It’s not easy to stay in a relationship even when you know deep down it’s not going to last. In the beginning, you look beyond your differences and the relationship’s shortcomings, holding out hope that things will change with time. Later, when you’ve been with your significant other for years, you might stay because you’ve grown comfortable or fear being on your own again. The commitments, the obligations, the finances, the kids, the housing. Maybe especially hard when there isn’t anything “gravely” wrong, there are just some past experiences or communication differences you can’t quite shake.

  1. You’re staying because it’s the easier choice.
    There are plenty of things in life you can settle for: this year’s vacation destination (sigh, maybe next year, Aruba yoga retreat), the car you put a down payment on (guess I’ll choose the more affordable option), your cell phone provider. But you absolutely, 100 percent cannot settle on who you choose to spend your life with. If your partner doesn’t fulfill you intellectually, emotionally or sexually — or if you’re just biding time with him or her because you’ve grown comfortable — it’s a disservice to both of you. Consider seeking help.
  2. You’re afraid of being alone.
    Be honest with yourself: If you’re staying in a ho-hum relationship because you’re afraid of being alone, evaluate that. You may otherwise you’ll eventually drift apart and your fear of being single will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Alone-ness is also an opportunity to discover new things about yourself. New values, interests, etc.
  3. You’re afraid of judgement.
    Ah, judgement, what a cruel joke. The reality is, most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to care for very long. Sure, some tears may be shed from people that are close to the idea of you two as a “couple” unit instead of individuals. You may lose some friends. There will be talk. But when people break up, unless something very serious happened, we are all adults and there are no “good or bad” guys at the end. The relationship failed. That’s it. Your friends and family will move on. In this case your harshest critic is yourself. Did I do enough? Was I good enough? Did I try hard enough?- this is not coming from people on the outside of the relationship.
  4. Your partner is your harshest critic.
    Your partner should be your ride-or-die friend, your partner in crime, and your biggest cheerleader all rolled into one. If moral support is in short supply or if nitpicking and criticism are constants in the relationship, it’s a very troubling sign. It’s one thing to tolerate playful teasing and pokes, but it’s another when jokes are seemingly always at your expense and criticism feels incessant, even when your family and friends are around. This is closer to bullying than it is to playful good fun. Do you hold back statements out of fear of being put down? Do you not express your opinion because you don’t think that it’s viewed as worthy? Do your friends know more about you then your partner does? It’s a signal that your partner doesn’t have your best interests at heart.
  5. You don’t share a sense of humor.
    Does he roll his eyes every time you make joke or does he laugh like you’re the second coming of Tina Fey? It might seem minor but if your partner doesn’t laugh with you, it’s problematic. Life is hard; you’ll need someone in your corner who’ll roll with the punches and try to keep the mood light when the unexpected happens. Kindness goes a long way. It’s no fun being around someone who’s perpetually frowning or takes everything super seriously — especially when life throws you a curveball. You don’t need to be with the life of the party, but you should be with someone with whom you share a similar sense of humor. If you’re doing your new sweet dance move in the kitchen and your partner rolls his eyes, you hear a large sigh, or turns away, this could be a sign you need to have a serious conversation.
  6. You’re more in love with the fantasy of who your partner could be rather than who he or she really is. Or the life you “should” have had together vs. what the reality of it now.
    When you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to overlook any incompatibilities and fantasize about who he or she may be someday: Yes, she’s a homebody who’d rather play World of Warcraft all weekend long than travel but maybe someday she’ll want to tag along. Or sure, he values his work schedule over family time. We could be awesome together as long as we work through X, Y, Z. How long should this go on for? Don’t fall into this trap; if you’re more in love with the fantasy of your partner than who he or she really is, you need a major reality check. You can’t overlook things more often than not in a relationship. Fantasy is always better than reality, that’s why it’s called fantasy. You, however, live in reality. Present tense. Keep your head in the game in this relationship.
  7. You’re constantly wondering why your partner’s behavior doesn’t match up with his or her words.
    Figuring out where your significant other was on Saturday night shouldn’t be that difficult. If you’re often wondering what your partner is up to when you’re not around — or he always seems to be telling some half-truth — you may want to ask yourself if the relationship is really worth the worry? Inconsistencies between behavior and words are common sign of a troubled relationship. While it can be tempting to listen to words that often convey what we want to hear, listening to behavior is where you’ll hear the truth. Even if it is painful, behavior seldom lies.
  8. Your personal goals are at odds.
    The best relationships are built on a strong sense of partnership: As a couple, you should know and deeply believe in each other’s individual dreams — and those life goals should more or less be compatible. Do you talk about your hopes and dreams? Are they aligned with your partners hopes and dreams? If you start to realize how at odds your hopes for the future are, you may need assess the longevity of the relationship. Long-term relationships between two people who don’t ultimately want the same outcome is just asking for heartache.
  9. You’ve felt more insecure since you’ve been in the relationship.
    Your self-worth should in no way be tied to your partner’s opinion of you or your relationship status; your worth as a person comes from inside. That said, if your partner makes you feel unloveable or unsure of yourself to the point of anxiety, you need to address the issue. If you don’t feel like you can be yourself around them, that’s not a good sign. Being with the wrong person can drive up your anxiety and self-doubt. The right relationship, on the other hand, drives up our confidence and satisfaction: we feel encouraged to strive to be our best selves but loved and accepted for who we are. 10. You’re thinking about someone else. If you’re actively wondering if the grass would have been greener, you may be in some trouble. Also a bad sign? Fantasizing about what life would be like if you were single again. Two things could be going on here: either you just don’t like who you’re with or perhaps you need to explore deeper within yourself the reason you aren’t satisfied with what you have. Ask yourself why you’re seeking things outside the relationship. When you find these answers, you can work on your relationship — or decide to go your own way.
  10. You need to change the core of who you are to keep your partner satisfied.
    There’s not one couple in the world who loves everything about each other. (We’re pretty sure during the Bradgelina era even Angie woke up some mornings and went, “Beard shavings in the sink again, Brad? No, no, no.”) But if your partner looks at you as his personal pet project — someone he feels compelled to change in order to be worthy of him — you’re definitely in the wrong relationship. When your partner makes you feel like you can’t fully express yourself or punishes you or puts you down when you tell a joke or express an opinion they don’t like, it’s a problem. If you can’t be authentic with your partner and accepted for who you are, what’s the point of the relationship? Are you hiding stuff from your partner because you’re afraid they won’t like it?- bad sign.
  11. Your partner refuses to talk about problems and/ or doesn’t think anything is wrong
    At Balance, we have licensed Marriage and Family Therapists on staff. Addressing issues early on is the key to relationship success. Couples therapy has much better outcomes when truthful communication happens frequently and early. We like to say that couples that need just a  little “tune up” from a non- judgmental set of ears once in a while are much more likely to have long-term success.

Amy Schillinger
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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