It’s fair to say the last twelve months have been a time of uncertainty and challenges throughout the world. Our relationships have played an important part in happiness, whether that be family, friends or partners. But for many with partners, this has been a time of clarity to work out whether our relationship is really right for us.
We always see stories, articles and ideas on how to heal after you’ve been the one let go or broken up with, but what if you are the one who wants to walk away? Lady Style speaks with psychotherapist and dating expert, Stephanie Ward, who gives us her 8 signs for when it is time to think about whether your relationship is working for you…
When you don’t want the same things and you feel like the relationship is going nowhere
As someone who has spent a lot of time working with couples, I can tell you that when your goals do not intersect, you’re in for a rough road. But that doesn’t mean the road is impossible, or that there’s no happiness along the way. There are solutions. It’s about priorities, communication, and love. We will always have differences in future plans, but our values must be the same in order to stay on track.
Communicate your needs so that you are able to choose a path when you get to a fork in the road. For example, you may want to have kids right now and a family but your partner thinks it’s still time to get your careers and finances in better shape. Or he is still behaving like he’s not ready to let go of his laddish ways.
Maybe the compromise of your relationship, just has to be a case of adjusting your timeline together. Can you wait a year, or five, until you’re both on the same page, so long as you both promise that this is the ultimate compromise deadline? This works for some couples. Or are you afraid you may run the risk of getting to that place five years down the road and still having a partner who doesn’t want what you want?
This is probably the quickest way to find out whether your relationship has an expiration date. If you are in it for the long haul and your partner is in the here-and-now taking things one day at a time, then you have a problem on your hands. Eventually, you two will have to talk about what it is you want from your relationship, and if those two things don’t match up, it’s not easy to come back from that. Don’t leave these conversations too late, you could end up wasting your best years on someone who wants to still play XBOX and flat share with his best friend Jeremy!
When they try to change you
It’s natural and healthy to want your partner to grow, to reach their potential, and to be all they can be. Growing and changing together, and working towards mutual (and personal) goals is part of a healthy relationship. Insisting on change, forcing change, or manipulating your partner into change is another story. It’s just not healthy to force someone to mould themselves into what you need. Your partner is not a project and you are not responsible for, nor in charge of, their choices.
In the same breath, a partner attempting to change you implies there are elements about you that they haven’t accepted from the beginning, and who wants to sit feeling insecure, unable to be our true selves? You are wonderful and unique, and your partner should be celebrating the parts of you that they adore, not looking for your faults.
Trying to fix others is also a way of trying to change them. If you meet someone with serious problems and you feel like you can fix them, you’re doing yourself and your partner a huge disservice. People have to want to fix themselves. They need focus on their own healing and learning, and should access the right support such as counselling or therapy.
If you don’t love someone just the way they are, odds are, you still won’t love them when they become who you think they should be. And if they don’t accept you now, they will only have you internalising these doubts and making you think there is something wrong with you- when there certainly isn’t.
Before you push any agenda on your partner, make sure it’s what they want and would have chosen for themselves. Often, People who possess controlling tendencies have been controlled in the past or in childhood. Parents who had compulsive disorders, such as cleaning, or a regimented household. Parents who were strict with bedtimes, or with food and meal times. They learned that this is just what people do, and that’s how the cycle of abuse propagates itself. It is important to be aware when someone is trying to control elements of your life, and someone who just wants to help you reach your potential.
When you think they might change
Here, it would really depend on what specifically you want to change for the future. A lot of people make mistakes in relationships, but if you are with someone who repeatedly makes the same mistakes, disrespects you, lies to you, is unfaithful, or even something such as not contributing to the relationship in the ways you are, then it may just be who they are.
Are they acknowledging the issues in the relationship? Are there active attempts to change? Or does it seem like they really don’t care? When the same issue reoccurs and you can’t find a solution together, you might be fighting a losing battle.
The difference between the couples that stay together and the ones who divorce, is in the way that they repair things after conflict. The Masters of relationships take responsibility for their role in the issue and change their own behaviour. The couples that don’t repair those hurts end up with festering wounds that grow bigger day by day, month by month, one person nagging and applying pressure until finally it breaks the couple apart. Repair is absolutely crucial in any kind of relationship, particularly intimate relationships.
Ask yourself if their actions matchup to their words? Are they open to criticism? Do they show remorse or regret after they upset you? Are they offering reassurance? If someone offers resistance, they may just feel like they are not right for you and the relationship will have an expiration past this point anyway. Feeling unappreciated is a huge relationship killer, and sometimes even the person who is resisting change, can get tired of not getting things right. Break the cycle by seeking what you truly deserve.
When there are patterns of deceit
In relationships that lack basic trust, it can feel like a special kind of hell. Playing havoc with your emotions, and destroying your self-esteem. If you find yourself in a relationship where you believe you are being deceived, and your partner makes you doubt your judgement. It can leave you feeling deeply insecure, and unable to trust those around you.
