Ideally, we would all fall madly in love with the first person we date. In return, that person would love us just as much as we love them. And that would be it, basically, for our dating life.
Your happy ever after.
But if you have been dating for any length of time, you know this is rarely the case.
Sure, some lucky few do end up marrying their high-school sweetheart. They are the exception, though.
The rest of us has seen most of our relationships fail. Sometimes we love someone who does not love us back. Other times, we simply don’t feel connected enough to the other person to keep pursuing them.
And of course, there are times when the decision is mutual.
Frankly, this is hardly surprising at all. Whether it is due to a lack of chemistry, differing values, a move to another city, or simply bad timing, the list of reasons for breaking up is almost endless.
As a result, you, and almost everyone else, will go through multiple break-ups over the years.
While this is normal, each break-up is still very much painful. Especially if you had big hopes for that relationship.
One way to soften the blow is to be aware of when a relationship is floundering.
A break-up will hurt less if you see it coming.
To help you do that, here are 10 signs your relationship might be over, and what you can do about the situation.
Indeed, the more you understand what is happening, the more control you will have over how things play out.
Most couples will freely admit that they fight once in a while.
It just happens.
Sometimes people want different things or have different opinions, and that generates friction. It is simply human. Just ask anybody who grew up with siblings how much tension there can be!
So, how do you know whether your fighting is a normal part of a relationship or if it is a warning sign of a dying relationship?
It’s easy, as there are basically three big red flags for your relationship here:
Have you ever felt strangely relieved when you and your partner were apart? If you know this feeling, it is almost like a weight has been lifted your shoulders.
Maybe it is because you are getting away from the constant bickering and fighting.
But this could also point to something bigger.
How would you feel if you needed to be on your own for a few days? No restrictions, you can travel, see your friends and family, go to work, do whatever you usually do. The only difference is that your partner – husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend – would not be around.
If your answer is “I would feel good, at last” “I could finally let my guard down a bit,” or even “I probably wouldn’t miss them,” then it is time to re-evaluate where you are.
This relationship is not working.
The previous sign is easy to miss.
You could spend a whole day living carefree, without ever giving a single thought to your partner, and not realize that you were feeling good because you were away from them.
The opposite, however, is harder to ignore.
Anxiety could show up anytime: driving home from work, going to see your boyfriend after a short trip, having lunch with your girlfriend after a night out, etc.
When there is a clear link between times you are about to see your other half, and feelings of dread, it is time to step on the brakes and consider why you feel this way. Maybe you just need some space from your girlfriend or boyfriend.
And maybe you need help accepting a relationship is over.
Sure, breaking up is hard, but so is living scared or unhappy.
Do not let calm seas deceive you. The eye of a hurricane is always the most peaceful part, but it does not make it safe.
Similarly, the lack of conflicts might feel like a welcome relief at first, but you need to be careful.
Can you pinpoint to the reason you suddenly stopped fighting?
There is a difference – a big difference indeed – between reconciliating and giving up.
If you solved all your problems and found solutions that satisfy both you and your partner, great!
On the other hand, if you stopped fighting because you are too exhausted to continue, the situation will feel much different.
Realistically, you would know if you really had no more issues to work out. Challenges don’t disappear by themselves magically.
But fighting is tiring. It takes a lot out of you.
And so, there could come a point where just the idea of bringing up disagreements is too much. You stop sharing things. You basically stop trying.
The quiet times after the storm could be the biggest signs your relationship is ending soon.
When you start dating, you want to put your best foot forward.
It is normal to act a little different than usual on your first or second date with someone.
But as time goes on and you get to know each other, you gradually relax a little. You show them more and more of your personality until you are completely yourself.
Being yourself around your partner is awesome. One of the best signs of a long term relationship.
So, when you notice you can’t do that anymore, things are probably not going too well.
You might do this consciously, for fear of judgement, ridicule, or reprisal from your partner. But it might also happen subconsciously.
Either way, this is a clear indication that there is a lack of trust and comfort in your relationship.
There is a mismatch between who you are in front of your partner, and who you believe yourself to be. That needs to be resolved, and in some cases, you will need to do so alone if you want to be true to yourself.
