How to Tell if It’s Just an Argument or the End of Your Relationship

Arguments are tricky business, especially in relationships. When you argue with a SO, it can sometimes be easily resolved and you can feel good about what you two gained from the argument. However, some arguments make you question the person you’re with and how they reacted to you or a situation. This is when you might start to consider if this was just another argument or if this is indicative of a larger problem, a problem that is inevitably a deal-breaker. Luckily, we’ve consulted with a couple collegiettes and Kim Olver, a licensed professional counselor, board certified coach, and author of the book Secrets of Happy Couples and upcoming book Choosing Me Now, on how to tell whether it’s a normal argument or something to be more concerned about.

“In every relationship, you always have at least three choices – you can change it, accept it or leave it,” Olver says. “When you are in a committed relationship, I recommend saving leaving for your last resort unless you are experiencing physical abuse, in which case your safety is of paramount importance. If not, try changing and accepting first.” With that in mind, here are some ways to tell if it’s just an argument or if it’s the end of your relationship.

It’s just an argument if…

1. You guys are making little things into big things

Check yourself and your SO to make sure you guys aren’t making something out of nothing.

“If it's an argument about little things that can be fixed or aren't really a big issue, then I think maybe fix the argument and try changing the little annoying things first before calling it quits,” Gabriella Catano-Salinas, a senior at Florida International University, says.

2. You’re SO’s intentions aren’t to hurt you

Between talking to Olver and some collegiettes, it seems that there is a shared sentiment that an argument shouldn’t end your relationship, unless it’s absolutely necessary. One of the keys to figuring out if it’s really just an argument is determining your SO’s intention.

3. You’re trying to change your SO

“When you are in a relationship, it is important to remember that your partner is doing whatever he (or she) is doing to get his (or her) needs met,” Olver says. “It isn't likely (your partner’s) end goal is to hurt you or piss you off. If you can accept that everyone, including you, is supposed to meet their own needs, then you can be more accepting of what people choose to do to meet yours.”

Sometimes we end up in arguments with our SO because there is something that bothers us about them that we want to change, but Olver recommends trying to change yourself before trying to change your partner.

“With changing it, often our go-to behavior is trying to change the other person to match the picture of what we really want or what we know this person is capable of becoming, Olver says. “The problem with that approach is that you are holding someone responsible to meeting your expectations instead of accepting who they actually are… Adjusting yourself is not easy but it's infinitely easier than trying to change your partner. This works well as long as you are not compromising your values and principles.”

So then, how do you know if an argument spells the end for you and your SO?

Related: 5 Ways to Overcome a Rough Patch in Your Relationship

It could be the end of your relationship if…

1. You’ve had this argument before

Few things are as frustrating as having the same argument with someone over and over. And. Over. Especially when that someone is your SO, it’s easy to feel dismissed or like they don’t hear you. If you find yourself in this predicament, it might be time to consider moving on.

“I think if it is an argument that has repeatedly happened and no change has been made, then it may be the end of the relationship,” Gabriella says. “There are only so many chances one can give.” When you and your SO are having the same argument over and over, Olver says that what you’re actually doing is trying to change them, which is an unhealthy habit to be in.

“Ask yourself if your partner never changes, would you still want to be in relationship with him or her,” Olver says. “If the answer is yes, then let it go, stop arguing and accept your partner for who they are. If the answer is no, I agree, it’s time for a breakup.”

2. You’re seeing qualities in your SO that are deal-breakers

An argument can tell you a lot about your SO. It can reveal qualities in that person that you hadn’t seen before or now realize you don’t like.

“To me, an argument is only the end of your relationship if you allow it to be, or if the argument is solved but it reveals qualities in your partner that you can't deal with anymore,” Morgan Mullings, a sophomore at St. John’s University, says. “If it does reveal things in your SO, like qualities that are a deal-breaker for you, it's honestly okay to break up. And then you can be thankful that you had that argument, or you would've never known!” If you genuinely are concerned about how you were treated during the argument or the way your SO acted while you were arguing, that in and of itself can be a deal-breaker. It might be time to call it quits then.

3. You’re changing for your SO in an unhealthy way

Change can be a good thing. But if you’re changing because your partner wants you to, you need to reevaluate.

“If the only reason she is trying to change is to please her partner, this is a mistake and she should either stop or walk away,” Olver says. So if you like you, but your partner is insistent that you change for some reason that you don’t agree with, this is a red flag.

At the end of the day, you’ll know when you need to move on. So trust yourself and your instinct that you know what’s best for you both in and out of your relationship. And if you’ve had an argument with your SO that you feel uneasy about, talk to them first. Olver says if you’re in a healthy, serious relationship, leaving should be your last option. But if your SO wants you to change in a way you are uncomfortable with, you see qualities in them you can’t get past or you guys keep having the same argument, then it is probably time to consider going your separate ways.