How do you know when it’s time to leave your relationship? Here are 10 flashing neon signs.
Breaking up is hard to do. Even a toxic relationship can seem better than the great unknown, and the thought of leaving can send fears swirling through your mind about being unable to support yourself, regretting your decision someday or never falling in love again. But nobody is going to take control of your happiness – you have to do it yourself. And your romantic relationship is one of the biggest factors that can make or break your happiness, either cushioning you with love, respect and support or smothering you with insecurities, control issues and simple incompatibility. So if these 10 signs of a failing relationship sound familiar, it might be time to push past those fears and start fresh.
Everything your partner does is irritating to you.
The way he slumps on the couch in front of the television. Her compulsive lip-biting. His irrational insistence, which once seemed cute, on organizing the contents of the refrigerator by size. The way she drives, or sighs, or breathes. Once you looked upon this person with love, or at least affection. Now, absolutely everything he or she does is annoying. Maybe you’re just going through some kind of passing phase in which you’re facing the reality of the person you’ve chosen to be with, rather than the romantic ideal you started with. Or maybe these are all signs that it’s time to move on.
You can’t have a serious discussion without getting angry.
Honest communication is the key to a healthy relationship. So when you’ve got a problem, you want to talk it out. But somehow, what should be a simple discussion about divvying up household chores or protecting your quality time as a couple turns into a knock-down, drag-out fight complete with yelling, foot-stomping and door-slamming. Just thinking about the grievances you have with your partner gets you all worked up, and you don’t seem to accomplish anything by discussing them. Communication issues are not always a sign of a doomed relationship – there are all kinds of complicated factors involved. But if couples’ therapy doesn’t work out, you might be better off calling it quits.
You’re stuck in an unsatisfying cycle.
Perhaps you know exactly what the problems are in your relationship, and you are able to have a calm, productive discussion with your partner about them, with mutual agreement for positive change. That’s great. But let’s just say that in the grind of daily life, one or both of you tends to forget all about the compromises that you made, and before long everything is back to the way it was. With a lot of dedication, relationship issues like the balance of power and responsibilities, mutual respect and autonomy can certainly be improved. The work to keep a relationship satisfying for both parties never ends. But we are who we are, and we all have our limits to how much we’re willing or able to change. Consider the fact that this might be a matter of basic incompatibility.
You don’t respect him/her anymore.
You talk over him when he’s speaking. You barely listen to what she has to say. You make plans for both of you, without consulting him first. Basically, you’re really inconsiderate of your partner – or your partner is inconsiderate of you. Sometimes, this might just reflect years of ingrained habits and familiarity. But it can also be a sign that you just don’t respect your partner’s beliefs, opinions and preferences. So, why are you with him again? Having someone around to talk to and share a household with isn’t enough. Don’t stay with someone who doesn’t respect you or vice versa. You both deserve better.
You find yourself tempted by others.
It’s totally natural to check other people out every once in a while, and even to develop harmless little crushes that you never intend to act upon. But you’re crossing a line as soon as you start actually thinking about stepping out on your partner. If you find yourself sorely tempted to hook up with somebody else or just developing strong feelings for another person, perhaps your ties to your current significant other aren’t as strong as they should be. And if you log onto a dating website just to “see what’s out there,” you’ve already packed your bags in spirit.
You’re a different person when you’re with your partner.
Okay – we’re all different when we’re with our partners than we are with friends, colleagues or strangers. But that should be a positive, not a negative. Your partner should be the person you feel most comfortable around, knowing that you can let it all hang out and be your real self (while still being respectful and considerate, of course. Being yourself isn’t a license to be a jerk.) But if you find yourself turning into a nag, clamming up, shrinking or otherwise changing in a way that you’re not comfortable with when you’re alone together, that’s not a good sign. It says that your partner has some kind of power over you, or that you have suppressed negative feelings about him/her that you need to deal with. This may indicate that you have some personal issues you need to work on, like confidence and independence, or it may mean that you’re not with the right person.
You’re still waiting for him/her to change.
What is it with so many women falling for men they perceive as damaged, but fixable? As Jezebel’s Hugo Schwyzer put it, “Reality check: your love does not necessarily conquer all.” You’re head over heels for a man (or woman) who has all manner of character flaws, but you believe that this poor wounded soldier just needs some TLC and he or she will magically transform into the partner of your dreams. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. You shouldn’t wait around for someone to change, especially if you’re the one who wants those changes to occur. One day, that person might just have an epiphany and decide to turn his or her life around, but it’s got to be their choice, not yours.
You’re being smothered.
There’s the obvious kind of smothering, in which you’re kept on a short leash, and there’s the insidious kind. The kind that slowly works its way into your hopes and dreams when you’re not looking. Sometimes, romantic partners discourage personal growth and exploration of new possibilities because they’re afraid. After all, if you change too much, you might not want to be with them anymore. They chip away at the time you’d like to spend perfecting your craft or enriching your spirit, make you feel guilty about your dedication to your hobbies, career or other dreams, or flat out tell you you’re not good enough. Someone who really loves you shouldn’t prevent you from being the best possible you, and having the happiest and most fulfilling life you can have.
The cons of the relationship outweigh the pros.
When in doubt, write it out. List all of the positive things about your relationship that you can think of, and all of the negatives. Consider both your daily life and the big picture. You might realize that your relationship problems are just the normal ups and downs of any romantic partnership, or you might realize that you’ve been holding on for the wrong reasons. Give yourself a few days to mull over your list, making it as complete as possible, and weigh the pros against the cons. This is your life – the only one you have. We’re all afraid of making the wrong decisions and having regrets, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll find the right person eventually, or that happiness will come your way. But it’s more likely to happen if you’re pro-active in your life, rather than just sitting back and letting other people dictate how it goes.
Photo: Hillary the Mammal