Rarely do I outright tell clients to end their relationships. I like to trust that eventually we gain the perspective and energy necessary to make the decisions that serve us best; however, I've supported countless clients over the years as their relationships unwravelled, and some themes seem to emerge again and again.
If one or more of the following is true for you, it might be worth reevaluating your relationship status.
1. You talk about the relationship improving in some hypothetical future.
In other words, you're convinced the relationship will be better "when": I know he'll appreciate me more when his friends get married; She'll be more supportive of my anxiety disorder when we've finished school; We'll enjoy each other's company more when we move in together.
Many believe their partners will change — for example become more committed, understanding, or affectionate — when they hit a milestone or some external stressor is reduced. This certainly does happen, but it's not a guarantee. If you knew they'd never change, would you still be in it for the long haul?
Base your desire to be in your relationship on your present experience, not on some future idea of what you want it to be.
2. You're feeling pressured to change in one or more areas, and it makes you feel less worthy as a result.
It's one thing for your partner to ask you to stop putting so much garlic in the salad dressing. It's another thing for them to ask you to lose 20 pounds or get a better job. You want to feel loved by your partner unconditionally. If they want you to change, it's likely a projection of their own insecurity. Tell them to connect with a counselor and let you keep being you.
3. You feel loved and supported ... when you're happy.
Many of us feel loved and supported in our relationships when we're feeling happy, confident and comfortable. But what happens when we're having a "low" day, when we're mega-stressed at work, when we're bedridden with the stomach flu, or when we're paralyzed by anxiety? What happens when we lose someone we love, get laid off at work, or get a diagnosis that turns our world upside down?
When we feel pressured to maintain a certain emotional equilibrium around our partners, we breed secondary emotions — guilt, shame, and anxiety — for experiencing anything other than happiness and calm. Inevitably, life will throw more things than just happiness and calm your way, so it's important feel safe feeling those less less comfortable emotions in the presence of your partner.
4. You feel disrespected, under-appreciated, frustrated, hurt, insignificant, lonely, invalidated, ashamed or guilty on a regular basis.
And you rarely hear "I'm sorry." Sure: "regular basis" is a timeframe for you to define. Some people would say it's never OK to be made to feel such things in a relationship, but hey, we're all humans and we all say hurtful or unsupportive things from time to time. If your partner partner messes up occasionally and responds with remorse, that might not be a reason to call it quits. However, if the above feelings are common ones, tell Jack (or Jill) to hit the road.
5. By asking your partner to hang out with your friends or family, you feel like you're asking them to hand over all their positions and move to the Arctic.
Do you dread telling your partner about your sister-in-law's dinner invitation? Does attending your best friend's birthday party go into hours of negotiations? Do your coworkers sometimes question if your partner, in fact, exists?
Your better half doesn't have to love every member of your family and every one of your friends, but it is important that they're willing to embark on significant other duties without (much) protest. You of course, do the same, right?
6. When you express a need, you can't help but feel crazy, needy, dramatic, high-maintenance, and unreasonable.
Much of the time, you even end up apologizing for it. Look, we all have our "crazy" moments, and we ought to respect that our partners have theirs. We're all imperfect, and jealousy can lead to "creative" ways of expressing ourselves.
But if you've lost the ability to clearly see that your needs are warranted and deserving of airtime, run. Your self-esteem and self-respect will be the next to go.
7. You only feel secure in the relationship when you're physically together.
OK, there's more to this one than just a couple sentences. Insecurity in the pockets between texting, calling, and being together could be an indicator of insecure attachment — something that's best explored further with your therapist. It's not your partner's responsibility to heal those wounds (at least entirely).
However, for those of us who developed "attachment issues" somewhere along the way, we tend to seek out relationships that mirror those early attachment relationships. And so, we might be maintaining a less than optimal relationship with our partner because it's what we know, and not because it's what's healthy. If you're curious about your attachment style, I encourage you to take a test online and/or do some more research.
If you think your attachment style might be getting in the way of experiencing a healthy relationship (I've been there), I really encourage you to connect with a mental health professional. You can't read your way out of this stuff.
8. You feel "hidden" by your partner.
Has it been seven months and you haven't met their parents, who live just three blocks away? Has your partner never posted a photo of you on Instagram, or invited you to their office party?
Depending on the circumstances, keeping things quiet initially can add to the excitement, but there comes a point when being their "little secret" is more degrading than anything else. You deserve to know your partner is proud of you and committed to the relationship.
9. You're a markedly different person around your partner.
Many people find their "better half" makes them "a better person." This shouldn't be a red flag — learning from and being inspired by our partners is one of the wonderful perks of being in a relationship. But many of us have that friend (or are that person) who acts completely different when they're around their partner. Maybe we seem more enthusiastic, easy-going, or pretentious.
If you feel like you're playing a part, behaving and responding based on how you think you should rather than authentically, you might want to reassess things.
If one or more of these signs resonated with you, I encourage you to investigate your thoughts and feelings further. Connect with a therapist, confide in a friend, journal about your experience. Growth and awareness are valuable byproducts of unhealthy relationships, but life is too short to remain in them once we've learned whatever it is we're meant to learn.
And if you want to learn more about relationships generally, and how you can set yourself up to attract true love and a dedicated partner, check out my video course, How To Find True Love In A World Of Tinder & Texting.
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