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It's a question I often face in mytherapypractice and tacklein my podcast: "I know my relationship is struggling, but do I really want to end it now? Would I be better off alone?”
Of course, real life is not an experiment and there is no control group. We can never be sure about the possible outcomes of not taking the path. Whatever decision you make, it will be the one you will live with, and you will never know with 100% certainty how the opposite decision would have turned out.
However, sometimes you can make an extremely educated guess. There are concrete signs that a relationship is unhealthy for you and preventing you from reaching your full potential. Often the inertia is so strong that you decide to stay in the relationship because the short-term discomfort of ending it keeps you trapped. That feels more visceral - the immediatefearthe (temporary) negative consequences of a breakup - even if you know that you would be better off in the long term. (Many things that are good for us carry this long-term versus short-term battle, from not wanting to get out of bed early to exercise to an inability to chunk down an entire sleeve of Girl Scout cookies.)
Of course, we have to keep in mind that deciding that you're better off on your own after you've been married 35 years is very different than deciding that you're better off on your own after your fourth date. In a future post, we'll look at the steps you need to take to get out of a relationship in the healthiest way. For now, however, here are some considerations that suggest your partnership lacks the potential to truly fulfill you.
1. There are constant “if only” questions.
Whether you, your partner, or both of you have these thoughts, it's a bad sign if you keep feeling that the relationship could be satisfyingif onlysomething fundamentally changed. Yes, many relationships go through periods when things don't feel quite right, but in the case of a relationship that constantly feels like it needs repairing, true satisfaction will always feel out of reach. One or both people may begin living in the hypothetical and perhaps unattainable future, rather than the here and now, which excludes the possibility of truthLuck. Does your relationship feel good 90 percent of the time, but the other 10 percent agonizes you every day and never quite feels solvable? Sometimes that can be a sign that you'll never quite be a good match.
2. You don't feel understood.
You may feel loved only under certain conditions, or you may keep a facade up towards your partner. This can get in the way of true emotionsintimacyand over time feeling empty - the idea that your partner wouldn't really love the "real" you if you really allowed yourself to be that person. Maybe you're pretending to be someone you're not and hiding an important part of yourselfpersonality, or even feigning an interest in certain hobbies or activities to make her happy and let her dictate how you spend your time. Or maybe youAreBeing yourself - and yet you never have the feeling that your partner really "gets" you. These types of emotional disconnects can have profound consequenceslonlinessIronically, this can leave you feeling even more isolated than if you were single.
3. You feel drained by your partner, even if they're not particularly draining.
In any relationship there are times when a partner takes more than they give; Equal and perfect reciprocity can seldom be maintained all the time. Good relationships are flexible and don't just count. That said, sometimes someone constantly feels drained by a partner—even if that partner doesn't really do much to be drained.
If you are always frustrated with a partner and feel like you need a breakout ofthem much more often than being with themoffersa pause – this is a sign that something is seriously wrong. Maybe it's something that can be fixed, but if you're having a hard time resolving it or even putting your finger on it, it could be a sign that they're always going to be more of a strain to be around than one relationship should be.
4. You hide large parts of your partner from friends and family.
You may be covering up about your partner's drinking or lying about how well they treat others. Perhaps you are ashamed to admit how often you fight, or you find yourself censoring the fact that your partner has a long-standing problem with gambling, or you have lost confidence in their fidelity. If you find yourself painting others a picture of your partner that isn't at all representative of who they are, it's a sign that they just don't live up to the standards you know you should have. It's one thing if you don't want to tell your conservative parents that your new boyfriend grew up in a commune. But if you keep making your partner out to several friends or family members as someone they are not, it is a sign that you know they are not someone you are proud of.
5. You always assume or imagine that they will fundamentally change before you have a future with them.
You may have spent years imagining your future with your partner — but it involves a different version of it. Youfantasizethat they magically become more ambitious, friendlier or more helpful around the house. They imagine that when they become more responsible, you will finally be ready to get engaged, or that once they see "the light of commitment," you will feel ready to settle down with them. Don't fall into the trap of committing to a version of a partner that isn't real. Do you want to be with your partner for who they really are, right here and now? This is much more of an important metric.
6. You need to apologize, and often.
It's a serious warning sign if you have to do it frequentlyto apologizeto your partner for what you are. Does it seem like you're never good enough? Do your partner's standards feel like they can never be met? When it's taken to the extremethis is a clear sign of a controlling relationship.But even in its milder forms, feeling that your very existence consists of doing things "wrong" can take a significant toll on your psyche. It might even go the other way: you have high hopes anddreamsthat you feel "stupid" for having it or that you feel like your partner will suppress it. Do you long for the freedom that would come with living the way you want to live, free from criticism andDebt? So why are you holding back from that freedom?
7. Conflicts are constant and you don't fight "right".
Lots of marriage researchshowed us that it is not necessarily about the existence of conflicts, but ratherHowThey struggle, which predicts how happy your relationship will be over time. Are your conflicts riddled with unhealthy patterns, such as blockages, mutual silence, or hurtful personal attacks? Does resentment grow with every argument without actually addressing the actual problem, let alone solving it? Don't your conflicts feel like opportunities to resolve differences or times to understand each other's perspectives, but rather opportunities to hurt each other and get something out of it?Aggression? Unless you're both motivated to work on these patterns, things are unlikely to magically change to make your relationship smoother.
Have you dealt with any of these situations? look at my newPodcast on Mental Health Talks and Advice, Baggage Control,and send your questions!
- There's no emotional connection. ...
- Communication breakdown. ...
- Aggressive or confrontational communication. ...
- There's no appeal to physical intimacy. ...
- You don't trust them. ...
- Fantasising about others.
You can't imagine the future together.
"When a couple can no longer imagine a future together, or their view of the future doesn't align, it is indicative of it coming to an end," Spinelli explains. Bruneau echoes this point, adding to take note if you've stopped talking about the future or making plans altogether.
- Are you committed to growth? ...
- Do you genuinely respect one another? ...
- Do you share values? ...
- Do you share a vision? ...
- Are you willing to forgive one another?
Less tenderness, less physical intimacy, less forgiveness, less emotional support. “I'm really tired and just need some space.” “You've become really needy lately.” “It feels like you don't want me anymore.” “Can you just hold me for a little while?How to know if its time to break up? ›
- Your needs aren't being met.
- You're seeking those needs from others.
- You're scared to ask for more from your partner.
- Your friends and family don't support your relationship.
- You feel obligated to stay with your partner.
Taking time apart can allow you both to think about the issues in your relationship, cool off, learn new coping strategies, and come back together with a different lens or perspective that can be difficult to have when you're together and actively fighting through your issues.