If your relationship is no longer personally fulfilling, it may be time to move on.
In essence, if your relationship is not helping you grow as a person, research shows you'll likely feel less engaged in that relationship and more likely to cheat.
Conversely, if your partner is instrumental in helping you achieve your goals, you'll be happier in the relationship.
"On top of providing companionship and love and sexual contact, and all of these things that we expect from our relationships, now we also expect our relationships to help us achieve our highest selves, our self-actualization through goal pursuit," Slotter said. If that doesn't happen, it's worth asking if this is the relationship for you.
Rough patch or death spiral?
But not everyone who is unhappy in a relationship is facing cheating or violence. Maybe you once had a spark but now feel stuck in a rut or overwhelmed by the details of life. Is it just a rough patch that will pass or is it time to pull the plug on the relationship?
The answer really depends. A lot can change over the course of a marriage, and a 2002 study published by the Institute for American Values, an admittedly pro-marriage think tank, found that three out of four unhappily married couples were happy together five years later. A 2018 study of more than 1,600 couples in the journal Social Networks and the Life Course found that happiness and time spent together followed a U shape; dipping down gradually over the first 20 years of marriage and then climbing slightly or staying steady into the golden years. But, for those who are deeply unhappy, it may be time to call it quits: A 2005 study in the journal Social Forces found that people who are in low-quality marriages are unhappier and fare worse, healthwise, than those who ultimately get divorced.
If you do decide to break up, here are seven scientific facts about splitsville that can help you with the emotional aftermath.
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Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.