’s always about their issues.
If your regular, everyday interactions with your partner are exhausting you instead of energizing you or having a calming, soothing effect, it could be time to seriously think about if this is the kind of relationship dynamic you want to have day after day after day.
3) They have a “Woe is me” way of thinking
We talked about how having a partner who is a regular ventor can be emotionally draining. This can go hand-in-hand with a “woe is me” sensibility.
“Someone with a victim mentality has a ‘woe is me’ outlook, feels life is unfair to them and thinks that other people or events impede them,” says self-development coach Jody Michael. “They are unwilling or unable to take responsibility for their happiness, success or well-being.”
So if your partner is always complaining about how much they hate their job but is unwilling to look for another one, or uplevel their skills or education on the side until they qualify for something better, that can be emotionally draining because it keeps you trapped.
If, despite your suggestions, they continue the same cycle where they’re unwilling to change their life—well, then that’s a problem.
4) There is little to no reciprocity in the relationship
We touched on this above, but there’s a problem with the relationship if things are always your partner’s way or the highway.
This can range from seemingly small, innocent things like always going to their favorite restaurant, to bigger things like only hanging out with their friends and their family.
Anytime you want the two of you to do something with your “crew,” they always have an excuse or simply say they’re not up for it and don’t want to.
A relationship like this is not only stressful because of the lack of balance and effort on your partner’s part, but it can also chip away at your self-esteem because of their lack of interest in people and things that are important to you.
5) You don’t feel like you can be yourself with them
Aska Kolton, creator of the Dating Detox Revolution, said her relationship history consisted of being a “meek mouse with no voice or opinions. I would put my boyfriend’s needs first and ignore mine. I would keep quiet about how I felt. I wouldn’t question things.”
If you feel like you can’t be yourself in a relationship, you’ll need to reflect on why you maybe choosing romantic partners who are emotionally draining.
Kolton did some inner work and realized that she was subconsciously playing out the behavior of her mother, who needed to survive with Kolton’s “despotic dad in a very turbulent relationship.”
“I didn’t know any better until I learned the hard way,” she says.
Kolton says she also didn’t feel worthy of love. “I didn’t feel like I was good enough for anyone. I was afraid to be myself, as I didn’t feel like I had much to offer.”
It might be worth figuring out (even with the help of a therapist) on why you’re choosing emotionally draining partners where you feel compelled to hide parts of yourself.
6) They don’t think they’re ever at fault (or they don’t admit when they’re wrong)
It’s one thing when your partner won’t admit if their “secret” pasta sauce actually comes from Aisle 12 of the local supermarket. But if they act like they’re always in the right about everything, then there may be more going on beneath the surface.
It can also take a toll on your well-being.
Relationship writer Shellie R. Warren says it takes a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness to be able to, firstly, admit when you’re wrong, and secondly, be corrected, and hear out an opposing point of view.
“When someone is able to do these types of things, it means that they are humble, willing to learn and they don’t feel threatened by those who may not always or totally agree with them,” she says.
Warren believes that this is usually an indication that they are the opposite of confident and self-aware. They either function from a space of pure pride or deep-rooted insecurity—which oftentimes are one and the same.
Being with an emotionally immature person who can’t admit to when they’re wrong is emotionally draining.
It’s vital to talk to your partner about this. If they’re unreceptive, you might want to rethink the relationship.
7) They’re critical about everything
Are they critical of what you wear to how you have your hair to the way you drive?
Maybe you explain it away because it’s not just you they tend to criticize, but that’s just how they are with everyone—and everything—in general.
Therapist and wellness educator Divya Robin reminds us that our worth is not based on what others say about us.
Robin recommends speaking to your partner about how you feel. If they don’t change their behavior after you share how their criticism is impacting you, she recommends disengaging and finding supportive spaces where you feel welcome and appreciated.
It is also imperative to seriously think about the future of this relationship. If your partner isn’t changing their behavior, do you still want to be with them?
8) They’re prone to impatience and can get snappy
Does your partner’s mood plummet anytime they can’t find their keys or you tell them you’re working late and won’t be home for dinner?
Does one unexpected thing throw their emotions for a lurch? Do they fall into a sulk for the rest of the day and give you the silent treatment? Or do they get snappy because you forgot to buy shampoo?
Having a partner whose emotions are unpredictable or are easily set off by the slightest things is emotionally exhausting and then some.
Here’s one woman’s dilemma in a “Dear Carolyn” column from the Detroit Free Press:
“I’m in an almost one-year relationship. While there are many wonderful aspects of our relationship and of him, I wonder about the long term. It took me a little while to put my finger on it, but it seems to center on impatience,” she begins.
“He can be a very impatient driver (aggressive and tailgates), gets extremely frustrated easily when things don’t work out the way he wants (a slow-loading app, a Word document not formatting correctly). This translates into many aspects of our relationship.”
The woman feels on the fence about the relationship. She wonders if her partner’s behavior is something that can be changed or eased. She said she finds herself withdrawing from him or trying to play the peacemaker and calming influence.
Carolyn’s response hits the matter on the head:
“Sure, it can ease, if he ever grows up,” she says.
“Till then, you have to worry about winding up in somebody’s bumper. Aggressive driving is not a ‘can-I-adapt-to-this?’ personality quirk, it’s often illegal and always a crash risk. The sooner you let him know you won’t be his passenger until he learns to manage his “impatience”—better known by its real name, “anger”—the sooner your neighborhood roads become safer.”
“You’re struggling already with the burden of either managing his emotions when he fails to—which is not your job—or hiding from them. That has a real name too: “Walking on eggshells.” He’s controlling you through his volatility, whether he means to or not.”
It is not your job to manage your partner’s emotions. You need to put your own emotional well-being first.
Feeling emotionally drained is a huge sign that something needs to change in your relationship. More often than not, this means to seriously think about breaking things off and choosing you.