This is one of the greatest relationship quandaries that many of us face. It’s the question of whether or not to stick it out with your significant other or call it quits, once and for all.
Luckily for you, dear reader, I am uniquely qualified to write this post because I am an admittedly serial dater. I don’t do it on purpose. Over the years, I’ve developed a series of theories as to why I can’t stay single more than a few months. At the moment, I’m going with the theory that I’m just an optimistic Pisces who sees the best in everyone.
I actually had a little trouble writing this because I am currently dating someone wonderful.
(He really is great. I have been staunchly critical this time and vetted him well).
But I dug deep and tapped into the old rage, hurt and disillusionment in order to help others. This is service journalism. A guide to romantic spring cleaning, if you will.
1. You’ve frequently felt the urge to leave.
Your gut has told you that this person is wrong for you, but for whatever reason, you continue to stay. It might be because they are super hot, they “need you,” you have gotten used to the idea of being with them, you might think that no one else will ever love you the way that they do, or you hate the idea of being single again.
But here is the thing: your first instinct is often the right one. If you have the instinct to run more than once, then do yourself a favor and follow it.
2. You’re only staying because you feel sorry for them.
A note about your partner “needing” you: sympathy is not love. This is a lesson that can be difficult to learn because leaving someone who is hurting can feel selfish, but here is the main problem: if you stay with someone simply because you feel bad for them, you will resent them in the end. And chances are, they have a hunch that you’re not truly in love with them, anyway.
You cannot get water from an empty well, and if your partner only takes and never gives in return, it’s best to pack up your feelings and get the hell on. Chances are, they need therapy, true friendship, and self-care more than they need your martyrdom.
Of course, you should be sensitive to their feelings while you’re breaking it off, but if you look up and all that you have to show for it is YOUR unreciprocated emotional labor, time and generosity? Baby, move on.
3. You have been having nightmares.
One of the most useful life tools that I have discovered via the internet is Dream Moods’ searchable dream dictionary. Since I was a child, I have had terrible, vivid nightmares, which usually kick into high gear when something is actually wrong with my life. I figure that my subconscious is connecting dots that my waking brain ignores while dealing with the monotony of the day or whatever.
Anyway, here’s how I use the dream dictionary to interpret my dreams: as soon as I wake from a nightmare, I try to pinpoint the key themes/symbols from the dream. These will usually be random things that stuck out to me, like a river running through a bedroom or a balloon that pops and wakes me from the dream. Then, I search for those terms.
4. You’re unhappy when you’re with them.
“The Office” is a classic for many reasons, but one of the key draws is the show’s ability to be touching and poignant, even when it’s in the midst of being ridiculous.
One particularly touching moment happens in the “Women’s Appreciation” episode when Michael Scott takes the women to the mall to “celebrate” them after one of his employees is flashed on her way to work. At first, the entire affair is sexist and inappropriate, but then, he sits down the crew for some “girl talk” and begins to open up about his own unhealthy relationship.
The women have him make a pros and cons list about his girlfriend, Jan, and on the cons list, nestled between sexist complaints about her breasts, Michael writes “I’m unhappy when I’m with her.” The women hone in on that point and rightfully advise him to break it off. It’s a moment I remember whenever I’m evaluating whether or not I need to continue to see someone.
The baseline for compatibility is feeling good when you’re around someone. If that’s missing, what is the point of sticking around?
5. They don’t encourage you or support you.
Like many of the points in this post, this bit of advice can go for non-romantic relationships, as well. Anyone who isn’t supportive of your goals and dreams needs to be shown the proverbial door.
These are people whose criticism is never constructive, who respond to your accomplishments with complaints about their own shortcomings or downplay good things that are happening in your life. They don’t deserve you, babe.
6. You forgive them for things for which they would never forgive you.
“The Read” is one of the best podcasts around for a reason. During a recent installment titled “Petty Partners,” co-host Crissle West dropped this little bit of wisdom during a read inspired by one of the guiltiest pleasures around, “Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta.”
