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How Emotional Exhaustion Could Be Hurting Your Relationship

Updated on September 21, 2020
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Mia is a health and wellness writer interested in exploring the ins and outs of the hospital experience.

How Emotional Exhaustion Could Be Hurting Your Relationship

Emotional exhaustion is exactly what it sounds like — it's the feeling of being totally drained and worn-out emotionally. Emotional exhaustion can come from a variety of sources, and while it may be coming from your relationship itself, there's a good chance that plenty of things could be wearing on you or your partner — or perhaps even both of you at once. No matter the cause or the source, emotional exhaustion can hurt a relationship, and it's best to get to the root of it as soon as you can.

There are ways to tell if you or your partner is emotionally exhausted and ways to deal with it when you notice the change. Nobody is perfect, and getting drained can sometimes be a part of life. But when you know how to handle it and work on things together, you may come out much stronger on the other side.

What Is Emotional Exhaustion?

While emotional exhaustion is a drained, tired state that comes from emotional wear, there's a lot that can come along with it. While being tired in a traditional sense is a part of it, there are other emotions that add to the experience that make it unique. Emotional exhaustion can present a feeling of being stuck or being trapped, along with emptiness. Being emotionally exhausted might leave someone feeling like they're just going through the motions and running on autopilot.

This sense of tiredness and exhaustion can sometimes cause a lack of sleep, higher levels of stress and even more irritability. Sometimes, it can sneak up to the point that you're unsure where it came from, which can add a sense of shock and unawareness to the situation.

What Causes Emotional Exhaustion?

While emotional exhaustion can certainly come from dynamics within the relationship, all kinds of stressors can be at the root of emotional exhaustion. Essentially, all kinds of high-stress, emotionally demanding situations can cause someone to feel worn-out. This can take the form of a job — nursing, caregiving, social work, teaching and emergency services are occupations that come to mind — or any number of life situations like a particularly demanding family member or friend in a rough spot.

Sometimes, one partner can exhaust the other, especially when there isn't a mutual exchange of growth and development in the relationship. If one partner feels like the primary caregiver in the relationship, it not only creates a sense of exhaustion for that partner, but it can even cause feelings of resentment and a closed-off demeanor. None of these things are healthy in a relationship.

What Are the Signs of Emotional Exhaustion?

Emotional exhaustion has many signs that are obvious, though some can be a lot harder to catch. Whether you are the drained party or you suspect your partner could be worn-out, the key in determining what's going on is paying attention and listening fully and presently. You know yourself best, and you and your partner know each other on a deep level, so chances are good that if you have to ask, the person in question probably is experiencing emotional exhaustion.

When it comes to the symptoms and signs, nobody will check all the boxes. Everyone is unique, which means that their struggles are unique. But these are a few signs it could be worthwhile to keep an eye out for:

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Needing to be alone more often than usual

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Brain fog

  • Inability to respond to positive stimuli

  • Lack of motivation

  • Constant worry about the situation causing the stress

  • Poor sleep

  • Loss of appetite

  • Physical exhaustion

While those aren't all of the symptoms, they definitely cover a few bases. If some of them describe you or your partner, you may be dealing with emotional exhaustion.

The Downfalls

How can this exhaustion hurt your relationship? Well, that depends entirely on where the exhaustion is actually coming from. Both externally caused exhaustion and exhaustion that comes from the relationship itself pose a threat to your peaceful flow.

While an emotionally exhaustive partner can make the other partner feel less affectionate, less comfortable being themselves and even spill into other areas of life, an emotionally exhaustive external situation can cause feelings of inadequacy, the loss of control with life and drive a wedge between you and your partner.

While it may feel like there's more to untangle with an emotionally exhaustive partner, it's an issue that can be addressed within the relationship. You can talk about it and work on your issues together. If one partner has an emotionally exhaustive career or family, those issues can sometimes be harder to dismantle — though it's absolutely possible.

How to Deal With It

Once you determine the source of the exhaustion, there comes a time for healing. If possible, reducing the stress of the actual situation is key. This could mean the partner causing the exhaustion finding other outlets of support for some of their emotional needs, setting boundaries with family or looking for a new job.

Whether the situation itself is completely gone or simply reduced, it's vastly important to practice self care. Have emotional check-ins, do things that bring you joy, take time to rest and be intentional about caring for one another. Sometimes, the little things make all the difference.

Don't Stay Stressed

Emotional exhaustion isn't a sustainable way to live. Whether you step away from the stress, unpack the situation or introduce new forms of intentional self care, there are ways to make your relationship a serene place where both of you can grow together.


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