How To Know When It’s Time To Call It Quits in a Relationship
So, you’re in limbo about whether to leave your partner or not. On one hand, you’re still in love with them, but on the other, you wonder whether the love you have for them is enough to stay.
Comfort is one of the main reasons we choose to stick around. We’re unfamiliar with life without them, and if you’re in a long-term relationship, you probably can’t even begin to imagine life without your partner. But life does go on, we promise.
We speak to the experts to identify what signs you should be looking out for when it’s time to call it quits on your relationship, because believe it or not, love isn’t enough.
You Just Don’t Like Your Partner
We can love our partners, but this doesn’t mean we necessarily like them. “Forget love. Liking is a really good indicator here. Do you like your partner? Like in the sense of the way you like anyone: you want to be with that person, you seek that person out, you enjoy being with that person,” says Mira Kirshenbaum, author of Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, and co-founder and Clinical Director of The Chestnut Hill Institute. “This is not ‘Oh, she’s great.’ Yeah, she may be great – full of all kinds of admirable qualities – but you still may not like her.”
At the beginning of a relationship, we tend to ignore any behaviors that challenge indifferences (cue the red flags we can’t get enough of) because of our initial infatuation with our partner. But after the honeymoon period, it gets harder to ignore them.
We can feel huge amounts of love towards our other half but still dislike things that they say or do. You’ll never agree and be able to support every single decision they make, but when you find yourself questioning their behavior more than you admire it, you probably don’t like them as much as you thought you did.
You Feel Like Your Partner Just Wants To Control You
Whilst in a healthy relationship, a lot of what we do is influenced by the person we’re with, which is to be expected if you’re a decent human being. But when it feels controlled and like we don’t have a choice in what we do, it becomes unhealthy.
It can be difficult to tell when the boundaries have been crossed as at the beginning of a relationship we naturally did it ourselves, which easily blurs the line between healthy and unhealthy. You came home early from a night out so you wouldn’t wake your partner up who had work early in the morning, but now going out at all during the week is a hard no and you haven’t seen your friends in weeks.
Manipulation can make you feel like you’re doing it for the benefit of your relationship, whereas in reality, you’re being controlled by your relationship. “What you have to run from is a power person,” says Kirshenbaum. “That’s someone who you feel has to win every conflict and will keep the struggle going and going and going, using every tactic under the sun until they do win. They don’t fight for what they need. They fight against you getting your needs met.”
You Don’t Feel Respected
A relationship should be an equal partnership with mutual respect. When you give an opinion or express your emotions, you should feel heard and valued. If you don’t, the respect most likely swings in their favor.
“It doesn’t matter what they say. It’s how they act. You need to feel that your partner respects you, your judgment, your character,” says Kirshenbaum. “Yes, of course, our partners are all too aware of our imperfections, and make us aware of how aware they are sometimes, but if you are feeling more contempt from them than respect, then this is a bad sign.”
You’re No Longer Having Fun
Fun is the glue of intimacy, explains Kirshenbaum. She says that “everyday life in most marriages can’t be a laugh riot, but you should be feeling that there’s an undercurrent of happiness and fun that frequently bubbles to the surface.”
You want to think about how much fun you’re having with your partner on a regular basis. You spend more time with your other half than anyone else and you want to make sure it’s enjoyable. But each of us has a different definition of fun, something you might enjoy isn’t necessarily something they’d enjoy.
You don’t have to share the exact same hobbies, but if doing something with the person you love that’s meant to be fun like date night or going on holiday fills you with dread, it’s best that you move on. No one can tell you how often is enough, sometimes life does get in the way and makes things less fun temporarily.
We’re not saying walk away and abandon your partner just because they’re having a difficult time and are not as much fun to be around as usual. It’s important you identify whether it’s the situation you’re in or the person you’re with. “You have to decide for yourself whether it’s there and whether there seems like a chance of it coming back or not.”
You Don’t Have the Same Values
“It takes more than love to keep a relationship together. Romantic feelings and sexual attraction are great in the beginning, but they are not enough to sustain a long-term relationship,” says Dr. Chris Tickner, MFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. “You must have a common purpose, a reason you are together.” These can be things like achieving a successful career, raising children, or making the world a better place (if you’re super ambitious).
Dr. Tickner encourages you to ask yourself once the infatuation wears off, and it will, is there anything else keeping you together? If you don’t share the same values, if you don’t have a common purpose, things will most likely fall apart eventually.