If you haven’t been watching this season or seen any of the promos, one of the major storylines is that rapper/entrepreneur Rasheeda’s husband, Kirk Frost, allegedly had a baby with another woman. (And me saying “allegedly” is very generous at that point because the mistress in question has provided the cast with a wealth of receipts). The funny thing is, not too long ago, Kirk accused Rasheeda of cheating because she got pregnant and he couldn’t remember the last time they’d had sex or some such nonsense.
This man went as far as GETTING DNA FOR A PATERNITY TEST ON NATIONAL TV. And now, we look up and it seems that he is the one at fault.
(Skip to the 1:34:00 mark to hear Crissle’s entire read. Just be prepared for some explicit language, if you’ve never heard the show before.)
If you find yourself repeatedly forgiving your partner for behavior they would never dream of tolerating from you, such as cheating, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to dump them. Like love and respect, forgiveness has to go both ways.
That actually leads me to my next point…
7. They are constantly accusing you of infidelity.
Anybody’s wise auntie will tell you that a significant other who constantly accuses you of cheating is usually the one who is actually at fault. End of story. Don’t bother looking for proof.
Just dump them and go live your life like the girl in “Hotline Bling.”
8. Your body is literally rejecting them.
This probably sounds like pseudo-science to a few people, but I remember when this Elite Daily post titled “Love Sick: Your Body Can Literally Repel A Guy Who’s Wrong For You” was making the rounds on social media and it rang true for a lot of women who read it. The idea is pretty simple.
When you know on a subconscious level that you need to leave a guy the hell alone, your body might respond with a series of bacterial and/or yeast infections.
Meaning, your vagina can literally send out red flags until you finally realize the man is part of the problem. Of course, you should still visit your gynecologist for help, but don’t ignore the vaginal warning signs, OK?
9. You feel like you have to lie to keep them interested.
If you can’t be honest with the person you are choosing to spend your time with, then what is the point of being in a relationship? You shouldn’t have to embellish or cover up anything with your partner.
This can seem a little difficult if you’re struggling with your own self-worth, but one could argue that you’re not equipped to have a healthy relationship with anyone if you don’t first love yourself.
10. You’ve cheated.
This is pretty simple.
If you have agreed to be in a monogamous relationship, but find yourself breaking that trust, then chances are, you don’t actually want to be in said-relationship. A petty part of me wants to send this particular paragraph to a couple of my exes, but I’m trying to grow as a person.
11. You have felt the urge to snoop.
If you can’t trust your S.O. enough to respect their privacy, then something is seriously broken in your relationship and it’s time to let it go. Also, some more Sage Auntie Advice: if you go looking for dirt, you’re going to find it.
Best to mind your business because everything that’s done in the dark eventually comes to light.
12. They don’t respect you.
This can take many different forms, but here are some of the most common: they never compromise with you, they never keep their promises, they are constantly rude to you, and they trample all over the boundaries you set.
If any of that sounds familiar, guess what it’s time to do?
13. Everyone in your life hates them.
I mean your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, pets. This person makes a bad impression wherever you go. Perhaps you have had to attend every family event or group outing solo because they rub everyone the wrong way. Or worse, you have severed ties with multiple people in order to keep the relationship afloat. If any of that sounds familiar, it may seriously be time to end it.
At best, you’re dating a jerk. At worst, they are deliberately alienating you from the people who love you so that you feel like you have no one to turn to when they mistreat you. Which leads me to my final, and most serious point:
14. They are abusive.
This might seem like a no-brainer to someone who hasn’t been in an abusive relationship, but sometimes, it’s difficult to identify actual abuse when you’re in the thick of it. Especially if the abuse isn’t physical.
The idea of your significant other being abusive can sound dramatic, like something out of a Lifetime movie. Or you may minimize their behavior in order to make yourself feel better or (if you are like me) you might think that labeling their treatment of you as “abuse” takes away from the “real” abuse out there.
Here is a list of signs that you are in an abusive relationship and a list of red flags that could signal that you are in an abusive relationship. If you are in an abusive relationship and are in need of advice, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has resources that can help.
Relationships can become irreparably damaged for a number of reasons, but it’s important to know this: your feelings and needs are valid.
You deserve to be happy. Full stop.