It’s 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 partner’s flaws 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.
Below, dating and marriage experts share 10 signs you’re in a relationship that’s no longer worth all your time and energy.
1. You’re settling for Mr. or Ms. Good Enough.
There are plenty of things in life you can settle for: this year’s vacation destination (sigh, maybe next year, Amalfi Coast), the car you put a down payment on, your cell phone provider. But you absolutely, 100 percent cannot settle on who you choose to spend your life with, said Virginia Gilbert, an LA-based marriage and family therapist. 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, Gilbert said.
“Be honest with yourself: If you’re staying in a ho-hum relationship because you’re afraid of being alone ― or because you want a ring and a baby ― do both of yourselves a favor and get out,” she said. “Otherwise you’ll eventually drift apart and your fear of being single will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
2. Your partner is your harshest critic.
Your partner should be your ride-or-die bestie, 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, said Alicia H. Clark, a Washington D.C.-based psychologist.
“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,” she said. “This is closer to bullying than it is to playful good fun. It’s a signal that your partner doesn’t have your best interests at heart.”
3. 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 Louis C.K.? It might seem minor but if your partner doesn’t laugh with you, it’s problematic, said Gilbert. 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, she explained.
“It’s no fun being around someone who’s perpetually frowning or takes everything super seriously ― especially when life throws you a curveball,” she said. “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.”
4. You’re more in love with the fantasy of who your partner could be rather than who he or she really is.
When you’re in love, 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 doesn’t want kids now but maybe someday he’ll change his mind.
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, said Marina Sbrochi, a dating coach and the author of Stop Looking for a Husband: Find the Love of Your Life.
“You can’t overlook things more often than not in a relationship,” she said. “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.”
5. You’re just not that into his or her family (or they’re just not that into you).
It doesn’t bode well for your future together if you’ve met the parents and really don’t like them, said Gilbert. It’s even worse if your partner continually takes their side in arguments and doesn’t seem to have your back.
“Ask yourself: Does she have a family you want to be part of? If the answer is no, and your significant other is unable to set boundaries with his parents, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of miserable Thanksgivings and meddlesome conversations,” she said. “Think of it this way: The mother-in-law who is critical of you before you have children will inevitably try to raise those kids after they’re born.”
She added: “Bottom line: if she’s more attached to her family than she is to you, run.”
6. You’re constantly wondering why your partner’s behavior doesn’t match up with his or her words.
Figuring out where your S.O. was on Saturday night shouldn’t be as difficult to crack as an episode of “Dateline: Real Life Mysteries.” 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, said Clark.
“Inconsistencies between behavior and words are common sign of a troubled relationship,” she said. “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.”
7. 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. If you start to realize how at odds your hopes for the future are, you may need to step away from the relationship, said Brenda Della Casa, the author of Cinderella Was A Liar: The Real Reason You Can’t Find (Or Keep) A Prince.
“Long-term relationships between two people who don’t ultimately want the same outcome is just asking for heartache,” she said.
8. 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, said Clark.
“Dating the wrong person can drive up your anxiety and self-doubt,” she said. “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.
9. You’re thinking about someone else.
If you’re actively wondering if the grass would have been greener with your college boyfriend, you may be in some trouble, said Sbrochi. Also a bad sign? Fantasizing about what life would be like if you were single again.
“Two things could be going on here,” Sbrochi said. “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 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 even Angie wakes up some mornings and goes, “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, said Della Casa.
“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,” she said. “If you can’t be authentic with your partner and accepted for who you are, what’s the point of the relationship?”