“If you find yourself in this situation, sitting down and having a very direct conversation about your shared purpose can be very enlightening,” he says. As humans, we’re constantly growing and changing. The values you shared at the start of your relationship may not be the same anymore, so by doing this, you’ll know pretty quickly if there’s any hope for a future with this person.
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You’re Not Really Being Yourself
“Ever had that weird experience when you’re with someone and find yourself acting like someone other than you? We can change how we engage with people depending on who they are,” says Dr. Tickner. “While usually, this is an especially useful (think job interview) attribute, in our most important relationship, it can be a sign of trouble.”
You should be with someone who makes you want to be the best version of yourself, but you should still be a version of yourself. There’s a difference between enhancing the qualities you already have and becoming a different person entirely. And while good relationships do change us over time, it’s rare that we fundamentally become someone new.
“If your partner complains often about you, or nags you, or ‘encourages’ you to be someone other than who you are, we could have a problem,” he says. It could begin with stopping something completely harmless for the benefit of your relationship. But once you notice deeper, personality-altering changes that make you who you are, it’s time to find someone who appreciates you exactly the way you are.
You Don’t Trust Them Anymore
Trust is the very foundation of a relationship. You can’t have anything meaningful without it. “Sustainable love is built upon respect, commitment, and mutual trust,” says Dr. Tickner. “Can you say without reservation to your partner’s face ‘I trust you with my life?’ Do you believe they always have your back? Do they protect you both at home and in public? Can you tell them everything, and I mean everything?”
It’s pretty easy to tell if you no longer trust your other half. If you feel uneasy, anxious, and guarded around them, you most likely have some trust issues. But here’s where it can get complicated. Sometimes we struggle with trust issues because of a previous partner and subconsciously unload them onto our current partner who does deserve our trust, so it’s important to ask yourself why you don’t trust them before you make any drastic moves. Is it because of a bad past experience with an ex, or because your partner gave you a reason not to trust them?
Your Needs Aren’t Being Met
We all have basic needs that we want to be fulfilled in a relationship, and most of us make these clear from the very first date. In the beginning, they may be able to meet them, they may even have similar needs to you. But over time, these can change.
Maybe when you first met you both didn’t want to have children, now your partner wants to have a family or vice versa. Or maybe you look for a good listener, now you can’t ask them for advice without being cut off.
“Think about whether this relationship enriches your life or is harmful to it,” says Cheryl Dillon, Divorce Coach & Co-Founder at Equitable Meditation Services. “A relationship is a partnership, and each partner should be doing their part to fulfill the needs of the other – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When this is no longer happening or it’s become one-sided, it might be time to call it quits.”
When You’re Convinced You’d Be Better Off Alone
“If you’re convinced that being single again would be better than staying in an unhappy relationship, it might be one of the signs that your relationship is over,” says Dillon. Being in a relationship doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be happy, and being single doesn’t mean you’ll be unhappy.
Like everything in life, it’s what you make it. “When you get to a place where you know that you will be happier being single again vs. staying in the relationship, it’s time to leave,” she says.
You’re Constantly Fighting With Each Other
“Disagreements are normal in a relationship. But if you and your partner are fighting constantly, even over the little stuff, it’s unhealthy and time to pack your bags,” says Dillon.
Not all disagreements have to turn into full-blown heated arguments where you need days to cool off in between. Calmly voicing your opinion shouldn’t spur on a screaming match, but if it does, it’s the result of deeper issues that could benefit from relationship counseling.
Remember, you’re both on the same team, even if you disagree with each other you should still want the same end goal – for both of you to be happy with the outcome. If you find yourself in a position where your ideal solution is anything but this, your heart’s not in the right place and even counseling won’t save your relationship.
Your Partner Is Abusive – Physically or Emotionally
This doesn’t strictly mean physical abuse. Humiliation, criticism, belittling, and blackmail are all signs of emotional abuse. Most people being emotionally abused aren’t aware of it because they aren’t being physically harmed.
But making you feel like you’re not good enough is just as damaging to your mental health. You should always feel safe around your partner, and if you don’t, you may be experiencing some kind of emotional abuse.
“Whether it’s emotional or physical, abuse is something no one should have to put up with,” says Dillon. “If your partner repeatedly calls you names, criticizes you, puts you down, or demeans you, it’s time to go”.
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