(This is probably going to end up being a two-parter.) Over the weekend, I was thinking about relationships and how they can force us to grow as human beings, even if the relationship was less than ideal. I have experience with less than ideal relationships in several forms, the most significant of which was a marriage at the age of twenty-three. The marriage didn't work out, but it did force me to grow and even though sometimes I regret it, I can't deny that it sent me on the current path I'm on now. Part of the reason why I was able to meet and marry my husband is because of what I learned in that failed marriage.
Over the weekend, I had a really good conversation with someone who had just gotten out of a relationship, and it made me reflect on my dating history and how I knew that those relationships had reached their end. How do you know when it's time to let go? How do you know when you should walk away and not keep trying? For me, there are several red flags that let you know it's time to move on:
1. There is abuse or cheating. Abuse should never be tolerated- the inability to rationally talk out issues with a partner instead of lashing out in violence is a huge red flag and something that will likely not improve regardless of one's desire to stick with the relationship, work extra hard to please the abuser, or the number of apologies/excuses that the abuser makes. Abuse is often physical, but can also be verbal. Name-calling and making one's partner feel inferior is emotionally abusive and should also not be tolerated. If you want to leave an abusive relationship and you feel unsafe, please contact a center that works with people fleeing domestic violence. Abusive partners are volatile and you want to always make sure you're safe.
People can have different views on cheating. I didn't tolerate it in my failed marriage and many people feel the same as I do. To me, it was a sign of disrespect and the fact that cheating is often coupled with lying, it made me feel a lack of trust or security in the relationship. I didn't want to be in a relationship where I felt I had to question my partner's truthfulness. Some people feel that cheaters can be reformed, but it's really something that you have to evaluate on a case-by-case basis. If there is cheating in your relationship and you can't decide if it's worth saving, try going to therapy and talking it out.
2. They make you worse. A good relationship should bring out your best self. Your partner should be supportive and enhance your good qualities. If your relationship brings out your bad qualities, it might be time to evaluate whether or not your relationship is toxic. Is your relationship a roller-coaster? Does your partner make you feel unworthy? Maybe they're not right for you. Have you ever heard someone say: "I like who I am when I'm with you?" I think that's a good thing to shoot for in your relationship.
3. You can't trust them. This goes with the cheating point, but if you feel that you cannot trust your partner, then maybe it's time to walk away. And it's not just a question of whether or not you can trust them to not sleep with someone else in their free time, it's also a question of whether or not you can trust them to do other things. Are they responsible? Are they dependable? Can you trust them to do tasks for you? That's important. If you marry this person or have children with this person, do you think that your partner will be present and willing to shoulder tasks and chores? If they're not doing it now, they likely won't do it once you're hitched or expecting a child.
4. They're not committed. If they always seem halfway in-halfway out of your relationship, not wanting to make future plans, not wanting to put.a title on your relationship, etc. then that's a bad sign. You deserve someone who is excited about you and who sees you in their future. Trust me, I've experienced this a few times.
5. The relationship is one-sided or you are basically a parent to your partner. We should never feel responsible for an adult person to whom we did not give birth. We didn't raise our partner and we don't need to start. Relationships are not always 50-50 and sometimes we may find ourselves giving more than our partner due to life's ups and downs, but if you are consistently giving 90 percent and your partner is giving 10 percent, I think it's a definite red flag. If you feel that you have to be a caregiver to your partner or cater to erratic or poor behavior, you should ask why you need to be a parent to your lover. Perhaps their life is difficult or they've had some setbacks, but most people have had those and still manage to function independently. It's always good to be supportive, helpful, and caring to a partner, but you should never feel like you are your partner's guardian/savior. The savior position is only cute for a short period of time before it becomes exhausting.
6. They don't accept you for who you are. If who you are is an affront to your partner, you have to wonder why they're with you in the first place. We all learn and grow from our relationships and our partners should encourage us to make healthy choices, but we should never have to transform into someone else for someone to love us. Do you feel like you're a pet project for your partner- don't do this, don't do that, do this, do that, look like this, style your hair like that, don't talk to these people, don't take up that hobby, etc.? Maybe it's time to find someone who likes you for who you are.
7. People around you are letting you know that your relationship isn't good for you. If the people who actually care for you (not the people who like to create drama) are telling you that they don't think your partner is good for you, then I would heed their advice. I didn't and ended up in a relationship that was completely wrong for me. After I got married I realized how right my friends had been when they told me he wasn't right for me.
Don't be afraid to walk away from a bad relationship. So many people spend years in relationships because they are afraid that if they do, they've wasted time. You can't leave because you invested six months in this person. Well later, that six months will turn into a year and then you can't leave because you invested a year in this person. Later, that year will turn into three and then you can't live because you invested three years in this person. And so on. Until you realize you've spent several decades with the wrong person because you were afraid of wasting time.
The time that you've spent in your relationships isn't wasted if you learn something from it. And if you use your experiences to grow as a person and as a partner. Letting go of a relationship that isn't functioning is difficult- even if the relationship isn't good, it's familiar and it's hard to go into the unknown. Also, we often think about all the good times in the past, even if now they're few and far between. Every relationship has good points and it's hard to walk away when you think that things could turn around and go back to when you were happy. It's important to know, however, that you deserve love, support, and happiness. You deserve a relationship that you feel secure in and one that you feel happy about.