I have worked with many women who have cried, pleaded for answers, threatened to leave the relationship, only to stay in the same toxic cycle and be deceived or betrayed again. Once is a mistake, twice is a habit. Chances are, a partner who has got away with lying to you in the past, knows that they can get away with it, and knows exactly what to say.
If you find yourself constantly truth seeking and self-doubting, it might be time to seek support and take some time to be alone to process the deceit or betrayal. If you find yourself behaving like a detective in your own relationship, then it is a sure-fire sign that you need to walk away. Checking your partners social media, comparing yourself to others, trying to catch a person in a lie or compromising your self-respect to keep someone, are signs of an unhealthy relationship.
When your gut feeling keeps nagging that something isn’t right
If you feel like something is not right, the chances of probability are, something isn’t right. Have you ever had a gut feeling or butterflies in your stomach? These sensations emanating from your belly show that your brain and gut are connected. This is because gut and brain are connected through chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters produced in the brain control feelings and emotions.
The brain gut connection is the strongest voice you have in your body. It is your greatest tool for navigating relationships and it is speaking to you all of the time, yet we block it out and push it away in favour of external voices. Think of it as your second brain. We must be attuned to the messages we are receiving from our body and understand how much power we hold within. This allows us to trust ourselves deeply, where we may have not been able to trust people during past experiences or childhood.
This is how we get to know when something is truly wrong, and can base rational decisions off this and take action. Ask any woman who has been through heartbreak, separation, divorce, and she will tell you that she “felt” the signs of what was wrong before any situation came to light.
If you find yourself in a situation where you truly believe someone is lying to you or betraying you, start to work on developing trust with yourself. Start listening to your body, use intentional breathing to really connect back to the internal rather than seeking answers externally.Increasing your vagal tone activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and having higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress. Add Omega 3 Fatty Acids and probiotics to your diet to also help with stimulating the vagus nerve. There are so many ways to connect back to yourself so that if you decide to leave the relationship, you have left based on what feels right for you.
When it is a one-sided effort
When you’re in love, it is normal to want to do everything in your power to make your significant other happy. You find yourself selflessly making yourself more and more available, and you’re willing to drop everything you’re doing to be at that person’s side, cooking their favourite meals, overlooking their annoying habits. Not all relationships start out one-sided, but most end this way, as resentment builds from one person doing too much.
It is vital to work on setting boundaries BEFORE entering a relationship. So that this person knows what your expectations are. Most of us don’t do this, as we trust that mutual feelings will lead to mutual actions, and we believe basic human decency would lead others to want to please us too.
Sadly, a lot of people will take, take, take and not think twice. By then, you are already 4 months in, exhausted, spent up, and trying to balance work life, a social life and taking care of their every need. This is especially true for people pleasers, who seek value and love by basing their self-worth and sense of self on what they can do for others. As children, parents might have praised their achievements or looks, and so they quickly learned that love and affection could be earned by overachieving academically, and over performing. This continued in friendships and romantic relationships, and left the people pleaser in many one-sided relationships.
If you think you may be in a one-sided relationship, you might want to consider getting out before continuing down a long, painful, heart-breaking road. If you constantly feel stressed out, your needs aren’t being met, you find yourself apologising to keep the peace, you make small favours and gestures that are never returned, or you initiate conversation or affection, it’s time to leave. If the person has just become complacent, and realises they were taking you for granted. They will step up to show you that you CAN rely on them too. If you leave and they still don’t see how unappreciative they are. It’s a win,win for you. No one else will want to put up with their lazy dating and complacency. Find someone who will match your energy and efforts and make you feel desired.
When behaviour that was not revealed at the beginning of the relationship starts to show
Imagine if we all went into dating situations being completely transparent about our mistakes, or spilling our guts about how awful we may have treated someone in the past. No one would ever secure a second date! Everyone who goes into a dating scenario puts their best foot forward, showcasing their best characteristics and wanting to impress the person they are with. We ride high on this wave and the connection grows on positivity. Whilst you can’t see the real face of your partner for a long time, there are subtle red flags early in the relationship that may indicate that they are not relationship material. Slowing down and reflecting on these red flags can save you months of time wasting.
Things such as justifying their bad behaviour, talking badly about exes, or even your family and friends not warming to them, can be huge signals. Refusing to apologise after hurting your feelings, crossing your boundaries, or even them taking the relationship too fast can also be huge indicators.
Without going into depth about Narcissistic personality disorder, as it is such a complex topic, those who enter into relationships with Narcissists, can find themselves victims of love bombing. Where the new partner declares their love early on, plans to move in together, promises the world, makes huge gestures, such as choosing the person over their friends and wanting all of their time. Bombards them with gifts, compliments them and tells their new partner that they have never felt this way before. After this initial period, the Narcissist will withdraw their love and affection, leaving their partner feeling bewildered, and confused about what they did wrong. This is a huge sign to leave this situation as this becomes the standard cycle of being used, showered with affection, and then discarded.
Please remember that you are not obligated to stay in any situation that does not make you happy, or compromises your self-worth. You deserve to be in a healthy loving relationship.
Psychotherapist and Date Doctor
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