If you were to suggest going on a week-long solo trip without your partner, you would generally expect some sort of push back.
Your partner probably wants to be included in your plans.
And you in theirs.
That is, if you have a good relationship.
When you start finding reasons – any reason – to spend time away from your partner, and they happily accept, things might not be so rosy for your couple.
The opposite is also true. If your partner suggests spending the weekend with their friends and you cannot wait to see them leave, you might need a bigger conversation with them.
Of course, this could happen for benign reasons: your girlfriend is mad at you, you have spent too much time together and you need a break, etc.
But if that happens regularly, perhaps your relationship is in trouble.
In relationships, there are big questions about the future, and smaller ones.
The big questions are sometimes hard to answer even if you are completely happy in your relationship: will you marry this person? How about kids? Moving to a different city together?
The smaller questions are easy, and often depend only on your willingness to do something: Are you going to see your partner’s family for Thanksgiving? Would you like to travel to Spain next summer? Should we book this spa weekend for Valentine’s Day?
If the thought of doing anything, anytime in the future, is making you sweat, it might be a sign to leave your relationship.
To have a future with this person, you need to be able to see yourself with them in the future. To picture you two growing together.
And if you are wondering how your partner feels about the question, just ask them: “Let’s talk about the future.”
Their answers will tell you a lot if you make the effort to listen to them.
You come into any relationship with your own set of values.
While your values do not have to correspond to your partner’s exactly, there needs to be at least some overlap.
To stay together, a devout religious person and an atheist will need to agree on how to raise their children. A vegan and an omnivore would probably talk long and hard about the food they’re going to prepare for dinner.
In all likelihood, however, they would not date each other long-term.
Add to that the fact that one’s values can change overtime, and you have a recipe for a failing relationship.
Can relationships be saved even if you have different values?
Sure, they can.
But when you discover you don’t respect your partner’s values, or that they do not respect yours, this is going to be an uphill battle at the very least.
You used to laugh. To enjoy little moments of random happiness.
Spending the day together meant you had the opportunity to take a walk with your partner, to share an ice cream downtown and to get home to watch the latest episode of your favorite TV show.
Now, everything is all business, all the time.
If you even interact at all, it is to discuss something serious. There are no more moments where you can just forget about the world when you are together.
Pay attention when these little moments of joy disappear.
They may not seem integral to your relationship, but they are actually the foundation upon which your couple is building its future.
So, without them, your relationship is in danger.
There is something that all of us have, but rarely pay attention to.
Call it instinct, natural adaptation, a fifth sense even.
Every day, you pick up on small details without even thinking about them. This is like a gut feeling alerting you that something is wrong before you even fully realize it.
So, even if you have not articulated exactly why you think your relationship is over, you might already know it.
Maybe you have not identified the previous 9 signs that your relationship is not working, and yet, you can feel it.
And you know what? You might be right.
When you get this feeling, don’t stuff it down and push it away. Listen to what your gut is telling you. Take some time to think about what is happening in your relationship, and whether you need to act.
Whether you decide to end things or to try to salvage them, you will be glad you did.
Nothing in life is black and white.
Whether you decide to stay in a relationship that has run its course will be up to you. And you alone.
You might need to do some introspective work. Maybe you will realize that you have changed since you first started dating your partner. Or they have.
The truth is that both of you have the right to be different from your past selves. And sometimes that means you will suddenly find a gap between the couple you were a few years back and who you are now.
Your interests might have diverged, your values could differ.
And now it is hard to keep the relationship going strong when you are pulling in different directions.
Instead of losing your mind and sanity trying to stay with someone who is no longer the right fit for you, the best thing for both of you might be to let go. Accept the fact that your relationship is over and give yourselves time to heal and enjoy life separate from each other.
On the other hand, you may have heard that to make things work, compromise is key.
Let’s go one step further and say that compromise is not everything. What you are looking for is creating win-win scenarios where both your partner and yourself get better results in your relationship.
Instead of you and them fighting over an issue, work to start fighting together against the problem.
Of course, this takes more effort.
Are you willing to do this work?
Is your partner also on board, fully committed?
If the answer is yes, then you have a real shot at saving your relationship.
No matter what you choose, be kind to your partner.
And to yourself.
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